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Jalisco Up Next! – Animation Director Leon Fernandez

Fernández delivers a black comedy with ‘Aeronauts’

León Fernández’s stop-motion short “The Aeronauts” bowed at Pearls of Guadalajara, the 31st Guadalajara Fest showcase devoted to local talent.

A fable about domination, “Aeronauts” follows a tribe of skillfully designed critters who pay a regular tribute to their gods, shadowy flying creatures. One of the young tribute payers isn’t very happy with this tradition.

Supported by Mexico’s Imcine Film Institute and produced at Guadalajara Humanimalia Studio, parable “Aeronauts” tells a story not linked to local culture or iconography, but “it’s a story that happened in the past, happens now and will take place worldwide,” Fernández told Variety.

“We mixed stop-motion digital effects trying to achieve a work between reality and fantasy. In fact, characters, scenes, situations have a surrealist touch. Although the film channels diverse artists, directly and indirectly, we think we achieved a personal result,” Fernández added.

Guadalajara animator Fernandez is a sculptor, which feeds into his passion for animation. He took a degree in Fine Arts at the Academy of Art in Florence and studied animation with well-known Mexican tooners Juan José Medina, who won a 2010 best animated short Mexican Academy Ariel Awards for “Jaulas,” and Rita Basulto, a 2014 best animated short winner for “Lluvia en los ojos.” Medina worked as a producer on “Aeronauts” and Basulto oversaw cinematography.

Fernández has in post a new short –“Taller de corazones,”—co-produced by Guadalajara-based Outik Animation, founded by Medina and Galician publishing company OQO.

“It’s not easy to make a living from animation. However, animation in Mexico is getting more and more popular. The number of productions and features are increasing, as well as the number of people who want to study animation. (…) In Guadalajara, there’s an important number of nationally and internationally known animators who show promise,” Fernández underlined.

Mexico City, Jalisco and Michoacán are the three states topping the list of shorts produced in 2014. In addition to that, in the same year new states made their first animation productions: Chihuahua, Veracruz, Yucatán, Puebla and Sonora.

According to Imcine sources, 535 shorts were produced in Mexico in 2014. Out of them, 10% were toons. Gabriel and Rodolfo Riva Palacio Alatriste hit “Un gallo con muchos huevos,” distributed in the U.S. by Pantelion Films, grossed $9.1 million Stateside –becoming the highest-grossing Mexican pic out of a total of six Mexican features released in U.S. in 2015. It also ran up a $9.4 million box office gross in Mexico.

As near every toner, Fernandez dreams about his first feature, “a stop-motion comedy with tons of black humor.” He has a first version of a screenplay.

“I am in love with this technique which mixes sculpture and motion. You can ‘touch’ the main characters. But I am also open to other techniques. In fact, ‘Aeronauts’ has some elements in 3D, created at Polar Studio. For now, I still want to make shorts, where you can tell stories with all kind of freedoms,” he concluded.

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