Pixelatl will celebrate its tenth birthday online: the Mexican animation, comics, and video game festival is planning a virtual edition for September 7–11. Like last year, Latin America’s animation community will gather online for screenings, workshops, lectures, and networking opportunities.
The organizers hint at the effects of the pandemic in this year’s slogan, We Need Each Other. The sentiment is at the heart of the trailer created by Guadalajara’s Aska Animation Studio, with characters designed by Sandra Equihua and Jorge Gutiérrez (known for co-creating Nickelodeon’s El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera and collaborating on the feature The Book of Life). Cartoon Brew is delighted to premiere the trailer for Pixelatl 2021:
The setting of the short film, or “cineminuto,” evokes The Book of Life: a girl in the land of the dead reflects wistfully on her past life, before being cheered by the company of others. Pixelatl’s theme was first interpreted by Equihua and Gutiérrez in their poster for the festival (see bottom of page), which served as a starting point for the trailer.
Aska Animation was founded three years ago and now employs over 40 animators, with a focus on 2d productions. Below, studio director Oscar Hernández tells us how his team developed the concept for the trailer, and how they went about turning Equihua and Gutiérrez’s characters into animation …
Oscar Hernández: The brief for the cineminuto was quite simple. There were two main concepts to follow. First, this year’s manifesto “We Need Each Other,” referring to our human co-dependence in the face of adversity, to the pandemic and what the world will look like in the aftermath. Second, the official poster. Based on the manifesto’s idea, Jorge R. Gutiérrez and Sandra Equihua illustrated a beautiful poster.
When we set out to make something beautiful with Jorge and Sandra’s amazing artwork, a million ideas spread through my mind and nothing really made sense. Jorge and Sandra had a very different idea that they used to create the poster, but at the end I remember Jorge saying these magic words: “That was our idea for the poster, but hey man, you are the director of the cineminuto! You bring your magic to it, do as you please.” Bingo!
The pandemic is implicitly and inherently part of the manifesto’s theme. After countless reads, I discovered that the best way to approach the pandemic’s theme was by setting myself back to the lockdown days with my family. I chose four different characters that my family identified itself with and began drafting ideas around them.
My oldest kid, who was four years old then, was really missing his friends from kindergarten, whom he was only able to socialize with via online video conferences. That correlates to how the little girl misses the old days in the cineminuto.
My youngest kid, who was two years old back then, is represented by the musician, the character who helps the little girl get past the sad moments with play, good company, and joy. My wife and I are reflected in the wrestler and the mermaid, who are always looking on the bright side of life.
Jorge and Sandra just gave feedback on the character design side: profiles, mouths, expressions, blinks, etc. On the animation side, not at all: Jorge, Sandra, and the Pixelatl committee offered us full creative freedom. We studied both El Tigre and The Book of Life, but specifically we studied fire animation and the movement of the little dead girl’s eyebrows.
There was a feeling of uncertainty: I was not sure if Jorge and Sandra, these two amazing creators and directors whom I admire deeply, were going to like my ideas. I was hyper-nervous.
I felt relieved when I saw Jorge’s reaction when watching the animatic, which of course had to include a draft of the mariachi song. I noticed a glimpse of happiness during the devil scene, which slowly released my tension. Once finished, I received his full approval with excitement and joy. It is such an honor to collaborate with people you admire and even better when they value your work.
Hernández’s answers were sent by email and edited for clarity and brevity.