SAN SEBASTIAN — Spain’s The Thinklab, based in Madrid since its founding in 2006, has confirmed to Variety that it will be packing up its digital paintbrushes and heading north to founder Julio Soto’s homeland of Navarre where the company will establish a new studio for the purposes of producing two feature-length CGI animated films, and possibly a third.
Soto credits the territory’s generous fiscal incentives and a desire to grow a Spanish animation industry as the impetus for the move.
With one animated feature already under its belt, 2017’s “Deep,” The Thinklab is planning on growing it and Spain’s impact on the international animation community, open to and actively seeking out international partners on its ambitious upcoming feature projects “Evolution” and “Inspector Sun.”
A third title is in early development at the studio, but details won’t be announced until more robust financing is secured.
The company’s other recent works include “Fluffs!” a 3D animated TV series produced for the Disney Channel, live-action feature documentary “My Beautiful Dacia” and “Dissection of a Storm,” a HollyShorts jury winning short which qualified for the Oscars in 2011.
Set in a 1920’s noir world of insects where spiders act as a police force, in “Inspector Sun” an eight-legged detective boards a seaplane to San Francisco having finally apprehended his longtime adversary. After a passenger is murdered on voyage, however, he is drawn into an unexpected series of events which threaten both the human and bug worlds.
In “Evolution,” an alien substance blends a young girl named Zoe’s DNA with that of her pets, creating a team of intelligent animals led by the wild girl.
Intent on growing and improving its product, according to Soto, the two new Thinklab films will be more ambitious in both the quality of their animation, and the breadth of their appeal.
“Since we released ‘Deep’ the market has pushed more towards older audiences,” Soto explained. “So, with the next two we are going to do in Navarra we want to appeal to an audience age range wider than what we did then.”
Production-wise the company plans to re-partner with some of the organizations and people that backed “Deep.” Although they aren’t ready to announce any specifics yet, they have secured financing and pre-sales in territories which will help them towards their ambitious goals and assure that both projects will be truly international from the beginning.
Much like the films it makes, the company itself has a socially conscious agenda of its own. And, while Navarre’s generous fiscal incentives are essential to the company’s ability to finance their work, that’s far from the only reason to relocate to Navarre.
One of the things that excites Julio is that, “In a tiny corner of Spain called Navarra, two big, international productions will be made that will appeal to the international market.”
According to Soto, native Spanish animation talent needs opportunities and incentives to stay, or even return to Spain for work.
“When you look at ‘Deep,’ it was partially produced in Belgium, and as many as 40% of the animators there were Spanish, which is quite ironic,” he recalled.
“It’s a bit of a shame because it’s an indication of something we are doing wrong in Spain. Why are we allowing this talent to go away when we should be building an animation industry here? In a good year in Spain there are one or two big features. That’s not much an industry. Some of Spain’s most talented people have to go to places like Ireland, France, Canada or Belgium to find consistent work.”
As an example, “Deep” had a production period of two years, employed 250 professionals and trained many of the staff that will return for the company’s next two features.
“Animation became part of the Navarre Film Institute’s strategy in 2015, and in 2018 we started seeing the results of that strategy with companies coming to produce animated movies and series from here,” said commission head Javier Lacunza of the agency’s push to attract increasingly larger entities to the area.
He added, “The Thinklab will consolidate this trend, which wants to focus on going forward. It’s more stable in employment, it has longer periods for projects, it requires hiring fully digitally competent employees and therefore provides infrastructure for the employment of young people and skilled artists.”