In recent years, American audiences have been slowly introduced to the Mexican animation industry, with shows like “Teenage Fairytale Dropouts,” the first of its kind to air in the United States and Netflix’s “Legend Quest,” a spin-off a popular series of animated films, but the greatest animation ideas out of Mexico may soon be on the way.
José Iñesta is the founder of Ideatoon, a rapidly-growing annual pitching program in Mexico for animated television shows started in 2012, and it has been successful in developing projects for companies such as Discovery Kids and Cartoon Network.
We arranged an interview with José Iñesta, the founder of both Ideatoon and the upcoming Pixelatl festival, preceded by a whole animation bootcamp, both of which were founded with the intention of helping Mexican artists enter the animation industry.
1. What inspired you to enter the animation industry?
The reason why I am in this industry is because I believe that it can transform Latin America in many ways. First, creating content that is unique to us will allow our children to identify with and appreciate being Latino (which will lead to social change).
By having series or feature films on display and exporting them to other countries, it will generate economic output and detonate development. In producing, people will have to appropriate new technology which will allow technological development in the region. In short, I believe that this industry is a great bet we should make as Latin Americans if we want to find ourselves in our stories and project them into the world.
2. Tell us a bit about the upcoming Pixelatl festival!
The Festival is one of the milestones that our international recognition has given us. Our festival takes place the first weeks of September year after year. In this 2017 will be from [September] 5 to 10 in the city of Cuernavaca.
When we created the festival, our goal was not to make “one more event,” but to begin to articulate the creative industry around a new spirit of collaboration and mutual support. That is, the Festival was a pretext, part of a strategy, a space that would allow us, as an industry, to try a new experience.
Over time we have understood it better, and we outline it as a model we now call “Economy of Generosity.” To break down barriers and push to share. That is, to give and to receive.
3. What lead to the founding of Ideatoon?
Ideatoon emerges as a platform to professionalize the sector. At the first event we held in 2012, we realized that it was very necessary for us as an industry to apply international standards to the sector. There was an ignorance of how to prepare projects or portfolios, how to sell intellectual property, as well as the needs of the sector. It was created without taking into account the potential audience (both the final audience and the investors that could make it possible to finance a project).
Ideatoon emerged as a platform to create and develop original projects that can be marketed and obtain financing by presenting them to investors, channels, networks, distributors in the September event to be carried out.
Over time, Ideatoon has been growing, and from 5 producers we had in 2012, last year we had 15 and people representing big chains like Disney, Cartoon Network, Discovery Kids, Sony Pictures Animation, ReelFX, among others.
4. What innovations have you seen in recent years in the Mexican/Latin American animation industry?
There have been many innovations, and they can be divided into production, technological, and financing innovations. The simple fact that the Mexican animation industry is starting to join the global industry has allowed some of them to appear, and I hope they continue until we can fully enter the international scene.
In some countries, programs have been created to develop projects, to create pilots, and to produce complete series. In Mexico Ideatoon only supports the first two, but we hope that some government instance can support the production or co-production of a complete series.
5. What challenges do you think the Mexican/Latin American animation industry still has to face?
The challenges that lie ahead focus mostly with the financing of projects, and we have two major challenges. The first is that Mexican television stations do not invest in original animated series. To date, its investment is in formats and soap operas.
The second challenge is that the Mexican government still does not have incentives for the production of animated series. There is support to start businesses and to produce feature films, but there is still no fund or incentive to produce series and these are the two challenges ahead.
Some Latin American countries like Colombia, Chile, and Brazil have already solved it successfully, but in some others like Mexico it still lacks leaders to understand the potential and create incentives to develop the sector.
6. What are some series that we can expect in upcoming years?
Anima Studios continues to be the biggest studio in Latin America, and every year it launches a feature film. This year it launched a series specially created for Netflix called “Legend Quest” and will soon release “Cleo and Cuquín,” so I’m sure they will continue to surprise us with more series in the not-so-distant future. I also think that other big enough studios like Egg Cartoon, Mighty, and Mandaraka will venture into the original series in the future.
The international channels (Cartoon Network and Discovery Kids) are testing some new properties that have come out of Ideatoon and some of them are in the air in a short format of one minute, such as Villainous, Juan Futbol, Mexico Lindo, etc. They just need to start generating a big enough audience to decide to launch the whole season. Some properties have been acquired as an option and are under development looking for funding such as “Mariachi Zombie” and “Molly and the Cryptos.” And some are in production that I hope to announce soon.
7. Are there any links you would like to share?
- (Note: This interview has been translated and edited for brevity.)