This June, expect an explosion of color, energy and artistry from Brazil -- and not just from its World Cup soccer team.
At France's Annecy Festival, the world's biggest international animation event, three Brazil titles will play in the official selection: Ale Abreu's "The Boy and the World" in competition, "Till Sbornia Do Us Part" from Otto Guerra and Ennio Torresan screens out-of-competition, as does Eduardo Calvet's "Between Frames."
Last year, Luiz Bolognesi's "Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury," the first Brazilian film ever to screen in competition, won Annecy's top Golden Crystal.
"It happened with Bossa Nova and Cinema Novo," Bolognesi says. "Foreigners had to announce that something great was happening in Brazil (before) Brazilians themselves sat up and noticed."
At least eight Brazilian toon pics have opened in Brazil since late 2012 -- among them Paolo Conti and Arthur Medeiros' stop-motion "Worms," the eco-themed "Branimals: The Forest Is Ours," the Globo Filmes-backed historical fantasy "Nautilus" and "Rites of Passage," featuring two hero-legends from Brazil's Northeast.
Five or more toon pics are in production; nine, if not more, have applied for BNDES Development Bank funding, per "Sbornia" producer Marta Machado.
"Brazilian animation is currently booming. From 1917 to 1995, Brazil produced five to six animated movies; over the last five to six years, we've made 25-30," says Felipe Harelik, producer of "Between Frames," an animation/live action documentary hybrid that traces the history of Brazil animation, including interviews with Carlos Saldanha ("Ice Age," "Rio," "Rio 2") and "Sbornia" co-helmer Guerra, a '90s pioneer.
Several factors are at play, Harelik says. In 1992, the National Film Board of Canada organized a training facility in Brazil for local animators; 1995 saw the creation of Anima Mundi, South America's biggest animation festival. Plus, technology has facilitated production and driven down costs.
Also crucial, and more recent, are Brazil's public-sector film and TV support systems. Law 12.485, approved in March 2012 revolutionized the indie TV production sector by obliging the country's pay TV operators to air 3.5 hours of Brazilian content weekly.
Last December, culture minister Marta Suplicy announced a 2014 state aid package of over 400 million reals ($180.2 million) for film and TV production and distribution.
"Never before have we had the current amount of financing sources for local producers and the domestic demand for their productions," says Sabrina Nudeliman, CEO of Elo Co., which screens "Boy" in Cannes.
She says economic growth has opened up access to entertainment as new telco/VOD players -- Spain's Telefonica, France's Vivendi -- have entered Brazil. "There's been a big increase in international demand due to exposure from Brazil's hosting major events like the FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics."
"We have the best public-sector film policies in the world," Bolognesi boasts. "Only France's are as good or better."
TV is also faring well with some Brazilian TV series such as "Fishtronaut" and "My Big Big Friend" selling all over the world.
The ample state incentives have had an impact on the kind of films being made in Brazil, Bolognesi says, with Brazilian animators getting the financing to make auteurist animation, "innovative, original" works, not just sub-par Hollywood studio toon copies.
Awash with painterly colors and dialogue-free, "Boy" -- about a fatherless tyke discovering a world of machine animals and strange beings -- was scored by Ruben Feffer and Gustavo Kurlat using scrap material, vocal and body percussion.
"Brazilian animation is improving in an extraordinary way, in talent, quality and technology," says "Rio 2096" producer Fabiano Gullane. Its main challenge, he says: "Facing off with Hollywood studio animation."
Local animation movies still have to light a B.O. fire in Brazil. Some breakout results abroad are encouraging. "Boy" has sold to over 20 territories, with offers from Europe and Asia, Nudeliman says."Rio 2096" has sold France, Italy, Spain and Latin America, with the U.S. under negotiation.