Following the success of his dystopian coming-of-age tale “Birdboy,” Spanish illustrator Alberto Vázquez brings another graphic novel to the big screen with his highly anticipated second feature “Unicorn Wars.” The film takes place between two worlds: an unscrupulous and industrial bear Bootcamp, where foul-mouthed pastel warriors prepare for battle, and a serene enchanted forest where black-hued and majestic unicorns frolic alongside pristine tree-lined lakes. The tone grows ever more ominous as the cavalry ride through the woods, drawing nearer, forcing the docile creatures to defend their coveted surroundings.

Sold internationally by Charades and distributed by UFO, “Unicorn Wars” is an apt depiction of humanity’s folly leading to internal and external conflict. Innocence is haphazardly destroyed by the burst of a pink grenade while those in the trenches dig deep to figure out what led them to battle.

A co-production between Spain’s Abano Producións (“Valentina”) and Uniko (“Birdboy”) alongside France’s Autour de Minuit (“Swallow the Universe”) and Schumuby-Borderline Films (“Father & Son”), the film serves to advance Vásquez’s fascination with adolescence and the severity of everyday turmoil, focusing on religious zealotry, environmental decay and the ancient war machine.

Ahead of the film’s debut in competition at the Annecy Festival, Vázquez spoke with Variety about animation’s appeal, shocking his audience, and creativity despite budgetary hurdles.

How does animation serve your narratives better than live-action might? 
Animation allows me to play with other types of movements, cameras and graphic treatments. I work with characters and worlds that look like fantasy, like fables. I like to create contrasts and talk about contemporary and current issues. Sometimes it’s more interesting to be able to talk about these themes from metaphor, from fantastic worlds. My characters are like anthropomorphic animals, typical of fairy tales, but their behavior is very human, very violent, cruel and vain. I think it’s an interesting point of view.

The film speaks to the notion of collateral damage. Do you feel we’re all collateral damage, or is there hope for humanity?
There’s hope for humanity, in the sense that there are many good people. This film is an anti-war fable that talks about the common origin of all wars.

Six years ago, when I started writing this script, I never thought that we were going to be living in a conflict like the current one in Europe. It’s very worrying. The evil of the human being comes from this, from this capacity of self-destruction and of conquest and of wanting to conquer new territories and economic interests. In a way, this film denounces that. I don’t like that my film coincides with this war, but maybe now the film can have another meaning. The only war that should exist is the one between the bears and the unicorns, war as a joke, a bit fantastic and imaginary.

Can a smaller budget lead to great ingenuity? 
Sometimes it’s not a question of budget, it’s a question of creativity. Obviously, the more budget you have, the more time and the more equipment you have to finish, the better. But the script has nothing to do with budget, it has to do with creativity and it has to do with knowing what you want to tell and how you want to tell it.

Is animation for adults?
Animation is for everyone, it’s for children and for adults. It’s a medium, through that medium you can tell children’s stories, adult stories, documentaries, drama.

Children demand animation. On the other hand, many adults think that animation is only for children, and that’s because they don’t know the artistic richness of animation. Why’s that? Well, because there’s a lot to choose from, television channels don’t bet much on other types of animation and there’s a bit of ignorance surrounding it.

The same can be said of people dedicated to documentaries or people who make fiction films. In the end, there are thousands of movies made every year that aren’t seen. You only see the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot of invisible cinema.

Can you speak to the dichotomy between the brutal violence and dark humor in the film?
The film is very violent. There is a lot of physical violence, quite a lot of emotional violence.

I like to provoke the viewer. This film is going to provoke emotions and feelings. I like the viewer to be a little shocked, to remember it. There’s nothing worse than films that leave you soon after experiencing them.

I also put a little sense of humor in the middle. It’s an ironic sense of humor, a little dark, a little sardonic.

If the whole movie is very dramatic, it loses audience interest. You have to go to the peaks of humor, some humor, some drama, then violence. I think that’s where the rhythm is, the balance.

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Alberto Vázquez Courtesy of Alberto Vazquez