Pedro Rivero’s animation career began with friendships and coincidences
Pedro Rivero is the screenwriter and director of “Psiconautas” alongside the comic-book artist and illustrator Alberto Vázquez. The animated adaptation breaks every scheme about what is being done on Spanish cinema about narration and thematic. Rivero’s origins are almost unknown since he doesn’t even have an article on Wikipedia. But he is becoming known in the animation world for this feature film and “The Carnivorous Crisis”.
The animator started making comics in his youth. Then, he began writing scripts for drawer friends and that enrolled him into the first Basque animated productions like “The Legend of the North Wind”. His work became professional with Gregorio Muro’s TV shows. It can be resumed to friendships and coincidences until 1999, when he started his personal projects.
As screenwriter, Rivero’s biggest influences are David Lynch and Miyazaki, which Psiconautas has plenty of nods to. More than constructing stories, he follows impulses of ideas to reproduce emotions. Without spoiling Psiconautas, some moments remind of Miyazaki, Otomo and Akira. The movie itself starts with the same explosion of its short film Birdboy, but way more explicit, since the animation of Akira fascinated Rivero when he originally saw it on 1988.
Thematically, both the stories of the Psiconautas film and graphic novel start connected without being a direct adaptation. About the structure and plot, Occidentals are used to a continuous cause-effect correlation, while Japanese cinema has more sensibility on simultaneity in events and emotions.
“Goomer” and “The Carnivorous Crisis”
The first full length feature film written by Pedro Rivero was an animated adaptation of San Ignacio de Loyola for kids. “Goomer” was an assignment for Gregorio Muro and him because Canal+ wanted to produce a cartoon series based on the comic-book. Filmax bought the rights and a producer ordered to use the already made material in a movie. Rivero talked with Ricardo and Nacho, who made the Goomer comics, to import the sources into a film. He laughs about the irregularity of the picture, even if he likes the first Goomer issues and points the similarities with Planet 51.
Rivero’s next work was “The Carnivorous Crisis”, the first Spanish movie animated in Flash, which he produced, directed and wrote. It was based on an original idea he developed in 1990 for comic strips. The fact that ended as a Flash film means they couldn’t finance the project in 2D.
He also thinks the result is “irregular”, specially the script. On the other hand, the original 2D pilot can be found online and people today still ask why it didn’t happen. The solution was returning the money that was already spent in animation or selling the house to finish the movie. The 7 years from script to release was an exhausting experience he doesn’t wish for anybody.
The short “Birdboy” foreshadowed “Psiconautas”
Adapting the Psiconautas graphic novel into a film became a reality because Pedro Rivero knew the writer Alberto Vázquez trough the comic. They made the Birdboy short film before the feature after a suggestion by an editor. He read it and loved the depressing background, similar to the one where he was after finishing “The Carnivorous Crisis”. Alberto managed to use woodland critters in a story full of drama like Rivero wanted for his film.
Pedro Rivero took the time he needed to rest from “The Carnivorous Crisis” and then contacted with Alberto Vázquez to talk about a cartoon adaptation. Instead of just saying “ok”, he entered into the animation world, which was unknown for him. He is a passionate hard working person who “doesn’t make a comic-book and then sleep”. While screenwriting Psiconautas, he was the critic who wanted to go deeper in the different plotlines.
They wanted to experiment with the Birdboy short film before the full length adaptation no to repeat the experience with “The Carnivorous Crisis”. Since they were trying something new, they inverted on an independent narration to show in festivals and give them a name. It paid off and the short had a big tour, culminating idyllically with the Goya Prize.
As a caustic joke, Alberto gave the bank number after receiving the Goya to pick new investors. But that prize is the first step to being taken seriously with the mind of making a feature film, so it was useful. Even some viewers give positive feedback about Psiconautas in person after the screenings in San Sebastián, Gijón and Brussels. The misadventures of the characters really get to young people, which is the goal of making a movie.
The background of Spanish animation
The story of Psiconautas is inspired by the Spanish crisis of the 80’s, especially on Galicia and Basque Country for the naval industry. Spain became part of the European Union and an entire generation disappeared “between heroin and a lack of opportunities”. After the screening, a girl was crying for how it captivated her. Pedro Rivero also cries at the end both for sadness and hope.
The balance of emotions can be explained with how difficult making a movie is and “the fact that more or less we succeeded”. Even if the result has been bittersweet, Alberto Vázquez and Pedro Rivero will still work together like they have been for 5 years. Birdboy, Psiconautas and the other short film “Unicorn Blood” were very productive for both and they don’t want to stop. Alberto is hyping a new short and Pedro wants to screenwrite again projects he can’t talk about for how much effort they would require.
To bookend, the last Goya gala celebrated the 100 years of Spanish animation before giving the first short film prize. About that, Pedro points the lack of animation schools in Spain, which makes people faith jumping. This is the first step of establishing an industry. The second is not making “stupid films for children”. The biggest mistake of Spanish animation is making movies without passion, just to sell products for kids like they were idiots.
Plenty of studios all over Spain had to close and not many have more than 20 years. There should be a “cinematic culture” to teach that animated cinema isn’t just for kids. Movies like “Wrinkles” are “little islands” compared to what studios are making: North American parodies and tributes like Tadeo Jones, Planet 51 and “Catch the Flag”. It’s a “stupid cultural colonization” and those producers are against Spanish cinema even if they believe they are doing right.