After release across half of Latin America last October with strong performances that topped the box offices in Chile, Peru, and Colombia, the Peruvian production Condorito: The Movie (Condorito: La Pelicula) opens in limited American release today through Lionsgate and Pantelion Films.
With a production cost of over $8 million, Condorito is a high-budget movie by Latin American standards. The movie is also the latest example of how Latin American studios are becoming increasingly confident at producing and selling quality animation on an international level.
Condorito is the first movie adaptation of one of the most enduring comic strips from South America, with long-lasting success that reaches contemporary readers. The character, created in 1949 by the Chilean cartoonist Pepo (alias of René Ríos Boettiger), was a response to what he felt was an underrepresentation of Chilean national identity in Disney’s Saludos Amigos. (The 1942 Disney movie portrayed Chile as a relatively minor character, embodied by the clumsy mail plane Pedro, who carries his mailbags over the Andes.)
However, according to scholar Juan Poblete in the article “Condorito, Chilean Popular Culture and the Work of Mediation,” Disney’s influence, and especially the Donald Duck comic strips, were also key to the character’s design and the structure of the stories.
After a continent-wide survey to uncover Latin America’s most cherished characters, Condorito’s franchise potential became obvious for Aronnax Animation Studios, a company founded in Lima by Peruvian film producers Hugo Rose and Abraham Vurnbrand in 2009. It is the company’s third feature-length cg animation production, after The Illusionauts (2012) and The Nutcracker Sweet (2015).Carton Brew spoke to Aronnax Animation Studios’ Hugo Rose, who produced Condorito, and Alex Orrelle and Eduardo Schuldt, the two co-directors, via phone and email to discuss details of the production and what it means for animation from the Andean region.
Before deciding on the character, we conducted a survey across South America to discover the most marketable Latin American intellectual properties. The survey revealed many popular characters that worked well at a regional level, but only Condorito drew universal recognition throughout the continent, along with Mexican tv show El Chavo del Ocho and Argentine comic strip character Mafalda.
However, where Condorito clearly stood out as the survey’s most popular character was in his capacity, paradoxically, to provide local appeal across the entire continent. The character is so well embedded that most of our respondents, regardless of where they were from, thought that Condorito’s country of origin matched their own.
- Bringing a comic with more mature themes (strong alcohol use, sexual references, and questionable ethics) into the family film world, where audience expectations are more wholesome.
- The expectations of big Condorito fans were too diverse for one film. Everyone favors different characters from the comic, and has different views about how they should sound when they talk. Once we make a decision, we risk alienating a lot of fans. Thankfully, the movie offered such a big development beyond the original comic that nothing really stood out. The audience seem to embrace our choices because once they watch it, they don’t compare it directly to the comic.As this was the first time that Condorito was animated [in computer animation], the hardest part was bringing the flat style of the comic strip into the three-dimensional world of the movie. This involved a lot of trial-and-error. For example, certain positions that look natural in the comic books were very confusing or unappealing on camera. We had to modify them quickly or avoid them altogether. Several initial designs, including a stylized version of the main character, where rejected by test audiences.Condorito is a Chilean comic cartoon series, starring the character of the same name. It was first published on August 6 in 1949 and over the years became the most popular cartoon in Chile and the rest of Latin America. Like Garfield, Peanuts, Dilbert, and Calvin and Hobbes are among the most important comics in the world, along with Mafalda, Condorito is one of the most important Hispanic comic characters. It was read in 105 Spanish-language newspapers and distributed in 19 countries, including Canada, the United States, Italy, and Japan.The popularity of Condorito reached its peak in the 80s, where a series of animated mini-episodes were broadcasted by the longest-running television show “Sábado Gigante.” A few years ago, a pilot of a Condorito TV series began, with real actors and Condorito in 3D animation, but its cost was very high, making the plan be shelved. Years later, the idea of taking the story to the big screen became a reality and in 2017 the movie premiered in Latin American countries, breaking box office records in Mexico, Chile, Peru, and Colombia.With the intention to conquer more hearts, “Condorito: La Película,” arrives in the United States this January 12th. The famous character and his pals are animated in CGI for the first time, including the love of his life Yayita (Jessica Cediel), his romantic rival Pepe Cortisona (Cristian de la Fuente), as well as his nephew Chicky.