Kike Infamous interviews Alberto VazquezDirector of Unicorn Warsstuffed animals against unicorns in an animated feature film for adults.
Welcome to Camp Heart, a training ground where it is taught that the only good unicorn is a dead unicorn. With this unique premise, the new animated film by Alberto Vázquez is presented. Six years of work, more than 250 professionals and 124,515 frames show us the horror of war through endearing stuffed animals not suitable for all audiences.
What is Unicorn Wars?
Is a war film that talks about an ancient war between bears and unicorns who live in the Magic Forest. However, the real conflict is the one that the two protagonists live internally: Azulín and Gordi, two antagonistic twin brothers for the love of their mother. It is a film that oscillates between comedy, drama and horror. And it is an allegory about the common origin of all wars.
You say that your references when approaching the film are Bambi, Apocalypse Now and the Bible.
It is a way of defining in an external way what you do. In 2013 I made a short film called Unicorn blood. I liked the idea, they were two little bears that were going to hunt unicorns. He played topics like bullyingthe feeling of guilt, the relationship between brothers… and I found it very interesting to expand this universe and develop characters and plots.
I decided to mix the story with the war genre and mythology and mysticism. you were talking about Bambithe Bible either Apocalypse Now but they could be something else. There are many references.
Background and form send conflicting messages. You present a very sweet caramel with a bitter undertone. Something common to your entire career since your beginnings in the fanzine Sick.
It is a game of contrasts. The most obvious is what bears and unicorns do, cruel things that shouldn’t happen. It is an iconoclastic film that destroys our childhood imagination and provokes very mixed emotions in people.
These little anthropomorphic animals refer to the history of comics, of classic tales, of fables, and they allow us to work very well on them because they are anachronistic. They do not have a definite time and place.
They are deeply rooted in universal culture and that means that you don’t know the origin of the film. It can be African, French, American, Japanese or Spanish. That is very interesting because it can be understood anywhere in the world.
With Pedro Rivero you had already made the short film birdboy and a first feature film, psychonauts. the forgotten childrenwith which you won the Goya Award for best animated feature film in 2017. Unicorn Wars It is a very ambitious bet both on your part and on the production company Uniko
Unicorn Wars is a co-production between Galicia, the Basque Country and France. It is a more ambitious film than psychonauts in the sense that we have more budget. It is longer and with many technical difficulties. You have to set up a battle, animate twenty unicorns, there are more than fifty characters… psychonauts it was a much more contained story.
The step was very natural. I have been working with Iván Miñambres for more than ten years and we understand each other very well. From Chelo Loureiro, the Galician producer, I have had full support. I feel very grateful to have been able to do these jobs.
illustration and comics
Most of your shorts and feature films have their origins in comics.
For me animation is a mixture of my two great passions. On the one hand the comic and on the other the cinema. I think that in the middle is the animation. It has parallels with the comic but it has nothing to do with it. They are more cousins than brothers.
«For me animation is a mixture of my two great passions. On the one hand the comic and on the other the cinema.»
Alberto Vázquez, director of Unicorn Wars
For example in psychonauts It was clear to us that we wanted to do a short film first in order to later obtain financing to do a long one. Instead, in this case, the idea was to make the short, Unicorn blood, and move on to something else. Even if it is a short film, a year or two of production does not take it away from anyone. I work with fantasy and when you create a little world you sometimes realize that you can develop it further. This is what happened when I worked in Unicorn blood.
The finish of the production is brutal. He drinks a lot from the current illustration with a very powerful image that he makes the most of.
It is traditional 12 frames per second animation. The backgrounds refer a lot to the classic, they are worked as if it were gouache. I used to look a lot at the most classic Disney, in the designs of Mary Blair, very synthetic backgrounds that are reminiscent of the book, which is where I come from. Bambi is a movie from 1942 and it still holds up but you watch a 3D movie from twenty years ago and it falls out of your hands. Traditional ages well. The ideal is to look at the classic and give it a contemporary twist.
“Traditional ages well. The ideal is to look at the classic and give it a contemporary twist.»
Alberto Vázquez, director of Unicorn Wars
You still fuse the new and the classic. You make the unicorns in 3D and you unify everything with Blender.
Yes, the entire movie is made with Blender, with a tool called Grease Pencil, which is used to animate 2D within a 3D environment. The treatment of the unicorns is 3D although we then paint it on top. We break the animation at 8 or 12 frames per second to make it more like the world of bears.
We only see the silhouettes of the unicorns, which gives them a more mysterious graphic aspect, like the shadow puppets of the 20s. We use technology but we look for a finish that is as traditional as possible.
You show a world in decline, which has to die for something new to be born.
It is a kind of pre-human genesis. It is a world of decadence, of violence, of hatred for the different and for the unknown. Bears hate each other, unicorns too. There is a very allegorical epilogue that each person can interpret as they want.
Can it be said that envy is the motor of the world?
Yes, and love. There are many reflections. It is a fantasy film but the themes that are dealt with are from our world and our time. For me animation is the most poetic way of talking about reality. It has its own language and it is very interesting.
birdboy, Decorated, Unicorn blood either Homeless Home They are short films that have won numerous awards at festivals. With Unicorn Wars you get out of that circuit and go to movie theaters and the general public.
It is a mystery to us how the bet will work. We are not going with many copies because it is difficult for us to compete with the majors but it’s cool to see animation in the cinema. It is what has to be done and it is necessary. Adult animation has a hard time being understood.
Some people think that it is a genre or that it is aimed at children, but animation can be a very powerful weapon that can take many forms. We don’t have the culture that there might be in Japan or France.
I don’t know if the fact that his image is so adorable can lead to misunderstandings.
Unicorn Wars it’s strange. It is not for children, it is for adults, but many adults will not understand it. It is a film that is not afraid, it has its own freedom, a wild point with its good and bad things. The film can be very questionable in many things, but I am not so interested in the films being perfect as in being memorable, that you remember what you have seen even if you liked it more or less, that it impacts you, and I think we have achieved it. .
In a world as homogeneous as the one we have, in a sector like animation that is aimed above all at children, it is fortunate to have made this film, which is a rarity.
Despite all the epic of the work is above all a story of characters.
Of course. The two main characters are the ones who carry the weight of the film, especially Azulín, the evil bear. It’s interesting that we see the film through the eyes of such a cruel and mean character. There are many characters, some with more prominence than others but all with their edges. There are the apes, the mysterious monster, the parents… it’s a mini world with its own rules.
Reality makes us talk about war again. It is a film that talks about its cruelest part and the danger of creating idols.
It is a film that talks about fanaticism and about little bears that hate unicorns and consider the Magical Forest theirs. They live in a very religious and militarized society that controls public opinion. It is the common origin of all wars. A war with ideology, with religion, is more dangerous and cruel.
When I started writing this script six years ago, I never thought that in Europe there would be a conflict like the one in Ukraine, with a war of invasion. I thought that the wars were going to be technological or economic.
Perhaps this parody of war that is Unicorn Wars may take on another meaning in this context but it’s an ugly coincidence. The idea was not that and it is very sad. One thing is a fable and another is war with all its harshness.
How do you see adult animation right now?
Adult animation can be very successful. There we have The Simpson, Family Guy, South Park… but they all have a point of comedy.
Except in countries like Japan or France, where it is a key part of the industry, it is complicated. There is less culture.
Yes, it is true that the entry of anime and manga has opened the focus to young people. When I go to festivals I see people between the ages of 15 and 25 who are interested and it’s probably because of the influence of anime.
We still have a long way to go but there is more and more animation for adults on the platforms, it is also linked to video games, which is a booming sector… Animation should be a strategic industry for Spain because there is almost full employment. There is a lot of interest but many professionals go to other countries where there is greater stability and possibilities.
As long as I have energy and people who support me, I’m going to continue doing animation projects or whatever. I’m writing another movie. I can’t say much but it will be a comedy.
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Alberto Vázquez: “Animation is the most poetic way of talking about reality”
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