‘Maya’ draws feature plans

Toon's $3 mil budget slightly higher than local average

MEXICO CITY — Production begins this week on full-length Spanish-lingo toon “Maya,” produced by actor Bruno Bichir and pop singer Emmanuel for Escarabajo Producciones.

“Maya” follows in the footsteps of November’s “Magos y gigantes,” the first full-length toon produced in Mexico in nearly 30 years.

Pic will have a $3 million budget, slightly larger than average for a local film. Ricardo Arnaiz will direct; animation supervision falls to U.S.-import Mike Kunkel, who worked on Disney’s “Tarzan” and “Hercules.”

The audio cast has not yet been named.

Bichir, who has acted in more than three dozen films, produced 1999’s “Cronica de un desayuno” (A Breakfast Chronicle). Crooner Emmanuel has limited acting experience but has provided scores and songs to several movies.

Pic, which will be finished by the end of next year. Set in the Mayan civilization before Spain’s arrival in the New World, the project has ecological themes.

“We’re going to respect the essence of the Mayan culture, in all aspects, backing up our work with advice from historians, archaeologists and specialists in the culture,” said Emmanuel.

Arnaiz said that several Spanish production companies made offers to acquire “Maya” but were turned down. Escarabajo Producciones is in talks with Altavista Films and Tabasco Films about the project.

“Magos” was distributed by Fox Films Intl. and brought in shy of $800,000 in its run. It has not gained foreign distribution.