Spanish Screenings Animation Day Showcases New Productions, Celebrates Global Recognition

Sultana’s Dream
“Sultana’s Dream" Courtesy of Mafiz

Malaga’s Animation Day showcases some of the most important animation features in the pipeline in Spain, all made with international partners. 

On Tuesday, March 14, five recent outstanding Spanish animated works in progress will be pitched by their producers to the international industry during the event.

Animation Day forms part of Spanish Screenings Content at Malaga Festival’s industry zone Mafiz, supported by ICEX Spain’s Trade & Investment entity with the collaboration of Diboos, the Spanish Federation of Animation Producers and the VFX Production Companies Associations.

The five WIP animated titles selected are “4 Days Before Christmas,” a produced by 3Doubles Producciones and Capitán Araña with Canada’s PVP Media; Barcelona-based Doce Entertainment’s Latin American project “Dalia and the Red Book”; Salvador Simó’s Spain-China toon feature “Dragonkeeper”; Abano Producions, El Gatoverde and Uniko’s German co-production “Sultana’s Dream”; and “Rock Bottom,” a Spain-Poland co-production from Alba Sotorra, Jaibo Films and GS Animation.

The meeting will also offer the market screening of Nuno Beato’s feature ”My Grandfather’s Demons,” co-produced with Portugal by Galicia’s Caretos Films.

“The WIP selection showcases the high level of professionals in the Spanish animation sector,” says Goya Award-winning producer-director Chelo Loureiro at Abano.

“Spanish animation is booming. We are recognized worldwide and many of our artists are working all over the world,” adds Darío Sánchez, CEO at Tenerife-based 3Doubles.

Although the WIP selection suggests several trends in contemporary Spanish animation, diversity, in the broadest sense, is the dominant feature.

“What stands out the most about this year’s selection is the diversity of titles and formats, techniques and genres, of films that are very different from each other,” argues Peekaboo’s founder and Diboos vice president, Iván Agenjo.

Heading the same way as Telecinco Cinema-Lightbox Ent.’s “Tad The Lost Explorer. The Emerald Tablet,” the third instalment of Spain’s highest grossing animated film franchise and international sales hit, “4 Days Before Christmas,” a family-orientated adventure-fantasy, will be launched by Filmax in Spanish theaters on Dec. 15, sold internationally by Pink Parrot Media.

Highly anticipated “Dragonkeeper,” a fairy-tale helmed by Salvador Simó (“Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles”), executive produced by Larry Levene, is also released this year also targeting family audiences.

Directed by Argentina’s David Bisbano (“A Mouse Tale”), “Dalia” is described as “The NeverEnding Story” meets “Corpse Bride” and has been acquired by Disney across all Latin America. 

Isabel Herguera’s “Sultana’s Dream” inspired by an Indian sci-fi feminist tale written by Rokeya Hossein in 1905, focuses on a wide range of audiences, but especially women.

There is also a spectrum of more indie films, with a significant presence of adult animation, which has been gaining prominence in recent years with titles such as Alberto Vázquez’s Goya-Award winning anti-war fable  “Unicorn Wars,” co-produced by Abano, Uniko and Autour de Minuit.

That’s also the case of María Trenor’s “Rock Bottom.” Inspired in British musician Robert Wyatt’s life, it tells a self-destructive love story of a young couple of artists immersed in the creative gale of hippie culture in the early 1970s. 

Technically, it’s highly difficult to speak of any single trend in the current Spanish animation landscape. 

In “Sultana’s Dream,” for example, there are three stories coming together in a final oneiric sequence. Each story is illustrated by a different technique: the first in traditional 2D animation, inked in watercolors. The second, using multi-dimension cut-outs recalls a theater of shadows. The third is a mixed technique that works with collage and 3D.

For its part, “Dalia and the Red Book” uses Epic Games’ 3D animation tool Unreal Engine and combines CGI, stop-motion and 2D animation. 

Alba Sotorra and María Trenor bet on rotoscoping and traditional 2D animation to produce “Rock Bottom.”

Meanwhile, both “4 Days Before Christmas” and “Dragonkeeper” are 3D CGI animation productions.  

“Each story demands a specific technique -and no other- from the narrative point of view of its creator,” Loureiro points out.

The five titles unveiled at the Animation Day:

“4 Days Before Christmas,” (Steve Majaury, Andrea Sebastián, Canada, Spain)

Santa hits his head and thinks he’s “SuperKlaus,” a popular big-screen superhero. But he’s scammed by a toy-obsessed businessman who wants his workshop. With the help of Billie and Leo his “Elf-executive” assistant, “SuperKlaus” has to battle to save Christmas. Produced by Spain’s 3Doubles Producciones and Capitán Araña and Canada’s PVP Media. Currently in production, with animation almost finished and progress being made on FX, lighting and compositing. BSO is starting this month from Diego Navarro, says producer Darío Sánchez. “What makes ‘4 Days Before Christmas” different to other Christmas movies is that it is a superhero movie, a comedy adventure that happens at Christmas and is related to Santa Claus but totally different from what people think they are going to watch,” he adds. 

4 Days Before Christmas Courtesy of Mafiz

“Dalia and the Red Book,” (David Bisbano, Argentina, Spain, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador)

Dalia (12) takes on the task of completing her famous author father’s unfinished book and become part of the story and ends up facing off with its characters, who have taken control over the plot. From Argentine director Bisbano, an Argentina (Vista Sur, FilmSharks), Spain (Doce/Mr. Miyagi), Peru (Golem), Brazil (Cine2), Colombia (Signos), Ecuador (Matte) co-production underscoring the market potential of bigger more mainstream propositions, with sales to The Walt Disney Co./Star Distribution for Latin America and Germany, Russia/CIS and Taiwan closed among major territories. The U.S., France, Japan, Spain and Italy are in discussions, FilmSharks Guido Rud tells Variety. The producers will show around 12 minutes of final animation at Malaga, says Mr. Miyagi’s David Matamoros. Footage has 50%-plus rendering, some of the scenes made with Unreal Engine to show real advances to clients and partners, Rud adds.

Dalia and the Red Book Courtesy of FilmSharks/Mafiz

“Dragonkeeper,” (Salvador Simó, Li Jiang­ping, Spain, China)

The biggest Spanish animation play of the year, budgeted at $28 million, producer Larry Levene revealed at last week’s Cartoon Movie. An official Spain-Chinese co-production based on weighty IP –  the first title in the best-selling trilogy of Carole Wilkinson – and produced by Guardián de Dragones A.I.E., Telefónica Audiovisual Digital’s Movistar+,  Atresmedia Cine (“Klaus”) and China Film Animation, an affiliated company in the China Film Group. Set during the Han Dynasty in a “magic, epic and classic” Ancient China, the description runs, slave girl Ping discovers she is a dragon keeper, encharged, along with the last imperial dragon, Long Danzi, to transport a mysterious stone across China. 

Sold by SC Films, “Dragonkeeper,” currently attending will bow in Spain, distributed by A Contracorriente Films. “I’m used to saying that my grand-daughter loves the same films I loved when I was a kid. We have wanted to grasp  in ‘Dragonkeeper’ the charm of those movies, their art-line and storytelling with state of the art new technologies … to produce a film to become a new classic,” Levene says.

Dragonkeeper Courtesy of Mafiz

“Rock Bottom,” (Maria Trenor, Spain, Poland)

Backed by producer-director Alba Sotorra, who helmed “El retort: La vida després de l’ISIS,” Valencia’s Jaibo Films, behind Locarno hit “Sacred Spirit,” Poland’s GS Animation, and Majorca’s Empatic, the upcoming feature from respected Spanish animation director Trenor, winner of a Berlinale Teddy Award for 2004’s short “With What Shall I Wash It?” One of Spain’s most memorable future animation titles, inspired by the early life and acclaimed 1973 art rock album of ex-Soft Machine vocalist-drummer Robert Wyatt. Drugs will turn a passionate summer into a nightmare in a journey through the themes of Wyatt’s music. “A universal story about the transformative power of art and music,” now 90% financed and aiming to bow at a February 2024 film festival, says Sotorra.

Rock Bottom “Rock Bottom,” Courtesy of Mafiz

“Sultana’s Dream,” (Isabel Helguera, Spain, Germany)

Produced by Spain’s Sultana Films,  Abano Producións, El Gatoverde Producciones and Uniko Estudio and Fabian & Fred in Germany. 

Inés, a Spanish animation director, is in Ahmedabad to break up with her Indian lover. She enters a bookshop and discovers “The Sultana’s Dream,” an Indian feminist tale written in 1905 by Rokeya Hussein. Inés decides to make a film, as her and Rokeya’s lives run parallel, the synopsis runs. One of the latest titles from Spain’s Uniko and Abano, drawing large heat after “Unicorn Wars,” now in post-production and tracking for delivery later this year. The film tells three stories, a first contemporary, with Inés as its lead; a second, “Sultana’s Dream”; and a third the exemplary life of its author, says Loureiro.