Part six of my survey of Argentine animated feature films – today with films from José Luis Massa and Sergio Bayo.
A lot of background is needed here. The Tehuelche natives of Patagonia were discovered by 16th-century Spanish explorers, but they lived far enough south that the Spanish considered their lands too cold and rocky and never settled them. Their tallness and super-hardiness – they lived almost naked in what the Spanish deemed a freezing climate – grew legendarily into the Tehuelches becoming super-strong giants with huge feet, but very primitive and peaceful. They were not “civilized” until Argentina became independent and began expanding into its south in the 19th & 20th centuries; and some of them became gauchos.
Cartoonist Dante Quinterno (1909-2003) created the character Patoruzú in 1928 as the last cacique of the Tehuelches before they became integrated into Argentine civilization. His comics were funny adventures like E. C. Segar’s Thimble Theater in the U.S. He played up the legendary aspects of the Tehuelches; they were tall and super-strong, and Patoruzú was the strongest and wealthiest of them; but he was very naïve and constantly being tricked by sophisticated villains from Buenos Aires taking advantage of him. During the 1930s Quinterno built up a large supporting cast; his Patoruzú comic magazine was started in 1936 and became more popular with adults than children throughout Argentina and Uruguay. In 1942 he made the Upa en Apuros animated short.
In 1945 he started a Patoruzito magazine for children, about the adventures of his characters when they were children. The boy Patoruzito, about 8-10 years old, became more popular than the adult Patoruzú. By the late 1990s-early 2000s, Quinterno had retired but was merchandising his cartoon characters everywhere; there was a set of Argentine 2004 postage stamps of Patoruzito, his horse Pamperito, his girlfriend Malén, his pal Isidorito, etc.; and the Patagonik Film Group licensed them for theatrical animated features. Patagonik’s Juan Pablo Buscarini was Executive Producer.
The Argentine animation industry had learned to produce a smooth blend of cartoon and CGI animation by 2004. Despite the fact that the adult Patoruzú became popular in the 1930s, and Patoruzito (introduced in 1945) was supposed to be Patoruzú as a child, the 2004 Patoruzito movie is set in the present.
In a prologue under the opening credits, Egypt in 2200 B.C. is a powerful nation under the Patoruzek dynasty, but the evil Arotep steals an amulet of magic power from the last Patoruzek pharaoh. They battle, and the amulet is split in two. The last pharaoh, recognizing that he has lost, sails from Egypt with the last of the Patoruzeks to find a new homeland – Patagonia. The movie jumps to the present; 2004 A.D. The Tehuelches are roughly divided into two groups; those who live on the pampas like their ancestors, and those who live on estancias (large ranches) like gauchos. Patoruzito is the young heir (about 8 or 10 years old) of the last cacique’s estancia. He lives there with his family while the estancia is run by La Chacha, his pipe-smoking nanny who makes delicious empanadas and soup, and the strict but loyal foreman, Ñancul. A frequent visitor and playmate is Isidorito Cañones, the snooty but friendly child nephew of Colonel Cañones, the super-rich financial manager of Patoruzito’s fortune in Buenos Aires.
Three young Tehuelche delinquents, Cobul, Cachicó, and Tico, start a fire on the estancia to steal horses. Ñancul and Patoruzito arrive in a jeep to save the remaining horses from the fire, including the young foal Pamperito. This is when Patoruzito and Pamperito first meet.
Col. Cañones hosts a big birthday party for Patoruzito, marking him to have reached the age to become the new cacique of the Tehuelches. Cobul, Cachicó, and Tico oppose this. Among the celebrants is Prof. Ferguson, an archaeologist who is researching the history of the Tehuelches. The viewer sees that Ferguson is a modern double of Arotep with half of the amulet. A band of “wild” Tehuelches arrives. Their leader says that they recognize Patoruzito as the son of their last cacique, but before they can recognize him as their new cacique, he must enter the Lost Valley and obtain the three signs of skill, courage, the Tehuelche spirit, and their freedom: the Blue Stone from an active volcano; an amulet from the Hidden Cave where their ancestral caciques are buried; and a condor’s feather. Patoruzito accepts the test, while Ferguson offers to Cobul, Cachicó, and Tico to make sure that they win.
Patoruzito, in his native costume, with Pamperito, and Isidorito in a modern explorer’s costume, set out, with Ferguson and the three delinquents trying to sabotage them. Patoruzito and Isidorito get the Blue Stone. On their way to the second test, Patoruzito rescues Malén, a young Tehuelche girl, from hungry pumas. This is how Patoruzito and Malén meet. She introduces them to old Egolia, her grandfather and the ancient guardian of the Hidden Cave, who trains Patoruzito for the cave’s dangers. The viewer sees that the tombs of the former caciques go back to ancient Egyptian styles. Ferguson and his three activate ancient Egyptian deathtraps against Patoruzito, but he uses Egolia’s training to escape.
Patoruzito has to climb Andean peaks to get a condor’s feather, with Ferguson and the others cutting the rope bridges that he is on. He succeeds, and brings the three treasures to the hidden Tehuelche center in the Lost Valley. But Ferguson and the three renegade Tehuelche youths follow him there. Ferguson reveals that his goal all along was to find the center and the missing half of the magic amulet, and he turns on his allies. Ferguson unleashes the Egyptian magic to conquer everything, but Patoruzito, with the help of the other Tehuelches (including the three now-reformed delinquents), defeat him. Patoruzito and Isidorito return to the estancia to begin their growth to adulthood.
Patoruzito was a huge success. It was shown in every theater in Argentina and Uruguay, selling 2,500,000 seats. It was shown in several other Latin American and European countries. It won the Silver Condor Award in 2005.
Teo, Cazador Intergaláctico (Teo, Intergalactic Hunter), directed by Sergio Bayo. 80 minutes. December 9, 2004.
Another smooth blend of cartoon and CGI animation; an Argentine-Spanish co-production that was released first in Argentina, by Columbia Tristar. Teo, a green reptilian spaceman, is the young (some reviews say only 12 years old, which is probably the recommended age group of the audience) grandson of Emperor Oldux of the planet Sauracia. He is supposed to be in training to become the next emperor, but he prefers to be an intergalactic hunter with his robot partner Oki, shrinking giant beasts to handheld size for Sauracia’s zoos. Royal counselor Intrígalus, who plots to become Oldux’s successor, encourages Teo to go to newly-discovered, far-off Earth to capture the dangerous animals there (making sure that Teo never returns).
Thanks to Intrígalus’ sabotage, Teo is captured on Earth by Rata and Oso (Rat and Bear), two sleazy comedy-relief dogcatchers who mistake Teo for a weird dog. If their caged animals aren’t bought in a short time, they slaughter them for sausages and dogfood. Oki finds two human children, Lucas and his little sister Popi, to rescue Teo; but before they can, Teo is sold to Siniestri, a ruthless big-game hunter who has mounted-head trophies of everything except an alien. Many reviews end with “Teo goes in an instant from intergalactic hunter to intergalactic prey”.
Teo, Cazador Intergaláctico was produced by a consortium of studios including Argentina’s semi-governmental Instituto Nacional de Cine y Artes Audiovisuales (INCAA) and Argentina’s Shazam Producciones, S.A. studio, though the first-listed animation studio is Spain’s Alma Ata International Pictures, S.L. Popi looks suspiciously like a redheaded Angelica Pickles from Nickelodeon’s Rugrats.
Next week: Argentine Animated Features: Three 2006 Movies