The Missing Lynx
One of the box-office hits in Christmas 2008 was a Spanish animated film. Before you ask, yes, there is an animation industry in Spain. If not, it just wouldn’t have made any sense for Raúl García to leave his job at the Disney Studios in Los Angeles (California) to join the ranks of Kandor Graphics (Granada).
Aside from the hype surrounding Antonio Banderas, who has acted as a veritable godfather to this movie, the film oozes quality and originality any which way you look at it. Raúl García and Manuel Sicilia, co-directors and co-writers of the film, have brought into the spotlight an animal that until recently was merely the subject of rather depressing news broadcasts. We spoke with Raúl García at the presentation of the film during the Malaga Spanish Film Festival.
Q: When was Felix born?
A: Once you’ve got an idea, you need to work on its structure. Manuel Sicilia is fantastic at doing this. Once you’ve got the script, you design the characters. The artists who will design them join the conversation to share their ideas. Each person on the team adds his or her expertise. The main point is to continuously improve on the original idea.
Q: How long did the entire process take?
A: Three years. There are only forty people in our team. A Pixar or Dreamworlds production has a team of around 400-600 people and a budget more than seventy times larger than we had. If you take that into account, what we’ve managed to accomplish is a miracle!
Q: You’ve probably learnt a lot about the lynx working on this project.
A: The lynx is a curious and grumpy animal. It only eats rabbits, and only rabbits it has hunted itself. They are also extremely territorial. When a new litter is born you need to watch out. The kittens are pretty belligerent amongst themselves and they might kill each other at any point. Apparently they also love to chew on electrical cables. Sometimes it can seem like nature playing a hideous joke, but the reality of the situation is pretty serious. There are very few left alive and the area they live in is disappearing fast. A forest fire could finish them off in one fell swoop.
Q: The film has been labelled an eco-film. Is that the message you were trying to get across?
A: We didn’t aim to create a film with a message. It isn’t an eco-film, although its content does make way for a dialogue about the environment.
Q: What’s more important, education or entertainment?
A: It’s a fine line. If you’re not careful, you can end up making an educational pamphlet. The fundamental thing is to create a film that is fun and commercial. The most important parts are the story, characters and the adventure. The environment surrounding them is just the backdrop. We wanted the story to entice viewers want to find out more, rather than create something obvious that preaches the fact that the lynx is in danger of extinction.
Q: The humour used in the film is very Spanish. Does it come across in other languages?
A: Yes. The process of making a film for an international audience is pretty schizophrenic. We wrote the script in Spanish, translated it into English to record English voices, animated the film in English, dubbed it into Spanish, and over that we dubbed it again into English. It’s pretty complex. On the other hand, we’ve tried to make it work in both languages. We’ve screened the film in English and the audience laughed in exactly the same places.
Q: Is it hard to create comedy?
A: The difficult part is to make something heartfelt and funny. We can all tell jokes. But to make them work on screen is another thing altogether. You need to create a situation, guide the audience through it and then surprise them. The process takes time. We used every opportunity we had to work on the script.
Q: The Missing Lynx has had to deal with some pretty harsh criticism. Some say that it is a “tourist brochure for Andalusia.”
A: If you go and see a film shot in Las Vegas you’ll see tonnes of casinos everywhere and nobody says anything. The fact that we set the story in Andalusia has made people criticize us. We made very deliberate choices regarding location. Most of us working on the project are, to greater and lesser degrees, freaks. We are the kind of people who chose to lie on the very patch of sand where Sean Connery and Harrison Ford scare away the birds in the third part of Indiana Jones during a holiday at Monsul Beach (Almeria). We included the location as reference to that kind of thing.
Q: Do all the locations exist in the real world?
A: Yes. We made excursions to Torcal, where almost half of the team nearly fell off a cliff (he laughs). We travelled around Doñana and took tonnes of photos. We wanted the audience watching the film to see the map of Andalusia instead of the map of Wisconsin. It was also an aspect that really excited Antonio Banderas. When it came to the photography of the film, we wanted to bring across that particular Andalusian light so that Andalusians would identify with it.
Q: When promoting this animation, has the participation of Antonio Banderas a strain or an advantage?
A: Antonio Banderas has been an incredible help. We knew each other in L.A. and we always used to say “Let’s see if we do something together one day”. When I found out that Antonio had gained some experience putting the voice to Puss in Boots in Shrek we showed him a part of the film. He immediately said “I don’t know how, but I want to be a part of this.” He came into the project with Green Moon and helped us get all the publicity we needed to promote the film. It’s all part of a bigger plan to collaborate in the future, but next time we’d like Antonio to have a more creative role.
Q: Sergio de la Puente composed the soundtrack.
A: A wonderful man from Granada who has created an incredible soundtrack. The man grew up listening to John Williams. Due to his input, when people leave the theatre they are still humming the songs. It’s been a long time since I saw a movie like that. Not since films such as Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars and Indiana Jones, all of which use music as more than just background. We wanted to create a soundtrack made up of several theme tunes. Each of these represented a particular character. Following the style of Williams or Goldsmith we tried to weave these together to add a little drama to the film. De la Puente did a marvellous job and the result has an incredible orchestral richness to it. We started out thinking we were going to create a soundtrack made up of samples. Sergio was determined to create an orchestral piece and we went to Bratislava to record. He even wanted to record the didgeridoo live, flying off to Mallorca in search of the only man in Spain who plays it. He is passionate and dedicated - a great discovery for us. I think he feels the same way because we’ve given him total freedom.
Q: Has Spain responded well to The Missing Lynx?
A: When we premiered the film during Christmas 2008 the competition was fierce. We were up against Madagascar 2, The Tale of Desperaux and Bolt. Madagascar 2 was the leader of the pack, but then they had spent over 15 million euros to promote the film. The Missing Lynx had a 5 million euro budget. The fact that we came fourth is enough prove that national productions stand a chance. People tend to look sceptical when you mention the words Spanish and animation in the same sentence. We have to break down the clichés and barriers.
Q: Is there talent in Spain?
A: Take a look at the credits of any animated film made in the last ten years. You’ll see that there is always a heavy Spanish contingent. While the talent and quality exist, what is missing is an outlet. Professionals in this industry have to leave Spain to find work. Those of us who work on feature films are a bunch of freaks. We lack any kind of unity because what we do takes lots of time, lots of money and courage in order to survive.
Q: Is Kandor Graphics living proof that it is possible to develop the market in Spain?
A: Our plan is to create an industry here to prevent people from leaving and encourage people like me to come back. I came back to prove that it is possible to make a dignified and high quality product that can compete in an international market. In fact, we have already sold The Missing Lynx in forty countries.
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