MADRID — Spain’s animation industry is experiencing an unprecedented boom backed by strong financial incentives, an increasing demand for content from platforms and networks, and a push from a creative workforce which is among the most experienced in all of Europe.

To fuel industry growth, Spain must educate future talent and provide a framework for to stay in the country, and few organizations are working harder towards that end than the Canary Islands-based Animayo Summit, Conference and Intl. Film Festival for animation, VFX and videogames, the only Spanish animation festival recognized by the Academy Awards as an Oscar qualifying event.

Between May 7 and 11, the event hosted 14 masterclasses, nine training workshops, five contest sections, twelve screenings for local schools, a number of public feature film screenings as well as a VR exhibit, video games competitions and animation exhibits.

Animayo now also boasts a budget of more than €100,000 ($112,000) dedicated to promoting scholarship programs at major Spanish animation schools such as Cesur, U-tad, Universidad del Atlántico Medio and CEV. The schools participated in the festival as well, setting up tents outside the main venue where students and Las Palmas residents could ask questions and even try out some of what the programs have to offer.

Fifteen talent recruitment sessions were held at Animayo, hosted by major studios such as Madrid’s Ilion Animation Studios, Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon and a number of local companies including Ánima Kitchent, Rafa Zabala Studio, Punk Visual Studio, B-Water Studios, Birdland Entertainment, Windlanders Studio and Qubical Game Studio.

The event also holds satellite masterclasses and workshops in major cities across Europe and the Americas throughout the rest of the year.

This year’s Las Palmas-based summit hosted 17,420 participants across the five days, including locals, animation professionals, YouTubers and press among others. That’s up from last year’s total of 15,000.

This year’s competition jury was chaired by Louise Bagnall, director of the 2017 Oscar nominated animated short “Late Afternoon,” Miyazaki and Wes Anderson animator Aya Suzuki, Ilion and former Mac Guff animator Cécile Brossette, 3D character animator Laia Farré (“Christopher Robin,” “Mowgli”) and Warner Bros. storyboard artist Carlos Zapater. The invitees also hosted masterclasses and training sessions throughout the week.

The jury’s top prize-winning film, Natalia Mirzoyan’s “Five Minutes to Sea” – a young girl’s perception of how time passes while waiting to be allowed to swim – is now included on the Academy Award’s short list of qualifying animated short films and received a cash prize of €3,000 ($3,300)..

Animayo has done nothing but grow in its 14 years, thanks in large part to unwavering support from public organizations including Cabildo de Gran Canaria, the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria City Council, La Caja de Canarias Foundation, the Government of the Canary Islands and the Guiniguada Theater.

To better understand the festival it helps to know something about founder and director Damián Perea. An animator himself, Perea was the first filmmaker to shoot a stop-motion animated short on the Canary Islands. The film, “It Could be Worse,” was nominated for a Spanish Academy Goya Award in 1999.

In a conversation with Variety, Perea recalled the impact films like “Empire Strikes Back” and “Indiana Jones” had on him as a child. “I asked my father, ‘Who made that?’ and he told me it was Steven Spielberg. I said then, ‘I want to be a director.’”

“I was lucky to be born on this island,” he said, praising the tropical lifestyle of his youth before pointing out the difficulties that growing up in such a geographically isolated place create for an aspiring filmmaker.

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“My entire career I had to study by myself,” he went on. “I was surrounded by ‘no.’ So, I learned how to turn no into ‘yes.’ That’s why I decided to create Animayo, to give others (on the island) opportunities that I never had. This festival is here to inspire a new generation, and that is how I measure the success of the festival.”

That desire to educate, to spark opportunity, has led Perea to run Animayo a bit differently. At the opening ceremony for the festival huge portions of seating were blocked off for kids, and “Amor eterno,” (“Eternal Love”) – a hilarious stop-motion short created by a group of 3rd and 4th graders from Poeta Montiano Placeres grade school – was screened.

Animayo also hosted a special kids-only jury composed of eight boys and eight girls between the ages of 9-13, who selected Shaofu Zhang, Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas’ “One Small Step” for the inaugural My First Festival Award.

If it can tap into more sizable rebates, the  future looks bright for Spanish animation, and with organizations like Animayo backing them, the next generation will be ready for it.



Grand Jury Prize:

“Five Minutes to Sea,” (Natalia Mirzoyan, Russia)

Best 3D Animated Short

“Hybrids,” (Florian Brauch, Kim Tailhades, Matthieu Pujol, Romain Thirion, Yohan Thireau, France)

Best Stop Motion Animated Short

“Bloeistraat 11,” (Nienke Deutz, Belgium, Netherlands)

Best Screenplay

“The Ostrich Politic,” (Mohamad Houhou, France)

Best Animated Short for Adults

“Wicked Girl,” (Ayce Kartal, France, Turkey)

Best Art Direction

“Le Mans 1955,” (Quentin Baillieux, France)

Best Student Short

“Little Bandits,” (Alex Avagimian, U.S.)

Best Visual Effects

“Space Between Stars,” (Samuel W. Bradley, Canada)


Best 3D Animated Short

“One Small Step,” (Shaofu Zhang, Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas, U.S.A.)

Best Stop Motion

“Inanimate,” (Lucia Bulgheroni, U.K.)

Best Student Short Film

“Best Friend,” (Nicholas Olivieri, Yi Shen, Juliana De Lucca, Varun Nair, David Feliu, France)

Best Visual Effects

“Hybrids,” (Florian Brauch, Kim Tailhades, Matthieu Pujol, Romain Thirion, Yohan Thireau, France)


Best Animated Short in Spanish – Animation with Ñ

“La noria,” (Carlos Baena, Spain)

Special Mention

“And Who are You?” (Julio Pot, Francisc Olea)

‘My First Festival’ Award

“One Small Step,” (Shaofu Zhang, Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas, U.S.A.)

Best Advertising

“The Big Business of Refugees,” (Device, Spain)

Best Music Video

“Grounded,” (Pencell Animation Studios, Myanmar)

Best Video Game Cinematic

“World of Warcraft: Lost Honor,” (Marc Messenger, Chris Thunig, Dave Stephens, Taka Yasuda, Joanna Griebel, U.S.)

Special Social Mention Awareness

“Stop the silence,” (Guto Monteiro, Brazil)