Why can not Mexico have a Pixar?

The animation industry is not a game. For artists and creators of audiovisual content in Mexico, it has been a constant struggle to try to consecrate a business that depends on the imagination, but that competes with more box office genres, such as comedy.

Why can not Mexico have a Pixar? Image: Pixabay
Why can not Mexico have a Pixar? Image: Pixabay

During the past year, the animated films that premiered in the country contributed 12 percent of the total cinematic revenues, equivalent to 175.4 million pesos, according to the Mexican Institute of Cinematography (Imcine)

Although in 2018 only five feature films of this genre were released in the country, they succeeded in convoking more than four million people in movie theaters, a figure higher than those reported by suspense, romance or documentary films.

The total cinematographic industry represents 7.6 percent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and has an annual growth of 8.3 percent.

At present, there are more than 100 animation studios, which generate more than 30 thousand indirect jobs. This makes Mexico one of the 20 exporters of creative industries in the world

Although the country has been a hotbed of important firms, the business has yet to achieve a level similar to that of countries like the United States, Canada, France or Spain, where this segment is consolidated thanks to government support and private initiative

José Carlos García de Letona, vice president of Ánima Estudios, has been in the market for more than a decade and acknowledges that progress has been made, but that there is a lack of further consolidation, which can be achieved with more production companies and the development of simultaneous projects.

The co-founder of the most important Mexican animation studio in Latin America shares that Pixar is the jewel in the crown of international animation, but around that empire, there are other kingdoms that have made a place in the industry, and Mexican animators are part of that ecosystem.

"It's like putting David against Goliath because we are facing giants of the industry in terms of budgets and distribution machinery, we are in a complicated position and that is why it is important that we stop thinking that in Mexico the next Pixar will be born. In the country, there is a lot of talent and we must focus our efforts to promote it in different ways because we have a different touch that attracts people," says García de Letona.

Doubling the efforts to boost the animation industry would generate thousands of high-paying jobs, protect intellectual property and attract entertainment tourism, foreign investment and consolidate Mexico in the global entertainment industry.

However, the sector still faces several challenges such as formalizing more creators from the academy or making more accessible animated products.

Latent effort

The desire to stand out can more than obstacles on the way to the big screen.

Little by little, Mexico has been gaining its place in animation and film, and although the journey is arduous and long, the intentions of reaching different corners of the planet keep the march at a steady pace.

The animation resists. In spite of the economic crises in which the country is often involved, or budget cuts to cinematography in general and related arts, this industry of imagination continues to grow, so much so that it offers the possibility that perceptions that their employees receive are 30 percent greater than those of any other sector.

If cinema, in general, is a very complicated business, for animation it is even more so, since producing a project of this kind takes more years than a normal movie, and therefore a bigger budget.

The advances are notorious, but we still need to pay attention to factors such as the development of competition, since the more solid animation companies exist, the more opportunity there will be for new projects to be known and Mexican talent to gain ground.

Other important factors for the development of this industry are related to the professionalization of talent so that the quality of the animation series grows, because many of the creators and artists who try to enter are not prepared, the development of real businesses is crucial, because many young people are afraid of pushing their projects to the limit, often squandering unique opportunities.

Simón Gerbaud, director of the animation degree at the School of Cinema (ESCINE), says that this activity in the world is increasingly important, and therefore its relevance is necessary not to think only for children because so far that cliché survives.

This type of art uses a variety of means and resources to apply its knowledge, so it can reach an infinity of audiences

"Making animation is nothing more than generating sympathetic drawings, it is a form of artistic expression that has matured a lot, this industry is related to multiple disciplines, such as film language, visual arts, music, acting, and visual language" - Simón Gerbaud, Director of the degree of animation of the Superior School of Cinema

Jump into the big leagues of animation

The dream of any production house dedicated to the animation is that its creations appear in movie theaters, however, not all can reach it.

Although Mexico has an important creative capacity to develop its film industry and its proximity to the United States allows it to attract the eyes of other consumers outside the national territory, the sector is underutilized, especially that of animation.

Among the main challenges facing players in the animated industry are the high costs involved in carrying out a project and how complicated it is to recover the amount of investment at the box office.

Proof of this is that a movie 'live action' has an approximate cost of 30 million pesos (mdp), while an animated can exceed 70 mdp with very limited technology since only hardware and software absorb about 20 mdp of the Total budget.

Another of the brakes is the lack of support from the government and the little interest of the big television broadcasters in the dissemination of these contents.

In this regard, José Iñesta, director of Pixelatl, believes that Mexico is still an emerging market because there are several studies that are producing flashy content, but most do so with a view to the outside because of the conditions to which they are subject. in the local market.

"It is sad that foreigners see the potential of the work that is being done in the country and that is why they bet to invest or often hire the talent that is being wasted here. The strategy of the national sector is to create and build from the training and linkage with the international market; this has allowed Mexican studies to grow, otherwise, it would be very difficult to achieve it, "explains the director of the association dedicated to promoting the creation of graphics and audiovisual content and narratives.

The production houses have two ways of sustaining themselves: one part is the intellectual property and the other is the "maquila" (makeup), that is, doing a job by service. Both are important, but the first has a greater weight in your income.

A live action movie has an approximate cost of 30 million pesos, while an animated one can exceed 70 million pesos

While the animated minute is quoted between 120 thousand and 300 thousand pesos depending on the quality, an intellectual property generates 500 million dollars per year.

One of the biggest beliefs is that this industry only attracts the youngest members of the household, and although this population concentrates 32.8 percent of the total population, the reality is that the animation falls in love with children and adults alike.

Allies of the diffusion

One of the levers that have allowed this to happen are the national and international film festivals. However, these events have also generated controversy, as many of them benefited with large amounts of money during the past six years.

The Ambulante documentary tour received more than 46 mp; the International Documentary Film Festival of Mexico City obtained 11 million pesos; the one of Jewish Cinema approximately 7.5 mp, while Los Cabos International Film Festival was transferred 30 mp during the last administration.

Despite the fact that the national film industry had received several blows to its financing, with the arrival of the Fourth Transformation the panorama became even more complicated.

The lack of budget and support from the federal government has caused the animation industry in Mexico to seek funding elsewhere, which makes it difficult for this type of content to reach the big screen

In the Budget of Expenditures of the Federation for the year 2019 to the field of promotion and promotion of culture, which integrates the cinematographic services, was assigned 249.77 mdp.

But, to date, it is unknown how they will be distributed and how much each of the festivals held each year will touch them specifically since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that there would be no direct allocations, so they should look for other sources to obtain resources.

Faced with this complicated landscape, José Iñesta says that a good ally to get the industry afloat is the link that has been created with the technological giants like Netflix, and the profits obtained through the licenses of a brand.

"The streaming platforms are betting on animation, although under their own standards and with a more commercial approach. In the end, what they are looking for is that they have products that are attractive and consumed in their catalog. Importance must be given to the protection and sale of the material that is produced, and young people have to lose their fear of producing their own content so that they can sell it. Mexican animation must become an industry that generates more resources for Mexico."

Creativity at risk

Getting the attention of the spectators is a luxury, but once you get it, the spike to the top is inevitable.

In the last four years, Mexico has excelled in the international film field, since the Oscar Awards have recognized the work of filmmakers such as Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Inarritu, Emanuel Lubezki and Guillermo del Toro.

Creativity and its success have made many young people in the country want to follow in their footsteps, however, there are no public institutions that have so far implemented this career within their study plans, with the exception of the National Autonomous University of Mexico ( UNAM), with a degree in cinematography offered by the University Center for Cinematographic Studies (CUEC).

The problem is that there is only one offer for 15 young people, who, to be creditors to a place in the CUEC, have to go through a selection process. Thousands go to the call and mostly lose hope because it does not reach the place for everyone.

This degree offers 9 fields of knowledge ranging from the realization of animation, fiction, documentary, script, editing, photography direction, production, sound design and art direction, in addition to the payments made in the five years that lasts career are symbolic, since they range from 200 to 950 pesos and are used to cover the expenses of formalities and admission exams.

The cost per semester is 40 cents to voluntary quota, the film exercises represent the most expensive because an average of 5 thousand to 35 thousand per semester is covered; the thesis ranges from 100 to 200 thousand pesos or more, depending on the work that is intended to be presented.

The Imcine and the Fund for Investment and Film Encouragement are two of the organizations that support Mexican young people with resources that have defined film projects.

Armando León, a graduate of the film and animation career, says that since he could not join a public school to study film, he had to resort to a private school, in which he paid between six thousand and 11 thousand pesos each month.

"At first I thought it would be an expense that could cover, but the race lasts almost five years, over time, that disbursement began to affect me, because I paid more than what I had been told in the beginning, also do not imagine the costs of the the tools you would need and the investment in the projects."

The young man finished the race but with few job opportunities, because they offer you very low salaries and only the possibility of being a 'trainee'.

"In Mexico it is very difficult to be placed in this industry, since many times I faced that they will reject me because of my lack of influence and they chose those who had a recognized name", adds the visual artist.

In Mexico, the lack of schools that teach the film career in a professional manner has generated thousands of people who seek to follow in the footsteps of prominent figures such as Guillermo del Toro, or Alfonso Cuarón see their truncated dreams.

Professionalization of animation, the other challenge

Although the scenario may sound fatalistic, there are also nuances, because in Mexico there is support for the cinema, although there are not many, provide graduates of this career with opportunities ranging from funding for writing, review, and diffusion of the cinematographic script, even resources for the production and post-production of films.

Organizations such as Imcine and the Fund for Investment and Film Encouragement (Fidecine) have also supported this cause by granting resources to young people with defined projects.

The filmmaker Guillermo del Toro was not far behind, since during the Guadalajara Film Festival, he announced that he would grant a scholarship to two young Mexicans for the amount of 60 thousand dollars, equivalent to 1.1 million pesos to subsidize their studies in one of the 12 most prestigious film schools in the world, as well as their maintenance.

The journey is long but not impossible, currently, young Mexicans are dabbling with visual effects and animation in projects such as Game of Thrones, Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, and film productions such as Justice League and Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

Saúl Fernández, coordinator of the National Institute of Animation and Digital Art, says that although progress is being made, it is still pending to find the solution to the lack of professionalization of young people, as many of them learn on their own in the YouTube tutorials and They also look for courses that allow them to enter this world.

By Nayeli Meza and Viviana Bran reporteindigo.com

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