If you’re looking for an invigorating way to end the summer and jumpstart your animation career, look no further than the Pixelatl festival, which takes place Sept. 3-7 in the lush town of Cuernavaca, cradled by the Tepozteco mountains, south of Mexico City.
According to the festival’s ebullient director Jose Iñesta, this year’s edition promises to be quite memorable, with a special focus on celebrating artists’ “roots and tomorrow.” “The way I see it, we need to acknowledge our roots and where we come from to project ourselves to the future,” he explains. “For us, the most basic root that we share with all human beings is storytelling: It’s what makes us human and helps us to connect with one another and form a community. I also want to highlight our creative partner this year, Kraneo Animation Studio. They have gone beyond the challenge of creating a promo for the festival to create the whole experience of the event. You can see roots, masks, and beautiful craftsmanship that stop-motion brings to the media in all our promotional material.”
One of the year’s big highlights is a celebration of animation, games and comic-books of Spain. “Spain is our country of honor, and there will be a track of Spanish activities, conferences, screenings, workshops, etc.,” notes Iñesta. “We also have a track of videogames that includes a 20-hour workshop for game level design. All of these, in addition to our animators, illustrators, and producers track, make the festival rich in content. I should mention that other activities that excite me the most are the VR workshop with Goro Fujita and the strong stop-motion directors participating like Adam Elliot and Cesar Díaz.”
Most attendees agree with Iñesta that the Pixelatl is quite different from events of its kind, in part because of its beautiful environment and relaxed ambience. After all, there are not too many places where animators and artists can hang out with peacocks in a beautiful garden. Among the top animation luminaries attending this year are Jhonen Vasquez (Invader Zim), Adam Elliot (Mary and Max), Susie Lewis (Sea Rescue), Kaitlin Tremblay (Ubisoft), Andrea Fernandez (The Cuphead Show), Joan Loft (Peppa Pig), Donna Lewis (Disney), Stu Livingston (Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie), Javi Recio (The Lady and the Reaper), Ollie Green (Adult Swim) and Dave B. Levy (Disney+).
As Iñesta puts it, “At Pixelatl, we are all humble, open to new experiences, and generous to each other. I wish we could live like this every day of the year. We want every person participating in the event to feel that they matter. When we are building something from scratch, every point of view matters. We have built this industry with great examples from all over the world, and we’ve listened to our young creators and artists and try to address their needs. We try to create a space where everybody feels comfortable so that sharing of ideas and projects occur. I think that’s the magic of Pixelatl.”
Since Iñesta travels the world and is in contact with animation movers and shakers everywhere, we had to ask him about his take on the state of the art form globally. “There’s so much going on,” he responds. “The broadcasters and SVODs need content for their new platforms and are commissioning shows left and right. The Mexican animation industry is also growing. Thanks to the Pixelatl Festival, there are six series in production, six option deals in development, and over 60 service agreements with Mexican studios. Over the past eight years, our major achievement is that we have a creative community that is helping everyone grow.”
Iñesta is also quite pleased to see the growth of the Center for Stop Motion Animation in Guadalajara, which is supported by Guillermo del Toro, which will help continue strengthening and growing the art form in the region. “Stop-motion animation is something that occurs naturally in Mexico,” he says. “We have the artistry and theatrical approach to storytelling and when you mix the two, stop-motion is the best tool to tell stories. We are very pleased that our previous festival award-winners Cinema Fantasma studio (founded by brothers Roy and Arturo Ambriz) is now developing a feature film (The Ballad of the Phoenix) in stop-motion now.”
The director says the best way to make the most of Pixelatl is to prepare ahead of time. “There are so many activities that you might feel you are missing an important talk or workshop,” he points out. “My suggestion is pick the one that you feel is the best for you, and then play it by ear. You never know who you’ll meet in the garden or networking area, so perhaps it’s better to stay there than to enter an activity.”
He leaves us with these final words of wisdom. “If you are happy and relaxed, knowledge will come your way anyway. So don’t panic, don’t enter activities obsessively. Just enjoy meeting new people, draw, share your portfolios with other people (you never know who you are pitching to), and have a good time.” ¡Muy buen consejo!
Watch the festival’s beautiful promo, created by Kraneo studio here:
“At Pixelatl, we are all humble, open to new experiences, and generous to each other. I wish we could live like this every day of the year.”
– Festival director Jose Iñesta
For more info about this year’s events, visit www.elfestival.mx/prensa