ANNECY — Underscoring Hollywood’s studios increasing outreach to continental Europe for talent and production services, Spain’s Ilion Animation Studios, its biggest animation hub, is producing a fully animated 3D tent-pole feature for Paramount Animation, Paramount’s new animation unit, which created the movie’s IP.
Ilion initiated its production on the Paramount Animation tentpole movie in September 2014.
According to Ignacio Perez Dolset, Ilion Animation Studios president, Ilion was invited early last year by Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles to bid against other animation studios to provide animation services on the Paramount Animation movie. Currently, Ilion is employing 350 artists on the production, which are half Spanish, half foreign. These include U.S., Canadian French, English, German and Asian artists, Employment will peak at about 400. Pic is scheduled for delivery by year-end 2016.
Paramount Animation out-reach to continental Europe comes after Universal Illumination Studios bought the animation division of Paris Mac Guff, creating Illumination Mac Guff which produced and animated “Despicable Me 2” and now “Minions.” More Hollywood studio deals with continental European studios look set to be announced later this year.
There is no suggestion that Paramount will make a play for Ilion but “Paramount Pictures might consider working on future projects with Ilion on the back of the picture, Perez Dolset reasoned.
Spain tax authorities have just launched tax credits levied at 15%. These are capped at €2.5 million ($2.8 million) per production. “When you are working on a tent-pole feature budget, this amount is not a deciding factor in competing for production,” said Jose San Roman, Ilion Animation Studios CEO.
Spanish animation production costs, however, are significantly below those of the U.K. and France.
“Having the same highly-qualified and talented artists in Madrid as other locations, California tends to be 50% more expensive, London roughly 35% and Paris 30%, said San Roman.
There’s also a bigger picture. The Paramount Animation production forms part of a long-term drives at Ilion to create a animation and larger digital technology and art hub in Spain tapping into what Perez Dolset believes is Spain’s prime asset: Its deep and rich talent pool.
“Spanish animation talent is immense and its driving force: Sergio Pablos, Borja Montoro, Raul Garcia, Carlos Baena and many more. Spain has been a big talent pool for the big studios and now it looks like many of artists are coming back to Spain,” said Perez Dolset.
Ilion first produced alien planet comedy “Planet 51,” which, released by Sony in the U.S., grossed $42.2 million Stateside and $105.6 million worldwide, a record for a Spanish animation movie. Ilion also produced “Mortadelo & Filemon, Mission: Implausible,” which plays out of competition this week at France’s Annecy Film Festival. Bowed by Warner Bros. in Spain, it grossed €4.9 million ($5.5 million) in Spain.
Ilion also supports and is supported by Madrid’s pioneering University of Technology and Digital Arts (U-tad), which offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in animation, vfx, big data, AI, videogames and programming. Further key Spanish animation figures also teach at U-tad: Producer Manuel Cristobal (“Wrinkles”), former Disney animator Raul Garcia, director of “Extraordinary Tales,” another out-of-competition Annecy title, and Carlos Biern, at BRB, one of Spain’s biggest TV toon production-distribution houses, teach at U-tad.
“Ilion and U-tad have formed a cohesive eco-system whereby academia and professional life co-exist together,” said Perez Dolset.
“This is a key differentiating element of our group structure vs. other animation outfits in Europe,” San Roman added.