Madrid Stakes Claim To Role as a Reference in Europe’s Animation-VFX World

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Spain’s Madrid region is riding the crest of a wave towards becoming one of the most important animation/VFX hubs in Europe.

Taking in the country’s capital, the Madrid region hosts more than 32% of Spain’s active audiovisual companies and around 31% of its animation and VFX firms.

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Regional animation and VFX players – structured around Pixel Cluster Madrid –  scored last year a net revenue of €72.6 million ($72.6 million) and generated 1,855 jobs.

“Animation and video games are strategic sectors within the economy of Madrid,” says Ignacio Carballo, head of audiovisual industries in the Madrid region. “They are elements of the future, dynamizers.”

The region is proving the cradle of high-profile toon productions reaping international recognition, an increasing trend in recent years.

Its importance is proved by several standout moves, often related with animated films:

*With its third instalment, “Tad The Lost Explorer. The Emerald Tablet,” currently dominating Spanish box office, the “Tad” saga, Spain’s highest grossing animated film franchise and international sales hit, is produced by Madrid’s companies Telecinco Cinema and Lightbox Animation Studios.

*Salvador Simó’s “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles,” a 2019 production from Madrid-based Sygnatia, garnered top awards at Annecy as well as Spanish Film Academy and European Film Academy trophies.

*Sergio Pablos, co-creator of Illumination-Universal’s worldwide blockbuster “Despicable Me,” returned to Madrid to launch SPA Studios, producing Annie and BAFTA Awards winning and Oscar candidate “Klaus.” SPA is now preparing “Ember,” its second feature for Netflix.

Tad The Lost Explorer. The Emerald Tablet
Tad The Lost Explorer. The Emerald Tablet

*After snagging an Academy Award for best animated short film with “The Windshield Wiper,” toon director Alberto Mielgo has recently won a new Emmy Award for best individual achievement in animation for “Jíbaro,” a standout episode in Season 3 of Netflix’s banner animated anthology series “Love, Death & Robots.” Another episode of the series, Mielgo’s “The Witness,” already won three Emmy prizes in 2019.

*Zinkia Entertainment’s popular Spanish pre-school TV series “Pocoyó,” available on more than 150 networks worldwide, started life in Madrid.

“As big-budget projects launch out in Madrid, talent from all over Europe is coming to work here. For that, our geographical position and great connections are crucial,” says Nico Matji, president of Pixel Cluster Madrid.

With the sector booming, Madrid is experiencing a massive talent influx from abroad and strong financial backing from international players such as Skydance Animation Madrid, which was established in 2020 to create a globally integrated studio with more than 350 animation workers.

The streaming revolution and subsequent spectacular increase of animation content and VFX demand worldwide is helping to boost Madrid’s industrial heft.

Recently acquired by the Fuse Group, Madrid-based VFX studio El Ranchito is known for its work on fantasy blockbusters such as “The Mandalorian,” “Game of Thrones” and “Stranger Things.”

Orca Studios has established its first VPX soundstage in the region, offering a full-featured environment for virtual production.

Netflix’s first European production hub, which launched in 2018 at Secuoya Studios in Madrid’s Tres Cantos, is also providing services production to foreign TV series and film projects, not necessarily involving Spanish producers.

That move allowed Madrid to close the industrial circle, bringing to the table the services of well-known local post-production houses such as Deluxe.

“Leading Spain’s audiovisual industry made Madrid one of the main European production centers in Europe, especially in animation and VFX sectors,” says Carballo.

In another growth symptom, Jan. 2021 saw the launch of Pixel Cluster Madrid, a pioneering initiative aimed at focusing on the industrial and technological development of the animation and VFX sector.

Pixel Cluster organizes initiatives such as Next Lab to promote new technology applications in animation and digital content.

Last year, the Madrid regional government unveiled an action plan to develop the local industry, taking in the attraction and celebration of international animation and VFX events.

An early step in that direction is securing the next edition of renowned pitching event Cartoon Springboard, which will take place Oct. 25-27.

“We are already becoming a benchmark in Europe. Now we have to put up with the pull and trust that this boom that the platforms have brought will hold up a bit over time,” says Nico Matji, president of Pixel Cluster Madrid.

Although still modest, Madrid started to provide subsidies for €2.4 million ($2.4 million) to support the regional audiovisual industry, including the production and development of both toon films and animated series.

“We are receiving 50% more animation projects in calls for development aid compared to 2021,” Carballo says.

Also, Madrid City Council dedicated last year $2 million to support the production, promotion and distribution of audiovisual projects, including animation.

The lack of available workforce, especially specialized animation and CGI technicians, is one of the challenges now facing Madrid, which partially finds some relief from the 3,600 newly trained professionals that regional schools yearly brings to the market.

“Madrid is like never before. We need to further strengthen our position, but the seeds are already sown,” Matji adds.


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