Building an industry with Argentina’s animated film Metegol

Director Juan José Campanella displays some stills from Metegol.

Director Juan José Campanella displays some stills from Metegol.

By contributing blogger Benjamín Harguindey

It is not everyday that the Argentine film industry is on the front page of the New Yorker Magazine, but a recent article shows that animated pic “Metegol” can be a gamechanger for Hollywood by offering high quality at 20% of the cost of a Pixar flick.

You can read the complete article by our friend Ian Mount here:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/currency/2013/10/metegol-argentine-animated-film-juan-jose-campanella-hollywood.html

The article reports that while “Dispicable Me” brought the cost down of an animated film from $76m US from the more than $100m to $200m US of a Pixar film, Campanella made his for only $22m US, and with no Hollywood backing. How did they bring costs down? Not just by doing it in Argentina, but by as the article states, put together an internationally-mixed team of lead animators (paired with hundreds of younger, lesser, cheaper talents) while sparing as many studio execs as he could. “I always ask what the executives bring to the table,” Campanella said. “Because in my experience it’s never been anything good”.

The biggest test, according to the New Yorker article, is if audiences will accept reference to Argentine culture (such as men kissing to say hello) when they are accustomed to the dominate role of US culture in film. That the film is animated and can be easily dubbed will help mitigate this.

We’re not making a movie; we’re building an industry here,” says Jorge Estrada Mora, producer of the Argentine animated 3D film Metegol (Foosball, 2013). He has reason to think so. Argentina’s animation history reaches as far back as the very first animated film ever, El apostol (The Apostle, 1917), but 3D animation is another matter altogether and it was director Juan José Campanella’s sworn purpose to make such a movie indistinguishable from those spawned by Pixar and DreamWorks on a yearly basis.

Animation in Metegol inched 4 seconds for every day at work.

A day of work in Metegol totalled about 4 seconds of actual movie.

Director Juan José Campanella began work on Metegol as early as pre-production of his earlier movie, El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes, 2009). He hired El secreto’s novelist and screenwriter Eduardo Sacheri to work on the Metegol screenplay and juice up the football angle, since by Campanella’s own admission he himself “knows squat about football”.

Still from Metegol.

Still from Metegol.

The result was a gorgeous film that broke Argentina’s best opening week record with 700,000 spectators, and halfway through its 16th week at the theaters, it’s managed to rake over 2 million viewers, ranking it high in Argentina’s Top 5 of historically most-seen films. Although its $78 million gross is impressive and more than doubles Campanella’s El secreto’s gross, it has a long way to go before it starts turning a profit overseas (international releases are due next month as distributed by Universal Pictures).

It goes to show that, much like Metegol’s lesson on inclusive yet wise team-building, you can accomplish pretty much anything in the long run. Also, mirroring the movie’s plot about underdog passion, Campanella’s production manages to soar all the way up into the big leagues on a comparatively frugal budget. If the movie manages to be as successful abroad as it was locally, the big animation studios will have a thing or two to reconsider about their bloated films.

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