Continuing my survey of Argentine animated feature films, today with films by Carlos Marquez and Manuel García Ferré.
Mafalda, directed by Carlos D. Marquez. 82 minutes. December 3, 1982.
Mafalda was an Argentine comic strip by Quino (Joaquín Salvador Lavado) published from 1964 to 1973. It was extremely popular throughout Latin America, and in Europe and Quebec and several Asian countries — as usual with international cartoons, everywhere but America. The newspaper strips were reprinted in books, and there was an Argentine 1991 postage stamp. There were two Mafalda animated versions; this one and a 1993 Cuban TV series. Mafalda was compared at the time with, and was admittedly inspired by, Blondie and Peanuts.
Mafalda is a 6-year-old middle-class Argentine girl who is innocently concerned with world peace and everybody being friends. The comic strip also featured her family and, added gradually, many schoolmates, young friends, and neighbors; each of whom had distinct personalities and slowly grew older. The newspaper strip became an intellectual favorite; so much that for several years after Quino stopped drawing it in 1973 (he moved to Milan, Italy to escape Argentina’s then-military government’s censorship), he was still being asked by UNICEF and human rights groups to draw Mafalda for their posters. Today there are Mafalda streets and parks throughout the world (except in America); the Mafalda books are still in print (except in America); and Quino, now in his 80s, is getting international awards (admittedly for more than just his Mafalda comic strip, although he is still asked to draw the character).
The Mafalda movie makes about as much sense as a similar Peanuts movie; little kids innocently saying deep things.
Ico, el Caballito Valiente (Ico, the Brave Pony), directed by Manuel García Ferré. 88 minutes. July 9, 1987.
Ico, el Caballito Valiente (“Caballito” could be either Pony, Little Horse, or Colt) was produced in 1983, and was shown at the Festival Internacional de Cinema para a Infância e Juventude in Portugal in March 1983, and the Moscow International Film Festival in July 1983; but was not generally released in Argentina until July 9, 1987. García Ferré’s problems taking four years to get theatrical distribution discouraged him from making any more features until 2000. (He had enough TV animation between 1983 and 2000 to stay busy.)
Ico is a wild colt who lives with his mother with other forest animals, including Jaba the boar whom he helps to escape from the cruel Black Duke’s hunts. One day he sees a royal parade, and decides that he wants to be a noble horse like the king’s charger. Ico, with the help of Larguirucho, the friendly castle stablemaster (with his horse, Jacinto), sneaks into the royal castle (after several attempts) where he meets and becomes friends with Preciosa, the daughter of the king’s charger, and the other stable horses. Grandpa Mateo, the oldest horse, tells him the mystery of the phantom bell tolling that frightens all the animals in the castle. The Black Duke, the king’s chief equerry, pretends to train Ico to become a royal steed, but orders his henchmen to make the training impossibly hard to discourage him. Ico learns in a lengthy flashback of the history of the bell tolling. An ancient vain king conquered all the neighboring realms and stole their gold. A troubadour convinced him to melt all the gold and cast a giant bell, whose tolling would remind everyone of his power. The giant golden bell was so huge that its tolling shattered its tower supports, sending it crashing deep underground and killing its tyrant; so the bell could not be ringing today. When the castle’s horses start to disappear, Ico and Preciosa set out to solve the mystery. They learn that the Black Duke and his henchmen have dug up the golden bell, and are stealing the horses to lift huge stones to break up the bell for its gold. The tolling is caused by the stones smashing into the bell. Ico is captured, but Preciosa rallies the forest animals to rescue him. Larguirucho becomes the new Black Duke, and Ico is accepted to become the royal charger’s heir; but he decides at the last moment that he would rather remain a carefree wild horse. Preciosa joins him.
El Escudo del Cóndor (Shield of the Condor), directed by Luis Palomares. 72 minutes. April 20, 1989.
Nobody seems to have uploaded this, and there is almost no information about it. According to Historical Dictionary of South American Cinema by Peter H. Rist (Rowman & Littlefield, May 2014), it’s “a tale of a circus boy and a lion tamer who use a magic sword to fight alien robots.” Cinenacional.com says (my translation), “A little circus boy, joined by a lion tamer, travel to an unknown planet. There, protected by a powerful shield, they fight robots.” It is also included in a list of stop-motion films.
This column is unusually short, but the history of Argentine animated features breaks here before Dibu: El Película and Dibu 2: La Venganza de Nasty in 1997 and 1998, and Dibu 3: La Gran Aventura in 2002. They were produced by the Patagonik Film Group of Buenos Aires, which was founded in 1996 and is the largest cinematic producer in Latin America, for both theaters and television. Patagonik has produced over a dozen animated theatrical features to date, and even more live-action features of all types. Probably its best-known animated feature in America is the 2007 El Arca, a.k.a. El Arca de Noé, released in English as Noah’s Ark on DVD by The Shout! Factory in 2014. Next week we’ll dive into both Patagonik’s first animated theatrical features, and the other animated features that were coming out at the same time.
Related to this was the appearance in Argentine cinemas of a flood of American animation, beginning with Disney’s The Lion King in 1994. That and Disney’s subsequent features, plus Pixar’s, DreamWorks’, and Blue Sky’s over the next decade, established in Argentina that Animation Was Not Just for Kids! Patagonik was not alone in being inspired to create animation for families rather than just children. (Witness some of the adult humor in El Arca, which has brought outraged screams in America from parents and grandparents expecting just another animated Bible stories DVD for children.)
Next week: Argentine Animated Features, Part 4: 1996-2000; the Patagonik Film Group Appears