Monday, October 12, 2015

Rosario, Argentina

About 7 years ago, I visited Buenos Aires as a guest of the Buenos Aires Film Festival - I believe I screened "Hair High" then.  It's a beautiful city with amazing French Rococo architecture, though by now it's a bit rundown. 

So, when I got the invitation to visit Rosario, the 2nd largest city in Argentina, for the 10th anniversary of their Escuela para Animadores (School for Animators), I said yes.  I have a number of friends from Argentina, it seems that some very great artists are nurtured there: the great Oscar Grillo, the fantastic Carlos Nine, Juan Pablo Zamarella, and of course, the late Caloi, the comic strip and gag cartoonist.  People tell me that on his TV show, Caloi screened a lot of my short films, and because of that, apparently I have a large following in Argentina.


I didn't really believe it until my first screening at El Cairo, their 1930's-style revival cinema.  There were people lined up around the block, and they had been waiting there since early in the morning - almost 500 fans, and they had to turn away a lot of them, because the fire marshal forbade audiences from sitting in the aisles. 
                                       At a press conference before the show at the El Cairo


So the show was a big success - as customary, I did sketches for everyone, and even drawing as fast as I could, it took 2 hours to satisfy all the fans.


My host for my few days in Rosario was Pablo Rodriguez Jauregui, who, with a small team of passionate animators, has developed a school for anyone who wants to learn about animation.  The school also has a wonderful animation museum that details the glorious history of animation in Argentina - it claims that the first animated feature film was created in Buenos Aires by Quirino Cristiani, around 1931. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed all traces of the film.  I've seen some of the images from the film, and true to Argentinian reputation, it had marvelous draftsmanship. 



One day while I was there, the crew from the school took a boat ride across the mighty Rio Paraná.  There were three problems with this phenomenal excursion: 1) it was a stormy day with hurricane-force winds and 4-foot tall waves  2) the boat they hired for the trip was a tiny rowboat with an outboard motor and 3) the driver somehow thought we were in a race to get across the river.  So all three elements came together, in a literal perfect storm.  And I knew I was going to end up in a headline: "Gringo animator drowns in the Paraná River in ghastly boating accident".


But, as fate would have it, I made it across the raging river to safety. 


The highlight of my trip, though, was that night when I held my Master Class, to another packed house at the El Cairo Cinema, and the U.S. ambassador's cultural minister introduced the mayor of the city of Rosario, and she gave me a special proclamation of Bill Plympton Day, or something like that.  I felt like Walt Disney probably did when he made his tour of South America in the 1940's and was hailed as an animation hero. 









I give my visit to Rosario, Argentina an A+

--Bill P.


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