100 years of Spanish animation

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100 years of Spanish animation

Capture the Flag. Picture: Paramount Pictures
Capture the Flag. Picture: Paramount Pictures

Planet 51, Tad, the Lost Explorer and Capture the Flag are among the most successful Spanish films of the past few years. And not only in Spain. They carry the flag of Marca España wherever they go. On top of success, they have something else in common: they are animation movies.

The first animation film made in Spain was a short film from 1918, El apache de Londres. Since then, hundreds of animated short films, feature films and TV shows have been released, adding to the genre’s prestige. A few examples: Garbancito de La Mancha (first feature film, 1945), Érase una vez… (1950), El mago de los sueños (1966), El armario del tiempo (1971), Kalabaza Tripontzia (1985), The Legend of the North Wind (1992), The Living Forest (first 3D animation film, 2001), The Apostle (2012)…

Today, animation is a powerful industry, creating magic but also (and more importantly) jobs. ‘There are about 200 animation studios, visual effects companies and film distributors in Spain, currently carrying out some 900 projects. This industry gives direct jobs to 9000 people, to whom we should add those in related sectors: toys, video games, books, food, Internet, and so on,’ says Carlos Biern, President of the Spanish Federation of Animation Production Associations, Diboos.

Spanish animation is going through a shiny phase, but Mr Biern does not want to sound too optimistic: ‘Blockbusters in Spain are just the thin edge of the wedge. They show we’re capable of making family films backed by private television channels and marketing campaigns. The real challenge is to develop a full-fledged sector that plays in the top echelon of the global film industry not only in terms of contents but also from the technical point of view.’

Talent and beyond

Spanish animation is a buoyant industry. The best films stand on an equal footing with American productions, although made on a much tighter budget. ‘In Spain you can make a very good film, with a fine pre-production, for less than €10 million. Some animated movies made in other countries have budgets in excess of €40 million for voice-acting cast or animators,’ Mr Biern remarks.

However, money is not synonymous with quality: ‘We have the talent, the technology, the ability to reach international markets and get recognition in them,’ Mr Biern adds.

Lots of months and lots of people

Making an animated film is no easy task. You need to spend too many hours: ‘It takes about five months to make an episode in a series or show, up to 12 months to make a short film and no less than 18 months to make a feature film, depending on the technology and techniques you use,’ Carlos explains. And you also need a lot of people: ‘80 to 120 professionals for the average feature film, without considering ancillary services.’

Regarding profits, Mr Biern observes, ‘Animation films do make money if they are distributed in international markets and backed by marketing actions and big partners in our environment.’ ‘Most people ignore that some extremely popular characters around the world, like Minions, were created in Spain. There are several examples of low-budget films made in Spain that performed decently at the international level,’ he adds. And what does the future hold for Spanish animation? ‘In today’s world, with the growing presence of video on demand platforms, we have new roads to financial success. The younger generations, made of digital natives, demand animated contents everywhere, on every possible device.’