Each year, the organizers choose a new theme, which they elaborate in a manifesto. This year’s manifesto (read it here) centers on the power of stories to bind communities and spread empathy. While evoking man’s ancestral heritage as storytellers, the trailer also references Mexico’s distinguished history of stop-motion animation, as artistic director Christian Bermejo explained to Cartoon Brew:
It is the best time ever in the history of Mexico to be a creator in animation, video games, and comic books, and we want to reach global audiences, but stop for a moment and reflect on our roots, our origins. What makes us Mexican? Latin? Human? Because we live in grim political and social times in our country and region — but if we understand where we come from, we can get together and point in the correct direction, looking into the future and where we want to be as a society and an industry.
It was only natural that we selected a stop-motion studio to develop this concept. Mexico has a rich tradition of stop-motion artists and in the past 15 years, when animation schools and college programs were barely getting started in Mexico, most of the animation artists came from the disciplines that make stop motion a whole: acting, sculpting, mold making, set dressing, cinematography, and vfx. Without any proper animation or stop-motion training, they all brought to the table their own expertise and worked together to build the face of modern Mexican stop-motion animation.
Mexico is a very artisanal country. We wanted to highlight a studio that brought together the value of working together, and also show that great animation can come from any part of Mexico — even from regions that are in development — and not just the usual places like Mexico City and Guadalajara.
Kraneo grew out of the cottage industry that Bermejo describes. Ten years ago, César Cepeda (the trailer’s director) formed a collective of artists in the city of Puebla, with a view to making stop-motion films. After releasing its first short, Under the Tree (2011), the group swiftly grew, taking on commissions for everything from designing sport mascot suits to sculpting award trophies, while continuing to make stop-motion animation.
As a fully-fledged studio, Kraneo now handles commercial work for the likes of Disney and Amazon, and is developing its first feature, Julia and the Portal to the Abyss. The studio’s artists also mentored the six female students behind the stop-motion short Maraña, which is playing in competition at Pixelatl.
In addition to festival and conference events, Pixelatl includes the competitive Ideatoon Summit, in which Mexican artists and studios pitch projects to international animation executives and distributors, and receive advice on developing and producing ideas. Beyond animation, the event also offers plenty of events dedicated to the professional development of video game and comic book professionals.
Last month, Cartoon Brew announced some of the speakers at this year’s Pixelatl. So far, some 90 guests from a wide range of countries have been confirmed; the official website has a full list. For general details, head to the homepage.