Continuing my survey of animated films from Argentina. This Week: The mid-1970s and artist García Ferré.
Anteojito y Antifaz, Mil Intentos y un Invento (Anteojito and Antifaz, A Thousand Attempts and an Invention), directed by Manuel García Ferré. 84 minutes. September 14, 1972.
Anteojito is an 8-year-old boy, the little star of cartoonist and animator (Manuel) Garcia Ferré. But before going on, something should be said about García Ferré himself.
Manuel García Ferré (1929-2013) was roughly the Argentine Walt Disney. He created dozens of characters that appeared in magazines from the early 1950s, and TV and theatrical animation from his own studio from 1959 through the early 2000s. His theatrical features were notable for their bright colors, their cuteness and smooth animation, and lots of lively juvenile songs. But they were strictly for young children, and not really family films with anything to appeal to parents or other adults.
His main characters appeared in their own TV series and theatrical features; his supporting characters appeared in everything. He started his own studio in 1959 to produce comic books and other print media, graduating to TV animation in 1967. When he first began theatrical animation with Anteojito y Antifaz, Mil Intentos y un Invento in 1972, he packed it with as many of his characters as he could, whether they were in the Anteojito series or one of his others. For example Cachavacha the witch, a villainness in Ferré’s Hijitus series, becomes the adversary of Anteojito and Uncle Antifaz here. Larguirucho (Lanky or Beanpole), a friendly tall, skinny mouse/rat, first appeared in the Las Aventuras de Hijitus TV series, but he was so popular that he became a supporting character in everything.
The Anteojito comic book was published from 1964 to 2001. Anteojito was a brainy boy (“the boy with big eyeglasses”) who lived with his inventor uncle Antifaz (Mask). Garcia Ferré created the character for TV advertisements on Buenos Aires TV in the early 1960s. He was more popular than the products that he pitched. Ferré quickly took advantage of this and began animating him in a TV cartoon series in 1964, El Club de Anteojito y Antifaz. The comic book was launched the same year. Other Anteojito TV series and animated theatrical shorts followed. By 1972 the series was popular enough that the two appeared in their own theatrical feature, produced by Producciones García Ferré. It was publicized as “el primer largometraje argentino de dibujos animados”, the first Argentine animated-drawing feature (Quirino apparently having become forgotten by then; although it could be argued that Quirino’s films which did not use cels were not animated cartoons in the usual meaning). It was the first Argentine animated feature to be shown internationally. It won the first prize (Primer Premio Pelayo de Oro) at El Festival Internacional de Guijon in Spain.
Anteojito and Antifaz live in an apartment house in Villa Trompeta, a fantasy city with funny animals, dancing vegetables, and Uncle Antifaz’s enemy, Cachavacha the witch, living with Pajarraco her owl, in the apartment right under his. Uncle Antifaz tries to invent an invisibility formula with Anteojito’s help, and Cachavacha tries to steal it. Anteojito sells some balloons, meets his friend, Buzoncito the little red mailbox, and the balloons escape when he argues with Repibe and Vaguín, the brats. The circus comes to town and he helps out Castañazo, a friendly clown, and his sick daughter Loli by posing as a second, singing, clown. The con men Bodego and Rapiño are impressed by Anteojito’s singing and pose as talent agents who can get him lucrative theatrical and operatic engagements. Bonaño, a good-natured cat (tall with funny hat), takes him to Meethoven, a Beethovenesque feline music teacher. Anteojito becomes a star, with the three mice Quesín, Quesón, and Quesán in his act. He lets success go to his head, snubs Uncle Antifaz, and dismisses Bodego and Rapiño. The distraught Antifaz gives up his experiments, which are immediately continued disastrously by Cachavacha. Anteojito is told a story within the film (based on a separate book by Ferré, El Pararrayos o Historia de una Ambición) and at last realizes that wealth is worthless without true friendship. He returns to being a little boy living with Uncle Antifaz, who throws away the invisibility formula he has finally invented.
Las Aventuras de Hijitus, directed by Manuel García Ferré. 82 minutes. September 12, 1973.
The Adventures of Hijitus was actually produced first by García Ferré, but as a TV series. It was Latin America’s first animated TV series and the most popular Latin-American-produced TV animation for decades, first broadcast on Buenos Aires’ Channel 13 on August 7, 1967, and appearing in 73 episodes through 1974 (the first 22 in black-&-white). The one-minute TV episodes were broadcast several times each day, Monday-Friday. On Sunday at 11:00 a.m the TV episodes were edited togrther and shown as part of El club de Hijitus together with live hosts such as Patricia the fairy, clowns, and costumed actors as Hijitus, Larguirucho the giant mouse, Cachavacha the witch, evil Profesor Neurus, etc. In 1973 the TV animation was edited together and shown theatrically as a feature.
Hijitus is a street urchin with a magic blue hat (Sombreritus) who lives in an unused above-ground section of the sewers of Trulalá, which is threatened by Profesor Neurus, Cachavacha, and other villains. His friends are Oaky Silver (a gun-toting diapered baby, the son of Gold Silver, the richest man in Trulalá), Pichichus (a non-talking stray puppy; the equivalent of Tintin’s Snowy), Larguirucho (translated as Beanpole or Lanky, a giant badly-dressed mouse, well-meaning but so stupid he sometimes joins Profesor Neurus), Anteojito and Antifaz, Mr. Gold Silver, and police Commissioner Trulalá. To protect them, Hijitus transforms into Super Hijitus, an invincible costumed superhero. The villains are Profesor Neurus (a Mad Scientist trying to conquer Trulalá, or steal Gold Silver’s fortune with his giant robot, Marañaza), his henchman Pucho and Serrucho, and Cachavacha the witch with Pajarraco, the owl.
YouTube’s samples are of the TV series, not the movie.
Petete y Trapito, directed by Manuel García Ferré. 88 minutes. July 17, 1975.
Petete (a baby penguin) and Trapito (a scarecrow) originated in Petete, another children’s magazine by García Ferré. Petete was also included in El club de Hijitus as a stop-motion figure. Since the scarecrow was much more popular in the magazine than the penguin, when Ferré produced the animated feature, he wisely limited Petete to a 4-minute stop-motion introduction in which the baby penguin (with a pacifier around his neck) explains to children the origins of agriculture and of scarecrows, before beginning his cartoon animation story starring only Trapito. Since the movie’s first release, the introduction and Petete are usually omitted, and the movie titled just Trapito.
On a stormy night, Salapin the sparrow (Wikipedia incorrectly says starling) almost drowns while looking for his girlfriend, but is rescued by Trapito. The next morning, Trapito admits he is lonely and confused. Salapin takes him to see the Patriarch of the Birds (a wise old owl), who deduces that Trapito lacks imagination since he has been standing in a field all his life. The Patriarch advises him and Salapin to see the world.
They meet Larguirucho (from Hijitus), here a friendly but clumsy farmer with many happy animals including Jacinto the horse and Chancha & Chanchito, the mother & son pigs. They go into town where Larguirucho sells his cheeses and treats them to a meal, but Ataúlfo the sailor raven accordionist steals his money. The innkeeper gives them (Larguirucho, Trapito, Salapin, and Chanchito) a week to pay for the meal or he will butcher Chancha. Larguirucho can’t find a job until he is hired as an assistant carpenter. A pirate orders a peg leg for his Captain Mala Pata (Badfoot), a black-bearded ruffian, but Larguirucho delivers a ham by mistake, and Mala Pata orders his sailors (including first mate Ataúlfo) to shanghai Larguirucho and use Trapito as their figurehead. Mala Pata sails for a tropical island where a map shows that valuable crystal tears are to be found. A mutiny for the tears, led by pirates Vientoenpopa (Favorable Wind) and Barlovento (Windward), is accidentally foiled by Larguirucho, Salapin, and Chanchito. Mala Pata makes Larguirucho first mate and frees Trapito.
At the island, Larguirucho and Trapito are ordered to dive and search the sea bottom for the crystal tears. They learn the tears are being wept by a mermaid, Espumita (Foamy). She and all the fish were happy until they were attacked by Cruel Pulpo, a pirate-hatted giant octopus, and his army of crabs and swordfish. Espumita’s boyfriend, Caballito del Mar (Seapony), becomes the good sea creatures’ general, and they are defeating Pulpo until Caballito del Mar is captured. Larguirucho and Trapito rescle him, and are rewarded by one of Espumita’s crystal tears. They return to the pirate ship, where Mala Pata and Ataúlfo dive into the sea after more tears and are chased into the distance by Pulpo. Larguirucho, now the captain, sails back to town where he uses the crystal tear to pay the innkeeper. Larguirucho and the pigs return to the farm, but Salapin wants to resume looking for his girlfriend. When he finds her, they fly off, abandoning Trapito. The lonely scarecrow returns to his field, but Salapin and his mate return the next year with their chicks, and Trapito and the chicks become playmates.
Las Cuatro Secretos (The Four Secrets), directed by Simón Feldman. 70 minutes. December 8, 1976.
“Three young brothers look for the four secrets of nature (air, fire, water, and earth) in an imaginative journey.” It was produced in Eastmancolor, and got good reviews at the time that say that it was a combination of animation, live action, and still photographs. It sounds terribly educational, and nobody has bothered to put it onto YouTube.
Alicia en el Pais de los Maravillas, directed by Eduardo Plá. 73 minutes. December 9, 1976.
If you’re familiar with Lewis Carroll’s novel, you know the story. This is sometimes described as animation, but it is actually live-action with a surrealistic combination of weird sets, grotesque makeup & costuming, camera tricks, and bizarre lighting, with no animation. Alice chases the White Rabbit through a crowded city, and they go down a mall’s elevator.
Next week: Argentine Animated Features, Part 3: 1981-1995