Annecy: Jordi Mendieta on Awaited Spanish Movie ‘Pijamas’

Animated feature, a romantic comedy, is co-directed by Spanish comic-book artist Paco Roca

“Pajamas” art concept
Courtesy of Paco Roca

ANNECY–As a fortysomething confirmed bachelor, Paco has attained his lifelong dream –working, spending all the time at home in pijamas. Then a gorgeous girl, Jilguero, suddenly challenges his contentment. That’s the oddball premise of “Memoirs of a Man in Pijamas,” an awaited animated feature created by Paco Roca and co-directed by Roca and Carlos Fernandez.

Mentored by vet toon Spanish producer Manuel Cristóbal, whose credits include Ignacio Ferreras’ Annecy prized “Wrinkles” and “The Missing Lynx,” from Raúl García and Manuel Sicilia, “Pijamas” is co-produced by Barcelona-based Dreamteam Concept, Galicia’s Ladybug Films and Ángel de la Cruz, and Spanish Academy Goya-winning screenwriter of “Wrinkles” and co-director of “The Living Forest.” De la Cruz also co-writes “Pijamas.”

If “Wrinkles,” based on a graphic novel by Paco Roca, was a singular portrait of two seniors friends in a nursing home, “Pijamas” is an equally left-of-field play, channelling “Seinfield” and Larry David. It is one out of five feature projects selected by France;s Annecy Fest to be pitched at a session taking place on June 15. Variety talked to Jordi Mendieta, a producer at Dreamteam.

What the production state of ‘Pijamas,’ and its origins?

Mendieta: Ongoing. After “Wrinkles,” we thought of making a animated romantic comedy, something never done before [in Spain]. This is an experiment for us. But we have tested it, and had enthusiastic reactions, especially when we showed the original newspaper comic strips -later they turned into two comic books- created by Paco Roca.

How did you jumped from live action cinema to animated movies?

Mendieta: I first made contact with Moonbite, a Galician vidgame shingle, and we became partners. Then they set up the studio in Barcelona. We saw vidgames as one business line but 2D and 3D animation as another. So I started to talk with Angel de la Cruz and Manuel Cristóbal –who were developing “Pijamas.”

And financing an animated feature? Are there significant differences from live action?

Mendieta: In terms of broadcaster support, animated features in Spain are considered features –with no distinction from live action. They can take on the risk of producing an adult animated movie. Paco Roca’s prestige and the international success of “Wrinkles”  [sold by 6 Sales for U.S., Canada, Russia, China and Latin America territories] helped a lot. What’s different is animation’s production process and length and the budget has to be adapted accordingly.

What’s “Pajamas” about?

Mendieta: If you read the comicbooks, you will identify very quickly with its characters. “Pajamas” is the literal translation of ordinary and hilarious situations that everybody have experienced. It’s a realistic comedy about the relationship between friends and in couples. The guiding thread of all the episodes is Paco, Roca’s alter-ego, a sweet, charming guy who’s constantly ruminating about life and has many friends. It’s something like Woody Allen meets “Friends.”

Adult audiences represent a complicated target for animation. Especially if it’s a comedy, and particularly if you’re looking for theatrical release….

Mendieta: That may be true [laughs]. You have to take risks if you want to make interesting cinema. We want people coming out of theaters having seen a comedy and having laughed. And then, they realize that what they’ve seen is an animated movie. In fact, we begin and close with live-action, featuring Raúl Arévalo [Alberto Rodríguez’s “Marshland”], and María Castro [TV skein “Without Tits There Is No Paradise”]. Our purpose is to lead the audience into the animated world in a very natural way without their paying attention to it. We know it’s a challenge.

What is the current state of Spanish animation?

Mendieta: From the point of view of a new animation producer, I’ve realized that there’s a large interest in animation. Suddenly, multiple small 2D groups are launching. Some movies had to go to the Philippines or India for their animation, because there wasn’t enough teams here. This is a trend, there are very well trained technicians here and in fact we’re thinking about creating a 2D animation servicing network for all the world, since it’s much to animate cheaper here.

When will “Pajamas” be ready for delivery?

Mendieta: Our aim is to world premiere in a major festival in 2017.