October 28 is International Animation Day, which commemorates the first public screening of Théâtre Optique (Optical Theatre) by French animation pioneer Émile Reynaud. The showing, which took place at the Grevin Museum in Paris in 1892, included three short films entitled ‘Pauvre Pierrot! (Poor Pete),’ ‘Le Clown et ses chiens (The Clown and His Dogs)’ and ‘Un bon bock (A Good Beer).’
Today, 128 years after Émile Reynaud made history, we celebrate a field that has gathered momentum in Chile over the past few years. Several Chilean audiovisual production companies have gained a foothold internationally thanks to the content, creativity and aesthetic quality of their films. The creators’ talent and the professionalization of the industry have been among the keys to the success of Chilean animation abroad.
The turning point for Chile’s contributions to this industry came in 2016, when the short film ‘Historia de un oso (Bear Story)’ became the first Chilean production and first Latin American animated film to win an Oscar. This milestone brought national and international recognition to the industry and provided the impetus needed to show the world the talent and hard work of the teams behind animated productions in Chile.
We spoke with Niles Sallah of the audiovisual studio Diluvio about why the animation industry is enjoying such strength and how Chile has positioned itself on the world stage as a worthy competitor in the production of animated material. According to the filmmaker, several changes have allowed the animation industry to flourish in Chile. The first involved overcoming the barrier of technology and digitalization. Sallah explains that, “The field started to become more democratic about 20 years ago due to technological change and the number of digital cameras and processes. This brought about a significant change, and the industry has boomed over the past two decades because of it. Now there are people making films on their phones, and it is quick, cheap and accessible,” Sallah says.
Zumbastico producer Álvaro Ceppi explains that another factor that has strengthened the quality of Chilean productions has been the professionalization of the industry, which means that there are lots of trained and talented artists. “Chilean animation has grown a great deal over the past 20 years. Where the industry used to just make commercials, now there are original ideas being produced by talented Chilean artists who were trained even before there were schools. The first professionals were self-taught. Now there are seven animation schools in Santiago alone,” Ceppi explains.
The availability of finance through entities like the Audiovisual Fund, National Television Council and Chile’s Economic Development Agency (Corfo) has enabled this industry to be promoted and move forward. “A virtuous circle has developed between better quality, academic training, and increased production due to state support, and thus internationalization,” the Zumbastico producer explains.
Chilean animation has grown and developed, making an international name for itself as a high-quality product based on its technical level and creative content. Productions like ‘Hostal Morrison (Morrison Hostel)’ (Productora Pájaro) and ‘Puerto Papel (Paper Port)’ (Zumbastico Studios) have been watched around the world. Álvaro Ceppi recognizes that, “It’s important to understand that even though we [Chileans] don’t have a well-established track record in international animation, over the past few years, Chile has succeeded in gaining a significant presence at festivals, markets, etc. due to public and private support.”
Award-winning Made in Chile Production Companies
The Chilean animation production companies that are setting trends include:
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