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The Boy and the Heron The Boy and the Heron

Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron will premiere in Colombia on January 25. Ahead of that debut, the film is getting an unplanned and likely unappreciated marketing push, as a local woman has gone viral for convincing major media outlets that she drew around 25,000 frames for the film’s production.

Geraldine Fernández is a graphic designer at Tecnoglass, a Barranquilla, Colombia-based company that produces architectural glass and aluminum products. In a series of recent interviews, though, she convinced several major media that she was heavily involved in the production of Studio Ghibli’s latest film. Most of the stories corresponding with her claims have been removed by their publishers – which included outlets such as El Heraldo and El Tiempo – but some interview clips are being reuploaded on Youtube, like the one linked below.

Many in Colombia were quick to embrace Fernández’s story, and she was even invited to give a speech at the Universidad Sergio Arboleda. When her story started spreading online, however, animation professionals immediately began questioning the highly suspect narrative. One dead giveaway that Fernández was fabricating her story was that her name didn’t appear in any of the film’s promotional materials or credits.

Cartoon Brew spoke with the film’s American distributor, GKIDS, which told us they have a full official credits list for the film from Studio Ghibli, and that Fernández’s name does not appear anywhere in the credits for The Boy and the Heron.

Adding to the improbability of her already tall tale, Fernández claimed to have had direct contact with Miyazaki three times over the course of production and says that he affectionately referred to her as ‘the Colombian’ when praising her work, but offered no evidence of those meetings.

In an interview shared across her now-deactivated social media accounts, Fernández said:

Over 20 months, I had to deliver 25 thousand frames, and those 25 thousand frames corresponded to a 10-second scene, so to speak (…) It was a lot of work, but it was worth it, especially because Miyazaki was there, you know that he is a master not only of life, but also on a professional level and working hand-in-hand with him was quite incredible and it was a unique experience.

As skepticism mounted, Fernández was also accused of stealing other artists’ work for her digital portfolio, available here. Many of the images appear to have been lifted directly from Deviantart or taken from publicity campaigns executed by Colombian ad agencies.

On Monday of this week, as speculation about the validity of her claims went viral on social media, Fernández was interviewed on Twitch by Spanish streamer and video game journalist Pablo González, online alias Caith_Sith. During the extensive conversation, they talked for nearly two hours, Fernández doubled down on her assertions.

Fernández reiterated, time and again, that everything she had said about working on the film was true, but that she couldn’t offer any proof of those claims because she was bound by a confidentiality agreement. She told González that she would ask the studio for proof of her involvement with the film, but the host seemed reluctant to believe that such evidence would be forthcoming.

During the interview, Fernández also addressed accusations of plagiarism in her portfolio, maintaining that all the artwork in it was original. “The illustrations are entirely mine,” she asserted. “The thing is that the portfolio is very old, but those illustrations are 100% mine,” she said before backtracking and admitting that one of the images wasn’t created by her.

Cartoon Brew reached out to Fernández for a comment but has not received a response. This week, she has deactivated her X and Linkedin profiles, her Instagram was set to private, and her personal website is no longer active.

El heraldo
In a since-deleted post, Fernández thanked Colombian outlet El Heraldo for interviewing her. The headline reads: “The Barranquilla Talent Who Won At The Golden Globes”

Since running its original story, El Heraldo has issued a retraction which explains:

The story of Barranquilla’s Geraldine Fernández, who had supposedly participated as an illustrator in the most recent Golden Globe-winning film, The Boy and the Heron, turned out to be false…

El Heraldo, in its attempt to highlight the artists of the city and the Caribbean, trusted Fernández’s claims in the good faith, although they ended up being lies. This publishing house apologizes to its readers for all the information published regarding this graphic designer who deceived the media…

El Tiempo ran a similar retraction which reads:

El Tiempo apologizes to its readers for the failures of its internal data verification process and confirms a desire that this type of story not be repeated in the future.

In a radio interview today with Colombia’s Blu Radio, Fernández admitted to exaggerating her involvement in the film, but still maintains that she was part of The Boy and the Heron’s production, saying:

I worked on a couple of scenes, not the whole movie… which were part of the composition of 25,000 frames, but I didn’t make the 25,000 frames.

Update, January 22: After it became clear that Fernández was not involved production of The Boy and the Heron, she distributed an apology letter to traditional media sources in Colombia and on social media. In the letter, Fernández wrote:

I alert the public, the media, my friends, and my family that I never participated in the illustration and design of the film The Boy and the Heron, directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

Everything that happened was the result of a bad faith exercise that I now recognize and for which I am sorry. My love and admiration for illustration and my profession as a graphic designer led me to make comments in closed circles about working as an illustrator in some scenes. I recognize that was a mistake. The digital press contacted me, and from there, everything went viral, a situation that was far beyond my expectations and which placed me in the eye of a hurricane in front of the most important media in the country, influencers, and colleagues.

I acknowledge that the situation got out of hand, and it became increasingly difficult to retract my comments which had a negative impact on my friends, family, colleagues, bosses, co-workers, and society in general.

Today, after exhaustive reflection and advice seeking, I draw on my inner strength to address you and say that it’s time for the truth to come to light, that everyone deserves to know. The truth frees us.

This experience would have an impact on anyone. I’m aware of this. Especially when the media did not act with rigor to verify the sources, which took me by surprise. I did not have the maturity to recant and felt I had to continue with the story that I had participated in the production.

I reiterate that I feel remorse and express my apologies. I appreciate the support of some internet users, bosses, friends, family, and the company to which I am linked. They have all provided moral support and strength at this time, for which I’m very grateful.

I would have liked to go viral for something real, but today we wake in a country with important stories that affect the integrity and daily life of all Colombians. But these stories don’t become viral.

I apologize a thousand times for everything that has happened. From now on, I will work hard so that my professional talent as a designer precedes me. I believe this is the formula to follow, away from controversies with loyalty, simplicity, humility, kindness, and love for my profession.

Thank you for listening,

Geraldine Fernández

Geraldine Fernández Letter

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