New technology means more targeted niches

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELLA — Zombie cowboys and opera divas, post-apocalyptic air pirates and Nobel prizes — all animate Galicia’s toon rave this year.

Sold all over Europe, Dygra’s 2001 “The Living Forest” pioneered family animation in Spain.

But new platforms and entertainment formats — P2P, mobile content, interactive games — are revolutionizing Spanish consumer habits as traditional outlets such as theatrical, TV and standard DVD shrink.

And business has changed dramatically of late for the local toon biz, where budgets have tightened and co-productions are proliferating.

Julio Fernandez, chairman for Filmax, which owns Galicia’s Bren CG production house, promises “a new big Bren film” shortly. Still, the company is moving into small-scale, talent-driven titles. “We’re avoiding midbudget items,” he says. “And you can’t think about long-term projects without strong partners,” Fernandez insists.

Apart from bulwarking budgets, co-productions allow companies to share talent and markets.

Filmax’s new family entertainment flagship, a sequel to B.O. hit “The Hairy Tooth Fairy,” is again co-produced with Disney-backed Patagonik, for example.

And the $10.3 million Venice player “Nocturna,” a stylish fantasy tale from inhouse Bren animators Victor Maldonado and Adria Garcia, is co-produced with France’s Animakids.

Meanwhile, Galician toon mavens are increasingly reaching out to niche markets — primarily young adults who are used to viewing computer-generated graphics.

Perro Verde’s $2 million “Zombie Western,” for instance, is 40% financed by Denmark’s Happy Fish and developed from a Danish concept.

“We’re projecting this as a cult movie, not a one-weekend wonder. That’s our profits strategy,” says Perro Verde producer Manuel Cristobal.

Continental’s also plowing new furrows. Its sumptuous deep-ocean feature “De profundis” was digitized from handmade paintings by graphic novelist Miguelanxo Prado and world preemed in La Coruna with a live orchestral performance of Nani Marquina’s soundtrack.

Continental also is exploring boutique animation. One recent offering is “The Biggest Flower in the World,” a plasticine-model stop-motion short based on a fable by Nobel-prized Jose Saramago. Pic is narrated by Saramago himself and helmed by multiprized Juan Pablo Etcheverry.

Also, pending distribution is the streetwise, cheeky “Animal Crisis,” an animal kingdom satire directed by Pedro Rivero.

Rivero’s previous Flash series on the Internet, “El Calico Electronico,” notched 50 million downloads in 18 months.Continental prexy Pancho Casal says he hopes to tap into this broad, loyal aud with “Crisis”: “Bigscreen Flash animation will surprise them,” he says.

Kids demos still have potential growth. Continental addresses them with “Y porque?,” a series of 30-second fillers aimed at preschoolers through pay TV channels and new platforms.

For adults, up-and-coming Santiago-based Artefacto is developing plasticine stop-motion “Sombras en la noche,” which consists of 13 ten-minute episodes budgeted at $676,000 and co-produced with Catalonia’s In Vitro.

Meanwhile, IB Cinema is targeting sci-fi aficionados with “Linko Killer,” a $4.3 million post-apocalyptic fable set to roll at Alicante’s Ciudad de la Luz. Despite the proliferation of animation production in the region, licensing deals are still difficult to come by.

“It’s hard to get big companies onboard with licensing like Hollywood majors do,” Fernandez says.

The lack of licensing coin makes turning a profit a concern. But early results on some films have been encouraging.

With $4.9 million, the first “Hairy” is Spain’s highest-grossing film of the last 10 months.

Costing $2.2 million, “De profundis” will go $340,000 into the black, Casal predicts.

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