Meñique (Tom Thumb): Cuba’s first 3D animation film (Review)

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A Good Start: Thoughts on the premiere of the first 3D animation feature film made in Cuba from Yelsy Hernández Zamora in CubaNow.net. Out thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.

The premiere of the first 3D animation feature film made in Cuba has brought about great expectationsand a migration towardsmovie theaters in Havana. Not only children, butaudiences in general, have anxiously awaited this film. The complete novelty in the Cuban audiovisual environment, the topic’s attraction, the well-timed moment chosen for the premiere, and its promotion and advertising –including an unusual and very valid merchandising exercise–have all been pillars for what is already one of the movie successes of this summer in Cuba, just a few days before its presentation.

Among the values of the movie used in its promotion,the differentiating characteristics introduced in the animation panorama in Cuba stands out.For a long time Cuban audiences have enjoyed these types of films, especially those from the United States and Europe (Shrek, Madagascar, Ice Age, Coraline and The Adventures of Tin Tin, just to mention some of the more remarkable), so it was necessary to innovate and update the national production. Fortunately, the animation studios of the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC, for its Spanish acronym) responded to this challenge and the patience required to make Meñique (Tom Thumb), which took approximately six years. This novel quality produces a significant opening of animation possibilities in the Cuban context, because the ice has now been broken and creating a work with a proven visual qualityhas been shown to be possible.

In addition, the adaptation of 19th century French writer Édouard Laboulaye’s fairy tale Tom Thumb, in the version translated and published by José Martí in his La Edad de Oro (The Golden Age) magazine, is the central plot of the movie.  The film scriptwriter and director Ernesto Padrón incorporates other incidents of the protagonist and new characters to the film, inan expansion of the main story to achievemore dynamism and vividness in the action.

It has been fundamental in taking a well-known hero by all Cubans as part of their literary tradition, thanks to Marti’s work, which has even overshadowedthe original French piece. In this regard, there is a special communicational situation between the movie and the audience:faced withthe difficulty that foreign characters may represent thatare not linked to our cultural heritage and are completely unknown to the Cuban public, Meñique proposes a better use of that heritage. It generates, from the previous knowledge and identification thatthe audience will already possess with this film version, a different reception process: Meñiqueis not only a popular character withastory that works in narrative and film terms, but he also inserts himself into the telling of stories that work from an educational viewpoint as a means of socializing positive values.

This way, Meñique continues the use of techniques in the big hegemonic centers of international cultural industry, in order to give form to myths, legends and traditions that are part of Cuban culture, in an evident national expression thatpoints to updating and disseminating this area. Thus, the possibilities of globalization concerning technical tools and visual referents,are taken advantage of for the production of a completely local work.

This is expressed, in addition, in other diverse details: the toponymsused to name the Kingdom (Guanacabo) and the city (Old Guavana), refer directly, and in unison, to the Taínoculture and the current nomenclature of the oldest area in the capital; the musical compositions are based on popular rhythms like guaguancó and puntocubano; and the characters use accents and phrases that belong to contemporary Cuban popular speech from different geographical regions.

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Of course,one should mention some weak points in Meñique that could be directions for growth in future films of this genre. Continuing with the analysis of visual referents, there is still a connection to the most successful global animation products. For example, the similarity between the giant in Meñiqueand the famous solitary and grumpy ogre in Shrek is too evident. In addition, the articulation of the story becomes unnecessarily fragmentarydue to an excessive use of resources to make transitions from one scene to the other. The periodic fade-out to black or the recurrent iris in/out effect generate fatigue and prevent the plot developing with an ideal fluency that allows the establishment ofa closer relationship between the work and the spectator. Finally, one should point out that the dubbing of some characters leaves rather a lot to be desired, and the diegetic music sometimes hinders listening clearly to the dialogue.

Beyond these minor deficiencies, the total balance is positive and it predicts a promising future. There is no doubt thatMeñiqueis an important step forward for Cuban animation cinema; a praiseworthy start that overcomes the inertia and begins a path that should be quickly exploited.

For the original report go to http://www.cubanow.net/articles/meñique-tom-thumb-good-start

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