No Spain, no gain: in Hollywood animation, that’s increasingly the mantra. Warner Bros. has become the latest major to forge closer ties with the Spanish industry.
Unveiling its 2020-21 slate at the San Sebastian Festival a few days ago, Warner Bros. Spain announced plans to invest in or produce 8–10 features a year (both live action and animation) in the country — a departure from its strategy so far, which involved acquiring six or so titles per year. In addition, Variety reports that the company will continue to partner on a joint development fund with Spanish media titan Atresmedia Cine.
The slate is chiefly live action, but Warner Bros. did present one cg animated feature at the festival: Moomios. Variety describes a scene it was exclusively shown:
In the scene, dashing protagonist Tut, a chariot racer — living in a world underneath the Pyramids peopled by very much alive Ancient Egypt mummies — faces off in a battle of egos with the Pharaoh’s beautiful daughter. As the two assure one another that sparks are guaranteed not to fly, one gets the impression that both are merely putting on a bold front.
The film is being produced at Barcelona’s 4 Cats Pictures, whose founder Jordi Gasull is co-writing and producing. Founded in 2013, the company produces both live-action and animated features. In the latter camp, it has Capture the Flag (2015) and Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas (2017), which were both released globally by Paramount Pictures. Gasull co-wrote both films and served as a producer on King Midas. Juan Jesús García Galocha, art director on both films, is directing Moomios.
Capture the Flag and Secret of King Midas were critical and commercial hits in Spain: they came third and first among local films at the Spanish box office in their respective years, and both won the Goya (Spain’s Oscar) for Best Animated Film. Secret of King Midas is the sequel to Tad the Lost Explorer (2012), another big hit: it grossed $23 million domestically and $25 million worldwide on a budget of around $10 million.
Spanish animation’s success has increasingly drawn foreign money in recent years. After pre-buying distribution rights to Capture the Flag and Secret of King Midas, Paramount hired Madrid’s Ilion Animation Studios to animate Wonder Park. The studio was subsequently acquired by Skydance Animation. Netflix’s first original animated feature, Klaus, was animated at Madrid’s Sergio Pablos Animation Studios.
The country has several advantages. Production costs are relatively low: Pablo Nogueroles, senior vp and director general at Warner Bros. Spain, told Variety that Moomios has a budget of around $11–$12 million — “expensive for Spain, but a fraction of the cost of what it would cost to make it in the States,” he added.
On top of that, Spain’s quality of life is a draw for talent and its language travels well. Notably, the Latin American market is growing fast. “There are 500 million people who speak Spanish, 48 million in the U.S. alone,” said Nogueroles. “Warner Bros. has acquired Spanish films for the last 20 years, but we now we want a bit more skin in the game.”
Moomios is aiming for a late fall or Christmas 2021 debut.
(Image at top © Warner Bros. Entertainment España.)