We need each other. Few times has the theme of a festival been as inspiring as that of Pixelatl 2021. In a normal situation, it would have limited itself to reflecting the position of a solid animated industry, but one that in many countries like Mexico continues to seek its consolidation through trust and mutual support. From animators and studios, but also from authorities and investors, and above all from an audience that often does not see the effort and passion behind each project.
But in an especially turbulent period like the one that afflicts us, the phrase magnifies his readings. We need each other is a cry within the industry that invites us to resist the ravages of the pandemic; an invitation to people to together overcome one of the greatest crises in contemporary history; a message to countries to improve as a global society. And at the center is animation itself, which we need to make the dilemmas of the contemporary world more bearable.
Feelings of brotherhood that have always characterized the animating community and that were perfectly captured in the tenth edition of the Mexican festival. An event that addressed titles from various latitudes and that had Latin America as its central axis given the growing interest of the industry in the culture of the region. But above all, that it stood out with one of the most complete programming in its history.
As every year, one of the great attractions of Pixelatl was its international guests. A vast catalog that included big names in various areas, all headed by Peter Lord from Aardman and Byron Howard from Walt disney.
The first talked about the studio’s upcoming projects, which include Robin Robin and Shaun the Sheep: A Winter’s Tale. Even more outstanding was his defense of the worth of stop-motion without detracting from the rise of CGI, this by sharing what happened when his own son expressed interest in joining the industry. “I told him to study computational animation,” he assured, although emphasizing that “my heart is totally with him stop-motion […]. Has old-fashioned magic”. His advice was mainly due to the fact that, unlike the most artisanal techniques, the digital one accumulates a short time of existence, so he considers that “there are incredible things to discover”.
The second focused his talk on his own experience. A complicated path if we consider that the mouse rejected his portfolio five times, but that it took shape thanks to perseverance. Today he is a reference of the study and winner of the Oscar for Zootopia. This motivated him to share that “no path in animation is the same. Be patient and passionate. We need your voices”. The talk also stood out for coinciding with the 7.1 earthquake in Acapulco, which generated some concern in the speaker – “Are they okay?” Charm.
Latin America in the crosshairs
If there is something that has always characterized Pixelatl, it is its interest in Latin American animation. A trend that was promoted in this tenth edition due to the increasingly wide range of projects focused on the different cultures of the region and that in recent years includes titles such as River (2011), The book of life (2014), Coco (2017), Pachamama (2018) as well as the recently released Vivo (2021), and that it will continue to increase with Charm (2021) and Maya and the three (2021).
In this regard, the production designer of Vivo, Carlos Zaragoza, considered that the interest in these cultures comes from different points. The curiosity that “leads to interesting places […]. The goal is always to think outside the box”. How different people are “even in how they move, their personalities”, which is invariably novel compared to the personifications of yesteryear. And finally to the need to address more stories of the region told by its own people. “It is time to listen to Latin American artists,” he concluded. “This is the best time to take that step.”
On the risk that these arguments seem so particular that they feel alien to the general public, the production designer of Charm, Ian Gooding, considered that the possibility is minimal since “the more specific you do something, it becomes more credible, more real and more identifiable.”
Such was the case of own Charm, located in Colombia due to a series of very specific characteristics. These include being the birthplace of magical realism, the mixture of indigenous, Spanish and African roots within the country, as well as the richness in its culture, its food and its music. And the families, so broad and close that each of their members plays a very specific role. “We look for roles that one could transfer to his familyHoward assured. “It is a different movie because of its ensemble. It has a central character, but we wanted them to meet everyone as a multigenerational family ”. Each one, moreover, with such fascinating ability that it would make Gabriel García Márquez himself proud.
Although if it is about Latin America, special mention for a young warrior princess who with just one advance has won our hearts.
Maya’s world and the three
If there is anyone who has known how to transfer Latin American roots to the international animated field, it is Jorge Gutierrez, who supported by the vision of his character designer Sandra Equihua, has created some of the most fascinating characters in recent years. Manny Rivera, Manolo Sánchez and now Maya. It is about a Mesoamerican-inspired noblewoman who must undertake a dangerous journey to fulfill an ancient prophecy that allows her to save humanity from the gods.
Although the name may refer directly to the pre-Hispanic ethnic group of the Mexican southeast, Gutiérrez and Equihua assure that one of the greatest values of the character lies in the different cultures it addresses. First with a general Mesoamerican design that includes a dark complexion, almond-shaped eyes, full lips, and dark hair. It is followed by the one that appears among the most popular names in the world when used in territories as diverse as America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Added to this is a fantastic tour of worlds directly inspired by the Caribbean, Chichen Itzá and Machu Picchu. And finally a notion of brotherhood explained by the director from “the idea that we have brothers throughout Latin America and we have to help each other. Hence the idea that Maya has to go ask for help ”.
All this, it goes without saying, without losing the opportunity to pay tribute to Mexico. One of the most characteristic hallmarks of the duo and that is fully manifested in the heroine’s clothing, which includes bright green, white and red, as well as a feathered armor. “She is an eagle,” the director says excitedly. “The idea of Mexico is in Maya”. A concept that continues to the depths of his adventure to the world of the dead.
Animation in times of pandemic
“How did the pandemic affect the realization of the project?”Was, without a doubt, one of the most recurrent questions in this tenth edition of Pixelatl. And it is that, although the calendar of film and television releases has almost been restored, it is impossible not to express astonishment at the different animated stories arising from the coronavirus.
This includes numerous productions that had to move work home. But even more curious were the stories of narrative inspiration aroused by the global crisis. Such was the case of Jorge Gutiérrez, who described the coronavirus as “a new muse” and “a gigantic motivation”Which gave him the opportunity to fully understand what life and death are.
The production of Catherine the Catrina experienced something similar. The series was intended to bring children closer to a tradition such as the Day of the Dead, but now it is also seen as a way to make them understand grief. This was stated by the co-founder of IKarToons, Edino Israel, after ensuring that today more than ever “we have to embrace these feelings”.
And finally the value of animation, whose properties make it especially relevant in today’s uncertain times. “It can inspire,” says Byron Howard. “It can bring people out of depression and make the world a better place. “.
Pixelatl celebrates ten years and perhaps fate wanted the anniversary to coincide with one of the worst crises in contemporary history. Even so, the incredible programming of the animated festival shows that even in the darkest moments there are smiles and hope. And more importantly, make it very clear that today as never before, We need each other.