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Chile’s Zumbastico, Argentina’s JPZtudio Team on Animated Feature ‘Coda’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety — Emilio Mayorga

Álvaro Ceppi of Chile’s award-winning animation studio Zumbastico has boarded “Coda,” a stop-motion animation feature project headed by Juan Pablo Zaramella at his own label, Buenos Aires-based JPZstudio, alongside Sol Rulloni. Variety has received exclusive access to “Coda’s” concept art and main character designs.

A major name in Latin American stop-motion, Zaramella was Oscar shortlisted for his 2011 short “Luminaris,” which won the Fipresci Prize and Audience Award at Annecy, the biggest animation festival in the world.

At the inaugural Quirino Ibero-American Animation Awards in 2017, Zaramella snagged a best series award with his stop-motion “Tiniest Man in the World,” a co-production between Les Films De L’Arlequin, JPL Films and Can Can Club.

Zumbastico’s Ceppi was behind hit series “Paper Port,” selected for the 2016 Annecy Festival, produced using in-house stop-motion, and 2D animation mix techniques.

Budgeted at $8 million –  a substantial figure compared to Latin American standards –  “Coda’s” producers are seeking co-production partners in France, Poland, Czech Republic and beyond, countries where stop-motion traditions have thrived. The search kicks off on Dec. 5 in Buenos Aires with the first project’s presentation at Ventana Sur’s Animation!.

Part sci-fi feature, part modern fairy tale set on a post-human Earth, “Coda” will embody 21st century values for family audiences such as racial and gender equality and ecological concerns.

It follows Nina, a mutant rat-girl living in an oppressive underground village with others of her kind. This hidden society recycles trash into energy, and believes the universe ends at the limits of what they can see. One day, Nina discovers the outside world and with a mixed feeling of fascination and horror starts to see new possibilities and better understands her reality. It also marks the end of her innocence.

“The basis is a bit distressing, but my aim is to shine a light of hope,” Zaramella told Variety.

“Coda” is inspired by Plato’s cave myth, an allegory tackling the borders between reality and perception.

This first animation co-production feature between Argentina and Chile will be in stop-motion “as pure as possible, with the minimum use of chrome keys or post-production,” Zaramella said.

“I’d like the viewer to perceive the textures, the light’s effect on them, the materiality of these worlds and the authentic handicraft,” Zaramella said, adding: “It will have some action, but without its usual dominance like in major U.S. productions. ‘Coda’ will have a mainly contemplative tone.”

“Coda” is currently in development, with production scheduled to begin in 2020.

“Children are a very demanding, sophisticated audience, and increasingly exposed to more diverse and higher quality content. A good story should always be able to appeal to different generations,” Ceppi told Variety.

“We have admired Juan Pablo’s work for many years, and we are fortunate to share a language, a taste for stop-motion, and a certain mood and tone in the stories we tell for kids,” he added.

Zaramella concluded: “I want to preserve some auteur elements in ‘Coda,’ but my final purpose is to appeal to large audiences and for the movie to endure over time. I’d like to think that we can make high-quality animation films in Latin America with reasonable budgets.”

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