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Few content industries have been harder hit by COVID-19 than Latin America’s. Brazil has the second highest mortality rate in the world. Argentina is still in first-phase lockdown, its Incaa state film-TV fund decimated. Chile hasn’t been able to shoot.

In such a context, one sector, animation, has stood tall in 2020, demonstrating a “resilience” that will see it emerge fortified from COVID-19 crisis, according to a just-released report by Spain’s annual Quirino Awards, which celebrate outstanding animation in Latin America, Spain and Portugal.

Published in the long build-up to 2021’s 4th Quirino Awards – scheduled for May 27-29 in the Canary Islands’ Tenerife, with a call for applications running through Jan. 7 – the study, “Animation Resilience,” draws, a nuanced but upbeat picture of how one of Latin America’s strongest bets for 2021 rode out COVID-19 in 2020.

In general, the larger the country, the greater its capacity to maintain animation output levels, the report’s author, Marta Jiménez Pumares, suggests, drilling down on individual countries. Toon production sectors in Spain, Mexico, Paraguay and Portugal functioned at 100% of their capacity during first-phase COVID-19, Argentina at 98%, Chile at 90% respectively, according to national animation assns quoted in the study.

The smaller the country, the larger its problems. Bolivia’s start-up animation industry, for instance, has seen services for foreign producers continue. Yet private sector companies in Bolivia are not interested in investing in new productions, the Red de Animadores Bolivianos laments.

In Colombia, where one animation services company went to the wall this year, animators have suffered during COVID-19 “a decrease in talent creativity of up to 50%; a lack of concentration owing to the presence of family and other tasks; problems with receiving company equipment; a search for online solutions to bad Internet connections.”

As for Chile, freelance workers have been laid off in order to lower some studios’ fixed costs. That said, Germán Acuña’s “Nahuel and the Magic Book” was able to finish production, with animators working out of their homes, in time for its world premiere in main competition at June’s Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival. It helped that sound post-production, which requires more studio work, had already been completed before the pandemic, Acuña tells Pumares.

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Rutas Courtesy of Quirino Awards

Going forward, the largest challenge may not be so much completing current productions but their exhibition, as well as launching new projects.

Animated features from the region are designed to be seen in cinema theaters. For the report, Pumares polled 13 animation trade assns. in Latin America, Portugal and Spain. Some, she suggests, “highlighted their concern about large uncertainty over the evolution of exhibition. The mid-to-longterm effects could be catastrophic.”

When initiating projects, in a mid-term “contracting new animators and the definition of new processes and changes becomes increasingly complicated when people aren’t all in the same place,” says Ignacio Perez Dolset, founder of the Skydance-owned Ilion Animation Studios.

Working remote means “a loss of creativity” when it comes to development, adds Nico Matji, president of Spanish animation assn. Diboos.

As in so much, COVID-19 looks set to consolidate change.

“Animation’s always used home working, partly because talent is often hired out of other countries,” José Ignacio Navarro, president of Chile’s Animachi, says in the report.

Remote work in animation looks likely to increase in the future, the study suggests. In this sense, Pumares notes, “COVID-19 has proved an accelerator of processes already set in motion.”

John Hopewell contributed to this article.

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Independientes Courtesy of Quirino Awards