By Eréndira Reyes
Although American in origin, the animation series Rick and Morty has largely been made in Canada, where Mexican animator and illustrator Hugo Blendl was given the opportunity to take part in making the series.
“I don’t have a degree, because when I was 19, there wasn’t a solid option in Mexico for studying animation and illustration. What I did was carry on drawing. At high school, I handed out comics instead of handing in essays. Although I nearly got kicked out of school for that, I decided to devote myself to this craft,” said Blendl when speaking at the entrepreneurship festival INCmty.
The artist also talked about the hoops he had to jump through to get ahead in animation. He warned the fans listening to him that although he’s seen better talent in Mexico than in other countries, there aren’t many opportunities for growth.
“Why is it that half the people in Canadian and American studios are Mexican? It’s because we’re talented and motivated, but we don’t have the opportunities. That’s why we must make our own opportunities. We have to open new studios, treat artists as people, and pay them a decent wage, because what we have today is a lot of inequality in Mexican animation companies,” said Blendl.
Besides urging attendees to start companies focused on doing business this way, Blendl gave recommendations on how to be a successful animator. Some of his key advice was to keep drawing, investigate the movements of what you’re going to animate, consume a lot of pop culture, draw things that people don’t normally draw, and have a mentor not only to guide you, but also to judge your creativity.
“Networking is one of the things that we animators find the hardest to do. However, I’ve realized that if you want to get ahead in this sector (and in life in general), you need to use your PR skills on those who can help you out down the road. In my case, I haven’t had to send a single résumé since Rick and Morty, because I’ve met people who’ve brought me on board projects, as well as bringing people on board projects myself,” said Blendl.
According to Newzoo, Mexico occupies first place in Latin America in terms of video game consumption. The Mexican Institute of Cinematography also reports that profits on domestic production rose by 30% from 2017 to 2018, generating 16.81 billion pesos at the box office. Despite this, the creative industry continues to hold a deficit in exports. When comparing royalty and license payments with American or Canadian wages, Mexico doesn’t attract artists trained in these careers.
“We have writers, scriptwriters, animators, and a lot of talent. We also have many stories to tell, so many that they’ve now made Coco. However, we haven’t known how to exploit that talent and we’ve let the budget go on projects like No Manches Frida (You’re Kidding, Frida), which leaves other productions without enough funding,” argued Blendl.
Despite the challenging panorama, Blendl is confident that many animation and video game studios can be opened due to Mexico’s access to entertainment options and enterprising artists.
“I’ve got a lot of work and I need people to help me. It’s really up to us to provide more opportunities, because we’ve got so much to tell,” urged Blendl.