Can South America’s Most Expensive Animated Film Compete with American Blockbusters?

The top three grossing films at the Argentine box office this year are all animated: Monsters University, Despicable Me 2, and Metegol. If the last film sounds unfamiliar, that’s because Metegol (aka Foosball) is a homegrown animated feature from Argentina directed by one of that country’s most respected filmmakers, Juan José Campanella. His 2009 film El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes) won the Academy Award for best foreign language film.

Metegol cost $22 million, which makes it the most expensive film, animated or otherwise, ever produced in Argentina, as well as the most expensive animated feature ever made in South America. The film was funded by a Colombian oil exec Jorge Estrada Mora, whose resources allowed Campanella to set up an animation studio in Buenos Aires and hire advisors like Disney animation veteran and Despicable Me story originator Sergio Pablos. These details are discussed in a New Yorker piece, which is the most in-depth write-up the film has received in the American media.

It doesn’t appear that the film has a U.S. distributor yet, but that’s irrelevant. The film has already proven to be a financial success thanks to strong foreign sales in Europe, Latin America and Asia, as well as the massive success on its home turf.

Low-to-mid-budget foreign animated features are increasingly common from every corner of the world, and as I’ve said before in interviews, such films stand a better chance of breaking out when they don’t attempt to replicate the form and subject matter of big-budget American animated features. The producers of Metegol charted their own path and avoided Americanizing the film, Ian Mount writes in the New Yorker:

Metegol is full of childhood magic and underdog heroics, and astutely plays on the fame of international soccer icons. The nerdy protagonist bears more than a passing resemblance to FC Barcelona’s Argentine star, Lionel Messi, while the villain has the arrogance and good looks of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo (whose smug grin and perfect hair have made him a real-life villain for soccer fans worldwide). The movie, even though it embraces universal themes and looks like a Hollywood product, also feels distinctly Latin and Argentine, from the characters’ Italianate gestures and soccer-mullet hairstyles to their ironic, rapid-fire humor.

Last summer, a lot of American media outlets complained that the animated feature marketplace was overcrowded. They should brace themselves because it’s only going to become more crowded and more competitive as other countries start to distribute their films around the globe.


  • philipwesley

    That looks clever. I would go see it.

  • Animator606432

    Even if it flops, glad to see something other then the crap Hollywood dumps out getting attention. I can’t really tell if the film is good or bad because the trailer is in a language I don’t speak but it looks cool.

    • Animator606432

      Okay, I guess I missed the extremely TINY subtitles in there trailer the first time. Yeah, the story looks interesting and the animation looks really inspired.

  • Rufus Chickenplight

    It doesn’t look too bad. Appealing character designs! Reminds me a little bit of The Incredibles…or at least something Brad Bird would have fingers in.

  • KitKat

    Good for them! This looks cool.

  • Nate

    I hate to say this because American kids don’t want to read subtitles, but with a good English language cast, this could make a go in the North american market. “Foosball’ is universal.

    • George_Cliff

      We bash the U.S. for any number of justifiable reasons but the aversion to subtitles is in no way peculiar to American children..

  • D. Harry

    You say it has a better chance of success, as a foreign film, IF it doesn’t emulate the american studios – but this isn’t always true since Despicable Me and Lorax are foreign made. Unfortunately foreign made films immediately get classified as being “not as good” as films “made in America” – somewhat unfairly. Of course the argument is that Despicable Me is overseen from America by Universal with it’s Director sitting there and the prepro (boards, designs, etc.) being done there.

    As it stands – IF an American studio makes a film in a foreign land – it’s accepted, but IF a film is 100% foreign made, it struggles to succeed in America. This is unfortunate, but it is the way it is. The best chance a foreign made film has is to be bought up and distributed by a U.S. major.

    • mikeluz

      Well, say whatever you will about the larger topic of American audiences’ appetites for foreign animated films. Honestly? I don’t think most of them would know the difference if it was marketed properly. But don’t make a film about soccer and expect the US to relate.

      • d. harry

        haha, you’re right about that Mike.

  • George Comerci

    I like how the characters are designed! Looks good, is it getting an American release?

  • Franco Barroeta Fonseca

    In the US probably a latin american film is not ready yet to compete with an american blockbuster. The question is, if in latin american countries can these films compete with US blockbusters? Lots of poor attempts have been made and most often people go see them out of support, because they’re national products rather than them being great movies. This film looks competitive and I can see why they went with that subject matter. Totally agree with Amid that non US films should not try to emulate US blockbusters neither in style, nor subject matter. Judging by the trailer, this film feels to be stuck halfway between having a very latin american story but not truly breaking free from the average US CG animated blockbuster’s aesthetic / jokes / plot, etc.
    As a Mexican creator and animation fan myself, I wish them well but hope latin american directors start being bolder in their subject matter and form their films take.

  • Alex Dudley

    This looks just as good as any animated movie in the States. If we could produce animated movies less than a $50 million, there can be more variety in looks and stories.
    Or we could be flooded with the same ‘ol stuff. It’s hard to say.

  • Bronte

    Yes but this trailer seems to suggest they’ve done about the best job anyone could to achieve such a goal. I have nothing but loathing for organized sports of any sort and it made even me want to see it. They did a better job of making the subject of foosball appealing than DreamWorks did of putting the concept of Peabody and Sherman over in their recent trailer. Of course the odds are stacked heavily against this foosball film ever being a US commercial success but it is nice to witness any creative triumph, no matter how small.

    • Mike

      …better human designs than DreamWorks too….

  • mutsbug

    as an american who doesnt particularly care about soccer, the quality looks good enough to pique my interest. would definitely check it out in a theatre.

  • mick

    This looks really good. I’d give it a go certainly. Isn’t the idea that american audiences will not relate some what dismissive of the US as a whole? Just because someone likes mashed potatoes doesn’t mean that you should ONLY offer them that. As someone else has written, market it right and there’ll be bums on seats

    • George_Cliff

      Disregarding technical issues, it looks to me like the movie banks too heavily on the audience’s appreciation of soccer to do well in the U.S.

      • mick

        Aye there is that… plus your theory goes a long way to explaining why my film ‘the legend of the bowling green’ has failed to garner any interest from the big studios

        • George_Cliff

          Maybe if you made it a bit edgier. Would you consider making it about adorable little anthropomorphic cell phones. And instead of using the word “legend”, how about substituting in “master.” And instead of ‘The Master of the Bowling Green,’ how about ‘miPhone.’ I love it. Let’s talk sequels.

  • vic

    It will be a success on something like Netflix, but not on the big screen in America.

  • Ben

    I think a lot of you guys are confusing ‘success’ with ‘success in America’ A movie can succeed and do really well without the US. People are saying Soccer is too much of a niche audience? It’s the largest sport in the world.
    That’s like, exactly the opposite of ‘niche’

    • George_Cliff

      The article poses the question can this Argentinian film compete with U.S. blockbusters. It goes on to mention that it has already done well worldwide. The only real issue then remaining then is how will this film do in the single largest film market in the world? Nobody is saying this film isn’t a success. Amid categorically stated that the film has met with financial success. Because the film has already been released everywhere else we’re left only with the question really of how will the film fare in the single largest movie market in the world. I personally don’t think this film will do too well here principally because the theme just isn’t going to resonate with our popular culture.

      To me the next and perhaps most interesting question is how does this studio respond to its success? Flush with cash, does the studio grow artistically or does it convert into a sequel factory. The cynic in me thinks he knows the answer. The optimist in me hopes like hell he’s wrong.

  • Pablo

    I’ve seen it. AND, I’m from Argentina. So i could be biased.
    Animation is quite good. Technically, the movie is quite good. It’s the biggest animation project in the history of this country, which is something important here. The story, honestly, sucks.

  • fer

    I´m from Argentina. Is a great movie

  • Ben

    That was kind of my point, the movie is trying to be successful, that doesn’t mean it’s trying to be successful in America. If it appeals to kids and adults that like Soccer, it doesn’t NEED America to be successful.

    The real hope is that the movie does well, not that it does well ‘in the US’ or that American kids will drag their American parents to see it.

    If americans see it, then cool, yay, if not. I doubt that’s their target market, instead they would be hoping it does well in South America and Europe, where soccer is the most popular.

    • IJK

      You don’t NEED the US, but it’s usually preferred with studios. Something succeeding in America alone is usually worth way more than succeeding collectively all over the world.

  • jimkeyl123

    I worked on the film and I am from the US. I took a huge cut in pay to work there but it was worth it.. Juan Campanella is a great director..

  • http://www.gamanimation.com/ Jose Alejandro Garcia Munoz

    I’m sorry to disagree, but it’s all a matter of marketing & distribution. NASCAR means nothing to most of the world, but the Disney distribution and marketing machine didn’t mind and sold a movie about CARS everywhere. If they wise up and pick it up, they could sell this into a very respectable US box office. Hell, you can even try to ride the 2014 World Cup hype! In any case, this is way more marketable in the US than anything from Ghibli, just make the marketing about the character and not about the sport.

  • George_Cliff

    Sir you niggle.

  • Rinku

    This can have a decent success there in the US, even Ponyo which is Japan’s most expensive animated film which grossed ¥100 million didn’t have that much of a success in US even if it is an epic hit in Japan.