ANNECY – It is the mark of maturing animation industry when it has not only stable production levels but a sense of its own history. For Brazil, this historical vision has come early, and in a film form. Playing out of competition at Annecy, Eduardo Calvet’s “Between Frames – The Art of Brazilian Animation,” produced by Felipe Haurelhuk, charts the sweep of Brazil’s animation movies from a 1917 short to its hit TV shows, in and outside Brazil – “Fishtronaut” and “My Big Big Friend” – and feature film successes, such as Annecy’s 2013 Cristal winner, “Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury,” whose director, Luiz Bolognesi, is on this year’s feature film jury. Variety caught up with Haurelhuk to talk about his pioneering labor of love:
Can you say that Brazilian animation is currently booming or at least building?
What’s happening now has never happened before. There is really a boom in animation production in Brazil. Until the 1990s, Brazil produced six or seven feature-length films in animation, from 1917 to 1995. In the last five or six years, we have had 25 to 30 animation feature length movies. So there is really a boom, a current boom in animation.
What are the drivers in this production build?
There are two or three main reasons. The first is that in 1992, the National Film Board of Canada, which has one of the biggest animation schools in the world, launched a training initiative in Brazil, paid for by the Brazilian government. Many animators began to learn their animation craft there and went on to create in 1995 the Anima Mundi International Animation Festival of Brazil, which is one of the biggest festivals in the world, and the biggest one in South America. When you have a big animation festival, you have people wanting to have their works in the festival.
Secondly, computer technology has made things much easier. And the third reason for this boom is that the national government in Brazil is financing many movies. In 1992, the Brazilian government cut all national incentives for cinema in general and especially for animation. But from 2000, 2002, they began to rise again. And by 2009, 2010, this money really became significant again for Brazilian production.
Does Brazilian animation have any specific styles?
That’s a question that we ask in our documentary. Brazil, as you may know, is a really huge country; we have a lot of styles, but we have seen that the main technique used is the digital 2D movie, digital of course after 1995.was released.
Why digital 2D and not just 2D?
That’s a good question. Here in Brazil we have always had a problem with budgets. A feature here costs $1 million, $2 million, $3 million. So here in Brazil we have always had to cut costs where possible. 2D major animation is cheaper
Where is the main base for animation production in Brazil?
In Sao Paolo, if ypu take into consideration animation for commercials: 90-95% of all advertising animation in Brazil is made there. Regarding features, there is not such a big difference between the regions: We have features from Rio de Janeiro, from Salvador, from Curitiba, from Porto Alegre, from many other cities.
What key moments would you highlight in ‘Between Frames’?
One of the most surprising moments in the movie comes in its final stretches. The movie is chronological. It starts from 1917, and comes up to nowadays. And more or less around 1992, there is an interview with Otto Guerra, one of the major animators here. He gives a personal view about making animation in Brazil at a time when it wasn’t really possible to do it in Brazil. It’s a really touching moment. A second moment is one of the last scenes, because as you may know, the very first animation in Brazil, “The Kaiser,” was lost forever. Nobody knows where it is, or if it exists. We asked our animators to recreate it, and we build this suspense throughout the whole movie. The re-creation is shown to the public only in the last five minutes.
And the main challenges for animation in Brazil?
The main challenge now is that Brazil isn’t the only country enjoying an animation boom. 30 0r 40 years ago we had Disney making features for audiences around the globe, and it was mainly Disney and one or two other major Hollywood studios. It was really difficult to see feature length animation movies from other places. And now we have a lot of animation. The animation boom is not only in Brazil. It’s worldwide. So we have more competition, more products, more stories being done. So the main challenge now is to not only produce with quality, but to write good stories for Brazilian audiences and worldwide audiences. To make TV series like “Fishtronauts,” produced here in Brazil and aired all over the world : That’s the real challenge.