Here’s the final post to complete my survey of Argentine Animated Features.
Soledad y Larguirucho, directed by Manuel García Ferré, Néstor Montalbano, Carlos Pérez Agüero. 80 minutes. July 5, 2012.
Soledad y Larguirucho was obviously the 80-year-old García Ferré’s swan song. He died on March 28, 2013, less than a year later. His last movie features Larguirucho, his most popular cartoon creation, together with Soledad Pastorutti, a popular live-action singer and actress, in a movie most like the animated/live-action musical sequences of Disney’s 1944 The Three Caballeros. Coming amidst all the Argentine releases of the latest CGI features of Pixar, DreamWorks, Blue Sky, etc., Soledad y Larguirucho was considered by the critics as less of a return of García Ferré’s beloved characters after twelve years than as an old-fashioned embarrassment that should have remained retired. “Soledad y Larguirucho nos sumerge en el subsuelo del peor cine argentino. No sólo es ridícula, es indignante.” (“Soledad y Larguirucho submerges us into the substratum of the worst Argentine cinema. It’s not only ridiculous, it’s insulting.”)
Larguirucho is a happy gaucho living with his guitar and his horse Jacinto on the broad pampas. Soledad, a.k.a. Sole, is the star of a traveling musical review touring Argentina’s San Luis province, to the west of Buenos Aires. She appears dressed as a peasant or a sailor, along with her troupe plus local young singers and children, in animated sets. The review draws enthusiastic audiences, live-action plus four of García Ferré’s most popular cartoon villains: Cachavacha the witch, Professor Nereus, and Nereus’s two loyal henchmen, the cigar-smoking Pucho and the silent Serrucho. (García Ferré’s good-guy police officer, the Comisario of Hijitus’ fictional city of Trulalá, has a cameo at the end.) The last three enjoy the shows, but Cachavacha is jealous with a “what’s she got than I don’t have?” attitude. The other three agree to help her replace Sole as the review’s star. The movie consists of several musical numbers of the traveling review amidst a live-action travelogue of the beautiful highlights of San Luis (the five-century-old capital and cathedral, the lush farmlands, the modern dams and highways, etc.), while the four animated villains humorously try and fail to get rid of Sole with Cachavacha’s magic (at one point Sole defeats Cachavacha in a magical duel, proving that she’s not only a better singer, she’s a better witch), and Larguirucho follows slowly on horseback, performing guitar solos in the scenic countryside, to see all of Sole’s traveling performances.
The movie was obviously heavily subsidized by San Luis’ Departments of Cinema and Tourism, plus product-placement fees. Several of Argentina’s other most popular performers (Diego Capusotto, Carlitos Balá, Pablo Codevila, others) appeared in cameo roles as truck drivers, salesmen, airport traffic control men, and so on; Sole’s sister Natalia was an airport attendant. Only two voice actors were credited for all the animated cartoon characters; Sebastián Crespín as Cachavacia (a male, which explains Cachavacha’s screechy voice), and Pelusa Suero as everybody else including Jacinto’s whinnying. Cachavacha’s henchowl Pajarraco is credited as only Buho (owl) here, and her bat is nameless.
Soledad y Larguirucho did better with the public than with the critics. It was Argentina’s first animated feature in almost two years; it was a pleasant musical (Sole and Larguirucho do appear together twice); it was harmless children’s entertainment at the beginning of the school’s summer vacation; it was an attractive and educational travelogue of San Luis; it was a nostalgic return of García Ferré’s characters for the parents; and it was recognized as the farewell of the 80-year-old Manuel García Ferré – the Argentine Walt Disney.
La Máquina que Hace Estrellas (The Star-Making Machine), directed by Esteban Echeverría. 80 minutes. August 30, 2012.
La Máquina que Hace Estrellas, by contrast, was a strange film. It was in stop-motion with clay figures. It was a “stealth” movie with little publicity. Director Echeverría called it “una ‘road movie’ por el universo”. “The universe in which this takes place is timeless, resulting in the fusion of elements of science-fiction and antique technologies; steam-powered spaceships, machines with enormous gears, clunky robots, together with holograms, living asteroids … It’s an original esthetic mixture of Steampunk and space fable.” (my translation) It was a co-production of Aleph Media and Nuts Studios S.A.; two small Buenos Aires animation studios known mostly for animated TV commercials. It was advertised as Argentina’s first 3D movie despite the previous Boogie, el Aceitoso, possibly because it started production earlier. It was produced in the anaglyph process requiring glasses with red-&-blue lenses, rather than the more modern Polaroid process with glasses with gray lenses. (Why? American 3D movies stopped using the anaglyph system decades ago.)
Pilo Molinet is a 10-year-old alien boy, living with his mother Bebel and his grandfather Seblé, in a town on one of the asteroids circling the planet Ankj. Pilo’s best friend is the human girl Niza, to whom he repeats the stories told to him by his astronomer grandfather about a galactic machine that makes the stars every night. If anything goes wrong with the machine, a Molinet has to go into space and fix it; this supposedly explains the absence of his father. Pilo believes it (his mother doesn’t), and looks forward to going into space with his grandfather to fix the next breakdown.
But when the stars do go out, everyone else on the asteroid is put into a trance. Pilo must take command of a Steampunk space flyer by himself and go into the cosmos to find the star-making machine. He picks up “19”, an old-fashioned comic-relief robot, and Jiva, a Pandabás (a small, powder-blue glowing gelatinous blob) to help him. The villain is discovered to be Asura, an evil and unscrupulous Lincan space merchant who wants the star-making machine for himself. Pilo defeats him, restores the stars, releases his family and Niza from their trance, and incidentally rescues his father.
Rodencia y el Diente de la Princesa (Rodencia and the Princess’ Tooth), directed by David Bisbano. 87 minutes. October 11, 2012.
For the record. Some sources credit this as an Argentine film, and it got some international theatrical distribution under this title or a translation. In Germany it was Rodencia und der Zahn der Prinzessin. But it was released in the U.S. as a children’s direct-to-DVD titled A Mouse Tale over two years later, on February 10, 2015. Grindstone Entertainment Group and Lionsgate Entertainment Corp., both in Santa Monica, California, planned and financed it, and the animation was produced by Red Post Studio in Lima, Peru and Vista Sur Films in Buenos Aires. I’d say that it’s basically a U.S.-Peruvian co-production, with some Argentine input. It’s another variation on the mouse as the coin-bringing-for-lost-teeth fairy tale, with Rodencia as a kingdom of mice and an inept young mouse loser as the hero. The cleverest thing about it was the mice’s names – all cheeses; Edam (the hero), Brie, Roquefort, Gruyere, etc. Of course these were all replaced with unimaginative human names in the American dub: Sebastian (the hero), Samantha, Sir Thaddeus, etc.
Metegol (Foosball; Underdogs), directed by Juan José Campanella. 106 minutes. July 18, 2013.
This was “the big one”; the Argentine animated theatrical feature that’s supposed to establish Argentine animation theatrically in the U.S., dubbed in English – if it’s ever released. When I began this series of columns in August, it had just been postponed from its announced August 14 theatrical release. Its American trailer had even appeared in theaters during the previous two or three months as “Coming Soon”. Now – who knows?
The movie begins with a “live action” sequence of (costumed) prehistoric man-apes inventing soccer (a parody of the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey of prehistoric man-apes inventing tools). The adult Amadeo’s son Matías prefers playing soccer video games on a hand-held tablet to the real thing. Amadeo the father tells him a bedtime story about how, when he was a boy they played metegol. The story-within-a-story: Amadeo (Jake in the U.S.) is a young adolescent waiter in the Café & Bar across from the town square in a nameless town. The café has a table football-metegol-futbolín-foosball game, of which he has become an expert player. He develops a crush on Laura, who comes into the café with El Pulpo, a fat kid. Amadeo and Laura are getting along when Grosso (Ace) and his posse enter. Grosso is a real soccer player, and he & his gang sneer at the juvenile table football setup. Amadeo, encouraged by Laura, challenges Grosso to show what he can do, and despite some early goals and lots of boasting by Grosso, Amadeo wins. Everyone in the café applauds him. The humiliated Grosso runs into the square, where he is accosted by a gross, sinister-looking soccer manager who offers to train him.
Ten years later, Amadeo is still a waiter at the Café & Bar. He has mixed feelings when Laura, enthusiastic, tells him that she is about to go to Europe for advanced study. They are interrupted, and everyone goes out into the square, when the town is invaded by giant earth-moving equipment. A futuristic helicopter arrives bringing the fat manager and the adult Grosso in a soccer uniform, now handsome and the most famous soccer player in the world. He announces that he has bought up the entire town, to be torn down and replaced by a more modern entertainment park and super soccer stadium. When Laura protests, he takes her into the helicopter and they fly off. Amadeo futilely tries to stop the earth-moving machines that tear apart the café and the metegol table in it.
That night, Amadeo is reduced to tears in the town square with a piece of the broken metegol game at his feet. One of his tears falls on the metegol player, Captain Capi, and brings him to life.
The movie switches to the metegol players as they come to life and reunite. The four main characters are Capi (Captain Skip), el Loco (Ziggy, with long back hair & mustache), and el Beto (Rico, with frizzy blond hair) in the green & yellow soccer uniforms, and Capitán Liso (Captain Rip), the captain of the “rival” metegol team, in red. Metegol goes into a long subplot as Amadeo (now a supporting character), Capi, Loco, and Beto go to the amusement park that Grosso has built to bring to life and retrieve the small steel game players that have been integrated into it. Another subplot shows Laura and Grosso in the mansion that he has built, which is more like a soccer temple with himself as a soccer god. He reveals to Laura that his only real goal has been to demolish the town, the café, and the metegol game that were his only defeat.The reunited metegol players encourage Amadeo to face up to Grosso. He bravely challenges Grosso to a new game; Grosso contemptuously raises the challenge to a game not of metegol but of real soccer against his team of champion players. Laura dares him to give the town back to its inhabitants if he loses. Amadeo scours the townspeople to put together a team: his boss at the café, the still pudgy El Pulpo, the elderly town priest, a thief, some drunkards, ancient retirees, the town policeman, and others who have never played sports in their life. The game fills the last 15 minutes of the movie. As in all other sports fantasies, the hero’s loser team begins to win. The tiny metegol players cheer them on. At the last minute, Grosso wins – but he has been so obviously a despicable bully throughout the game that the audience cheers Amadeo instead, and even Grosso’s own team deserts him to join Amadeo.
Metegol was an Argentine-Spanish co-production. It was adapted from a short story, “Memorias de un Wing Derecho” by Roberto Fontanarrosa. (Amadeo plays his team’s right wing in the climactic game.) It cost $21,000,000, which is cheap for a U.S. animated feature these days but was the most expensive motion picture ever produced in Argentina and the most expensive animated feature in Latin America. It was a major hit throughout Latin America, grossing 16,622,178 Argentine pesos on its opening weekend, and beating such American imports as Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University. It won Spain’s Goya Award for the best Spanish-language film of the year in the animated feature category. (The film’s publicity frequently mentioned that this was director Campanella’s second Goya Award. He had previously won the Goya for El Secreto de Sus Ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes) in 2010 in the award’s live-action category. That movie also won that year’s Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film.)
Though it has not been released in America yet, a separate English dub was released as The Unbeatables in the U.K. on April 10, 2015. Rupert Grint, “Ron Weasley” from the Harry Potter movies, was the voice of Amadeo. Some characters had different names; Grosso, Ace in the U.S., was Flash, and Beto (Rico) was Skip.
And that’s it. One 2013 Argentine animated feature, and none in 2014 or 2015.
Next week: Back to Japanese animation.