Spanish Animation Cinema, Protagonist in Prestigious International Festivals

Emiliano de Pablos
01 September 2023
Robot Dreams

Robot Dreams

Its current high profile is the result of a combination of talent, tax incentives and stable co-production partnerships.

The international prominence of Spanish animation cinema is reaching unprecedented heights, not only due to recent spectacular international sales results or global box office performance, but also because of growing interest among programmers at major festivals.

Months ago, the animated films Tad, the Lost Explorer and the Emerald Tablet, produced by Telecinco Cinema and Lightbox Entertainment, and Mummies, from 4 Cats Pictures and Atresmedia Cine, shone at the box office, grossing $32.9 million and $54.3 million respectively, in what was an important international boost for the Spanish animated feature film sector.

Now, it is titles such as Robot Dreams, They Shot the Piano Player and Sultana's Dream that are standing out internationally for their selection and success in prestigious international events.

Robot Dreams, director Pablo Berger's first foray into animated films and one of the most eagerly anticipated feature films of the year, is building a successful international career ahead of its release in Spain through Bteam Pictures scheduled for December 6.


World premiere at Cannes

In May the film had its world premiere in Cannes, in a special session within the official section of the event. In this context, the distributor Neon announced the acquisition of the exploitation rights for the North American market following an agreement with the sales agency Elle Driver.

At the Annecy Festival a month later, the film won the prestigious Contrechamp Grand Prix.

The next challenge for Robot Dreams will be its North American premiere, which will take place in the Centerpiece section - formerly known as Contemporary World Cinema - at the Toronto International Film Festival, marking Berger's return to the Canadian event after the 2012 screening of his multi-award-winning film Snow White.

It has also been selected to participate in the official section of the next Sitges Film Festival in October.

Robot Dreams, a dialog-free 2D production based on Sara Varon's graphic novel of the same title, is a co-production of Spain's Arcadia Motion Pictures and France's Les Films du Worso and Noodles Production.


Talent, incentives and co-production

The current high profile of animation films produced in Spain is mainly due to a combination of talent, tax incentives and stable co-production alliances, according to the industry.

This is clearly true in the case of another of the year's major Spanish titles, They Shot the Piano Player, the animated feature directed by Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal, which will also be screened during the next edition in Toronto (from September 7 to 17).

Trueba and Mariscal have teamed up again years after the release of Chico & Rita (2010), which won numerous awards, including Best Animated Feature Film from the European Film Academy, and the Goya from the Spanish Academy, as well as receiving an Oscar nomination.

Co-produced by Fernando Trueba PC with France's Les Films D'ici and Submarine Anima Nostra from the Netherlands, They Shot the Piano Player will screen out of competition a few days later in the official section of the San Sebastian Festival.

It will also be presented in the Sounds Section of the Zurich Film Festival, which runs from September 28 to October 8.

The film, an animated thriller set to jazz and bossa-nova rhythms and narrated by Jeff Goldblum, opens in Spain on October 6, distributed by Bteam. International sales agent Film Constellation has already sealed a multi-territory deal with Sony Pictures Classics for release in several regions, including North and Latin America.


A historic moment in animation cinema

At the last edition of the Malaga Festival in March, members of the animation industry conveyed the feeling that they were living a historic moment, especially in terms of feature film production.

Some of the most important deals that were announced during the festival were related to Spanish animated films. Among them, the sale by FilmSharks to The Walt Disney Co./Star Distribution in Latin America of the co-production Dalia y el Libro Rojo”, a film by David Bisbano co-produced by Spain's Doce Entertainment and Mr. Miyagi Films.

At Animation Day in Malaga, which was a celebration of the world-class quality of Spanish productions and talent, it was also announced that the family comedy SuperKlaus has been pre-sold to more than 40 countries through the agency Pink Parrot, including key countries such as the United Kingdom (Kaleidoscope) and Germany (Splendid).

Formerly known as 4 Days Before Christmas, SuperKlaus, directed by Andrea Sebastiá and Steven Majaury, is a 3Doubles and Captain Spider production in co-production with Canada's Groupe PVP.

In Malaga, a selection of animated films were screened, demonstrating the outstanding talent of animation professionals in Spain.

One of the most talked about projects was Isabel Herguera's Sultana’s Dream, a feminist tale inspired by the thinker Rokeya Hossain, illustrated using a variety of techniques, including traditional 2D animation with watercolor ink bleed, multiplane cut-outs to recall shadow theater, and finally a mixed technique that works with collage and 3D.

On the Spanish side, this co-production with Germany has the backing of Uniko and Abano Producións, the companies behind Alberto Vázquez's Unicorn Wars, winner of the 2023 Goya Award for Best Animated Film.

In September, Sultana’s Dream will become the first European animated film to form part of the official section at the San Sebastian Festival, after having participated in Work in Progress at Annecy in June. It will be distributed in Spain by Filmin.


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