***This article originally appeared in the Sept./Oct. ’21 issue of Animation Magazine (No. 313)***
This month, Mexico’s famous Pixelatl Festival will be held entirely online for its 10th edition. This popular meet-up of Ibero-American creators, executives and fans of all aspects of animation, gaming and comics is set to take place September 7 to 11. We had a chance to catch up with festival director Jose Iñesta to get the scoop on this year’s five-day animation extravaganza. Here’s what he told us:
Can you tell us a bit about this year’s lineup?
Jose Iñesta: This year’s Pixelatl will be online for the second year in a row. We are very excited about this edition because it’s our 10th anniversary and we’ll be celebrating the beautiful community that has made Pixelatl what it is. In addition, we will be celebrating many amazing stories, artists and people that have devoted their lives to the craft of animation.
What are some of the highlights and must-sees?
There are a lot of things that you can’t miss! First of all, there’s the great Masterclass about Maya and the Three, where Jorge Gutiérrez and Sandra Equihua will be talking about their upcoming Netflix show. Also, another activity that you can’t miss is Sandra’s workshop on character design. Another speaker that you can’t miss is Peter Lord, founder of Aardman Animations studio in Bristol, who will be talking about his life, animation focus and sharing his experience of working in this industry. We are also pleased to have Chris Prynoski, founder of Titmouse, participating this year. Another important highlight is our production designers panel with Carlos Zaragoza (Sony’s Vivo), Lorelay Bové (Disney’s Encanto) and Harley Jessup (Pixar’s Coco) will talk about creating Latin American stories through art!
Of course, another can’t miss is Byron Howard‘s conversation about all the features he’s done, ending with the upcoming Disney’s Encanto. Also, all the panels that talk about animation in the Ibero-American region will be interesting, because each country will showcase their best: Peru, Colombia, Chile, Spain, etc. Bento Box’s panels are also a must see, and having studio founder Joel Kuwahara participating in our market is always a highlight. You also won’t want to miss our Official Selection: We received wonderful shorts from all over the world and the program is rich in the variety of techniques as well as stories.
How did you prepare for this year’s virtual edition?
We learned a lot from last year, and the reason we decided to do it again online was because last year we had a record attendance. Normally we have around 3,500 people in Cuernavaca, but last year we hit over 4,700 people in our talks. Our closing ceremony had 2,500 unique views during the event. What we noticed from last year is that we were missing interaction among the participants. So, this year we are correcting that and we are giving all the participants the opportunity to speak (chats), share videos and have valuable meetings with each other. This year, we are also launching a platform called elatlas.mx that will help the recruiting part of the event and also for the B2B networking.
What do you think worked well virtually last year?
The community! Our festival belongs to the local artists and animators and we program what they tell us they need to learn to improve their talent, or what we believe would inspire them. Our most -viewed conference last year had over 4,700 people watching it and we hope we get more people enjoying the content of our 10th edition. We would never be able to reach those numbers of participation if we haven’t had our community involved and participating in most of the activities. They truly made a festival instead of an online event. There were virtual underground parties, groups in several social networks that were watching and commenting on the activities all the time. Technology helped us be connected in these difficult times, but people made the event a transforming experience for all the participants. In the end, bonds, friendships and partnerships were formed during the event — and that has always been our goal.
What do you think festival attendees are hungry for this year?
Two things: They are hungry to see new content, especially from Latin America and adult animation. In addition to Maya and the Three, there will be four IPs showcasing during Pixelatl: Villanos, Los Sustos Ocultos de Frankelda, Catalina la Catrina and Rey Misterio. For adult animation, we will have several panels that talk about this genre and, also, we will have several adult animation development executives looking at new projects from the Latin American studios, which will represent a great opportunity for the participants.
Can you tell us some of the big names that will be on your panels, etc.?
There are so many important names. We have over a hundred guests from 18 countries participating. To mention a few, Mike Johnson (Corpse Bride director), the directors of Pixar’s SparkShorts Aphton Corbin (Twenty Something) and Louis Gonzales (Nona), Joel Aron (The Bad Batch), Peter Hannan (CatDog). All the workshops will be very valuable as well, especially the ones for stop motion like Mo Makers‘, or Gustavo Cosío‘s storyboard workshop. The music composer panel moderated by Rich Dickerson or Nickelodeon activities are also a must see. Illumination will have a story talk that you can’t miss, and all the recruiting activities will also enrich the knowledge of the industry and help aspiring artists to enter into this amazing world of animation.
What is the best way to enjoy your event this year?
Plan ahead! There is so much happening at the same time that you need to plan your event with time. Register early, see the program, look at the activities that you want to see live or the ones that can wait when you have free time (like screenings) and also, take advantage of the networking activities. There will be plenty of opportunities to meet artists or other people with the same interests, take a risk and meet new people. It doesn’t matter where you are from or the experience you have, you will always find a friendly face that will listen and that will welcome you to what Pixelatl is all about: community!
What is your take on the animation scene both locally and globally?
That it’s growing, that it’s amazing, that it’s evolving, and that everybody is willing to help. I haven’t seen so many animated shows being released in a year. Also, there are many features coming up. But the most important fact is that it’s not a matter of volume, it’s also about content, what the story is about. Animation is challenging itself to create new storytelling, it’s going away from realistic-looking animation to more cartoony style, with new movements, tempo and humor. Also, the characters have amazing personalities on their own and the diversity of stories is really something that keeps me inspired. I love seeing new names, faces, styles and stories, especially from Latin America. I think that animation can become a healing media, because when you see yourself represented through a character, you can feel at ease with yourself. There is somebody similar to you, and it’s OK to accept who you are.
The only way to create a better society is through these stories that touch our heart and help us see ourselves in the other person. That’s the reason our theme for this year is ‘We need each other’ — because we need to listen to everybody’s stories to find ourselves in them and discover that, in the end, we are more alike than we thought.
For more information, visit pixelatl.com. Registration for the free virtual event is now open.