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Interview: Alberto Vazquez and Pedro Rivera, Directors of Birdboy and the Forgotten Children



US Editor Rachael Ward talks to Alberto Vazquez and Pedro Rivera. Co-directors of 'Birdboy and the Forgotten Children'

'Birdboy and the Forgotten Children' was originally released in 2015 to wide critical acclaim. Winning the Goya Award for Best Animated Feature Film. It has continued to captivate audiences with its grim visuals and ultimately hopeful story about confronting external and internal darkness. The film was acquired by GKIDS and the film has been released in US theaters on December 15th, 2017.


AFA: To Vazquez - What originally inspired you to write the graphic novel this film is based on? How did those ideas evolve over time when you were working on this movie?


ALBERTO VÁZQUEZ: The story of "Birdboy, the forgotten children" is based on a comic that I designed 10 years ago called "Psiconautas", published in Spain. I am from Galicia, an area in northwestern Spain, in which in the 80s was the entry of the drug (heroin and cocaine) to Spain and part of Europe. Galicia is an area with a high unemployment rate and an industry based on fishing and the sea. At the same time, I drew this comic when I was very young and I was interested in talking about the only thing I knew in my life: adolescence. Actually, the whole comic and the film is a metaphor for adolescence, it's a fantasy movie, but the themes are very real: family, drugs, lack of work expectations, pollution but mixed with fantasy like demons, objects who can talk and starring  sweet animals, like a fable or a tale. Let's say that this story comes from our own experiences, but passed through a filter of fantasy and metaphors.


When we started working on the script and its adaptation, we had to make the story bigger, because if you translate the story into audiovisual language, the film would last about 40 minutes. Then, you have to develop more elements and create some new secondary and micro stories within the big story. We try to respect the fragmented narrative of the comic and adapt it to the film.


AFA: To Both - You originally crafted a short of this film before making it a feature, were there any staff members who worked on the short that you brought back for the feature version?


PEDRO RIVERO: Yes, the animation director, Khris Cembe, and one of the main animators, Santi Riscos, were with us in both projects. It was really a luck to have them because their training gave us a perspective more directly related to the animation itself. In fact, the animatic of all the sequences was commented on by the four, including the directors, working in a very collaborative way.


AFA: To Both - What were your favorite scenes in the graphic novel to see come to life on screen?

PEDRO RIVERO: In my case, I especially like the whole plot related to the inner demons of Birdboy, something that was already pointed in the original graphic novel but that in the film is developed more widely.




ALBERTO VÁZQUEZ: I especially like the story of the sailor, the pig kid who is forced to sell drugs on his boat because there is no fishing. With this drug, he purchases medicines for his sick mother (other drugs). He is an interesting character because he is neutral in history and although he sells drugs, you understand that he does it to survive. Also having a boat could leave the polluted island, but he is forced to stay there.



AFA: To Both - For those who were unable to see the short film (which I understand was a prequel to this film), how does it tie into the feature film?

PEDRO RIVERO: Exactly, although it was not our intention when we did it, the short film can be seen as a prequel, which presents the past relationship between the main characters of the film, Birdboy, and Dinky, and what broke their lives, something we also see at the beginning of the feature film.


ALBERTO VÁZQUEZ: In the end, it was a good idea that the short film had an abstract narrative and that it flies over the spirit of the film, but without focusing much on anything. In this way the two projects are complementary.



AFA: To Vazquez - I loved the idea of having the cast be animals in order to make this film more universal, but did you already have an idea specifically what species of animal you wanted to use for the main characters?



ALBERTO VÁZQUEZ: Yes, animals are iconic, universal, have no time or place, refer to fairy tales and create a contrast content form that is interesting.

I was interested in mammalian animals, as forest dwellers. There is a strange mixture because there are anthropomorphic animals, real animals (birds) and objects shaped like talking animals. They symbolize humans, wild animals and the objects that we create respectively.


AFA: To Vazquez - Were there any alternate designs for the " demons" that appear in the film? Were there any additional ones that didn't make the cut?

ALBERTO VÁZQUEZ: No, the designs of the demons come a bit from the comic. Obviously, we had to adapt them and redesign them. The main change was to convert Birdboy into a demon, which in the comic only intuited. As you can see, the main demon is a mixture of Nosferatu and a bird with teeth.



AFA: To Rivero - You stated in a previous interview that you sought out Vazquez to create an adaptation his graphic novel. After this movie's success are there any plans to collaborate on future projects?

PEDRO RIVERO: Not yet. "Birdboy: The Forgotten Children" has been a project in which we worked together for seven years and now we are exploring different paths. I am currently writing scripts for live-action movies and developing a new animated feature film (an epic dystopia again with animals), and Alberto will soon start a new feature film (“Unicorn Wars”) based on one of the short films we made before.


AFA: To Rivero - For your animation team, was there anyone in particular on your staff that you would like to give a shout out to?

PEDRO RIVERO: It is impossible to highlight only one of them, they all did a great work without which it would have been impossible to carry out a project like this. But perhaps I keep a special affection for Nelo, who entered the production as an assistant proposed by the producer and ended up doing a work as outstanding as the rest of the team.

Sincere thanks to both Alberto Vazquez and Pedro Rivera for answers our questions. Also a big thank you to Tahajah Samuels for arranging the interview. 'Birdboy and the Forgotten Children' is now screening in select theaters. Check out our review here.
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