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Mexico’s massive presence as the country of honor at Annecy is no mean feat, taking organizer Pixelatl at least a year to put together the programs and secure the classic and recent short films to showcase.
“We had to speak to the widows of some of these animation artists and get their works restored,” says Pixelatl founder-CEO Jose Iñesta. Mexican film institute, Imcine, helped in the recovery of at least 11 shorts, some dating back from the 1930s.
For Annecy’s tribute to Mexico, Iñesta teamed up with seven renowned Mexican animation pros: Sofía Carrillo, Ana Cruz, Lucía Cavalchini, Tania de León Young, Lourdes Villagómez, Christian Bermejo and Jordi Iñesta, to curate and organize the nine programs comprising 88 short films, 39 of which are directed by women and 29 produced by Imcine.
While Imcine’s incentives program allots some funds to animation, they are small sums divvied up among live action, animation and other formats.
Limited state support is one of the reasons why Pixelatl, an association dedicated to the creation and promotion of Mexico’s multimedia content, was born. According to Imcine, it has backed six animated features and 12 shorts in the past three years. Last year, it backed only one animated feature and five shorts while this year it has supported three features and three shorts.
Private funding is just as scant. “The television networks are keener to invest in telenovelas than in animation,” observes Iñesta.
Its annual festival in early September showcases Mexico’s animation, comic and video game industries, while offering training, recruitment and a market where screenings, panels and pitches are held.
A host of deals on notable projects were forged at Pixelatl, including hit series “Frankelda’s Book of Spooks,” “Toontorial,” and “Villainous” that were picked up by Warner Bros. Discovery Kids & Family.
“Some 12 years ago, when Pixelatl started, there were around three people working in animation in Mexico, now we have a proper animation industry, thanks to Pixelatl,” says Iñesta. It has become a key event for studio executives from the likes of Cartoon Network, Disney, etc.
Among its many activities is Ideatoon, a call for pitch bibles of animated projects of which eight are selected from the multiple entries to participate in Pixelatl’s pitching sessions.
Secuenciarte calls for graphic novels or comic books. First launched in 2014, it has led to the publication of 32 comic books, some selling out at a rapid clip.
Chinelos is a call for shorts from both local and international animation students and another category for international entries. Winners will be given passes to participate in the Pixelatl Festival.
Paal calls for illustrated books for children ages 5-7 that is open to Latin American residents from the ages of 15 upwards. The five shortlisted projects will participate in the festival’s pitching sessions from which a winner will be picked.
Each year, Pixelatl chooses a creative partner who, inspired by the year’s manifesto, develops an animated promotional short film for the festival, from which all the art and graphic images are derived. This edition counts on Lucy Animation, an all-female animation outfit from Colombia, to be Pixelatl’s creative partner.
Pixelatl’s manifesto this year is “Dare to Believe,” says Iñesta, who adds that socio-political events tend to inspire the manifesto. In the year Trump became president, its manifesto was “Diversity.” After the pandemic that forced them to go online for two years, the manifesto was “We Need Each Other,” he relates.
It’s keeping Aula, its online platform, running. Launched during the pandemic, it has proven useful in broadening their reach.
“What is Mexican animation? It’s a group of talented Mexicans who keep on telling stories despite the host of economic challenges they face,” Iñesta concludes.
The 2023 Pixelatl Festival runs Sept. 5–9.