Mexico’s online huevos hit screen

Videocine, film funding board to aid feature film

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s most popular — and scatological — online toon is now gearing up for a silver screen debut.

Huevocartoon.com, named after the Spanish word for eggs, has been one of Mexico’s most spectacular Internet successes, a pay-to-play humor site with greeting cards, horoscopes and highly popular animated shorts, all featuring a cast of quick-witted, foul-mouthed eggs.

Now — aided with cash from Televisa’s inhouse distrib and prodco Videocine, Mexico’s film funding board and several other investors — Huevocartoon is gearing up for its first feature film, the humorously named “Una Pelicula de huevos” (A Film With Eggs).

Pic will be the latest in a recent string of attempts to resurrect Mexico’s moribund toon industry, which hadn’t produced a single animated feature for nearly 20 years until last year’s “Magos & gigantes” (Wizards & Giants), which was positively received by critics, but flopped at the box office.

The producers of that film are working on a second toon, “Maya,” but it has been plagued by money shortfalls. “Huevos,” which will be drawn with a team of 60 animators, is expected to bow in 2006. Preproduction has already begun, say Huevocartoon founders (and brothers) Rodolfo and Gabriel Riva Palacio, and animation will begin next March, with the goal of moving into post-production in December 2005.

The film, say the Riva Palacio brothers, will tell the tale of talking eggs cast into a world populated by humans and will be populated by new characters rather than the personalities scrambled around the Web site. Although the site is oriented to auds over 13 years of age, and is most popular with people under 25, the film will be for all ages.

“It won’t have bad words,” says Gabriel Riva Palacio. “Adults are going to enjoy the movie, but we’re taking out the parts that children can’t see.”

Videocine got involved thanks to the friendship between the brothers and Eckehardt Von Damm, head of the prodco-distrib. They also managed to get a promise for financing from the Fund for Investment and Stimulus for Mexican Film (Fidecine), a governmental funding agency that offers up to 49% of a film’s production costs.

What those costs will be, however, remains a tough egg to crack for the moment; the pricetag will be determined once production begins, the Riva Palacio brothers say. If the film taps the same vein as the Web site, this could be the beginning of a very successful franchise. The 3-year old Internet site, http://www.huevocartoon.com, requires a minimum initial subscription of 150 pesos ($13.40), and charges for each access to area and features on the Web page.

Electronic greeting cards cost 27¢ apiece, for example, while views of animated shorts start at 9¢. In addition, the site has an extensive, and mandatory, survey, which it uses to sell subscriber information to advertisers. Despite the costs, the concept has had such success that it’s expanded into T-shirts, stuffed animals and printed greeting cards.

A recent promotion with Doritos resulted in a 40% increase in sales for the snack food. And the producers make no secret of their desire to see the film distributed beyond the Mexican borders.

“When people see the quality of (the film), they’re not going to believe it was made here,” says Gabriel Riva Palacio.

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