Pushing the boundaries of Latin American animation, Argentina’s helmer-writer-producer Javier Beltramino is advancing on “Rice & Matchsticks,” a pioneering 3D animated short.

Kicking-off more than two years ago, and involving a plus 40-people team, project was produced by Argentina’s Matchsticks Animation Studios, run by producers Lucas Galfaso and Ricardo Hornos, plus art director Nelson Luty.

Beltramino penned and directed the short, influenced in particular by Juan Jose Campanella’s animated 3D feature film “Foosball,” where Beltramino served as an associate producer.

Latin America’s biggest-ever toon pic, Argentine blockbuster “Foosball” (aka “Underdogs”) was acquired by The Weinstein Co. for key territories, including the U.S., and by Universal for Latin America and Spain.

“Without any doubt ‘Foosball’ has been an inspiration. Its legacy is highly important,” Beltramino said. “During ‘Foosball’’s production, Campanella repeated that he hoped that this project would be the beginning of a 3D animation industry (in Latin America).”

“Cinematically speaking, Campanella’s biggest influence is animation. He didn’t use other animated films as a reference to indicate to his team how to animate the characters. He used classic movies like ‘Casablanca’ to explain what he was looking for in a character,” Beltramino said.

And he’s applied that learning to “Rice & Matchsticks:” The leading character is influenced by the role Peter Sellers plays in “Being There.”

The seven-minute short combines 3D and 2D animation as a “narrative necessity” and has been created “following international animation’s production standards” used by studios like Pixar or DreamWorks, Beltramino said.

The Argentine filmmaker insists on the seminal influence of “Foosball” for Latin American toon pics. “Juan Jose Campanella has shown that it is possible to make an animated film with about a 10% of the budget of a project produced by a big international animation studio,” he said.

“Hopefully Latin America doesn’t miss the huge door that ‘Foosball’ has opened. Latin American countries should encourage private initiatives to develop a real 3D industry in the region. Their challenge is to understand the opportunity and act quickly and smartly.”

“Rice & Matchsticks” will be ready for delivery in about two months and will hit the international festival circuit by 2015. Helmer hopes that the short film will be Matchsticks’ calling card, helping to consolidate the company as an animation studio.