The Spanish region of Madrid is sitting on the crest of a wave to become one of the most important animation/VFX hubs in Europe.
Occupying the country’s capital, the Madrid region is home to more than 32% of Spain’s active audiovisual businesses and about 31% of animation and VFX businesses.
Regional animation and VFX players — structured around Pixel Cluster Madrid — had net sales of €72.6 million ($72.6 million) last year and generated 1,855 jobs.
“Animation and video games are strategic sectors within Madrid’s economy,” said Ignacio Carballo, head of the audiovisual industry in the Madrid region. “They are elements of the future, dynamizers.”
The region is proving to be the cradle of high-profile show productions that are garnering international recognition, an increasing trend in recent years.
Its importance is evidenced by several striking moves, often related to animated films:
*With its third installment, “Tad The Lost Explorer. The Emerald Tablet”, currently dominating the Spanish box office, the “Tad” saga, Spain’s most successful animated film franchise and international sales hit, is produced by the Madrid companies Telecinco Cinema and Lightbox Animation Studios.
*Salvador Simó’s “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles”, a 2019 production by Madrid-based Sygnatia, took home top prizes in Annecy, as well as trophies from the Spanish Film Academy and the European Film Academy.
*Sergio Pablos, co-creator of Illumination-Universal’s global blockbuster “Despicable Me”, returned to Madrid to launch SPA Studios, producing Annie and BAFTA Awards winning and Oscar nominee “Klaus”. SPA is now preparing “Ember”, the second feature for Netflix.
*After winning an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film with ‘The Windshield Wiper’, show director Alberto Mielgo recently won another Emmy Award for Best Individual Achievement in Animation for ‘Jíbaro’, a standout episode in Netflix Season 3′ banner anthology series “Love, Death & Robots.” Another installment of the series, Mielgo’s “The Witness”, has already won three Emmy awards in 2019.
*Zinkia Entertainment’s popular Spanish preschool TV series “Pocoyó”, available on more than 150 networks worldwide, started in Madrid.
“While projects with a large budget are starting in Madrid, talent from all over Europe comes to work here. Our geographical location and good connections are crucial for that,” says Nico Matji, president of Pixel Cluster Madrid.
With the sector booming, Madrid is experiencing a huge influx of talent from abroad and strong financial support from international players such as Skydance Animation Madrid, which was founded in 2020 to create a globally integrated studio with more than 350 animation staff.
The streaming revolution and the ensuing spectacular increase in animation content and VFX demand worldwide are helping to boost Madrid’s industrial strength.
Recently acquired by the Fuse Group, Madrid-based VFX studio El Ranchito is known for its work on fantasy blockbusters such as “The Mandalorian”, “Game of Thrones” and “Stranger Things”.
Orca Studios has established its first VPX soundstage in the region and offers a complete virtual production environment.
Netflix’s first European production hub, launched in 2018 at Secuoya Studios in Tres Cantos in Madrid, also provides services for the production of foreign TV series and film projects, not necessarily involving Spanish producers.
This move allowed Madrid to close the industrial circle and bring the services of well-known local post-production houses such as Deluxe to the table.
“The leading Spanish audiovisual industry made Madrid one of the most important European production centers in Europe, especially in the animation and VFX sector,” says Carballo.
Another sign of growth was the January 2021 launch of Pixel Cluster Madrid, a pioneering initiative aimed at industrial and technological development of the animation and VFX sector.
Pixel Cluster organizes initiatives such as Next Lab to promote new technological applications in animation and digital content.
Last year, the Madrid Regional Government unveiled an action plan to develop the local industry, attracting and celebrating international animation and VFX events.
A first step in that direction is securing the next edition of the renowned pitching event Cartoon Springboard, which will take place from October 25-27.
“We are already becoming a reference in Europe. Now we have to put up with the pull and trust that this boom that the platforms have brought will hold up a bit over time,” said Nico Matji, president of Pixel Cluster Madrid.
While still modest, Madrid began providing grants of €2.4 million ($2.4 million) to support the regional audiovisual industry, including the production and development of both feature films and animated series.
“We are receiving 50% more animation projects in development aid calls compared to 2021,” says Carballo.
Also, Madrid City Council spent $2 million last year on the production, promotion and distribution of audiovisual projects, including animation.
The lack of available staff, especially specialized animation and CGI technicians, is one of the challenges Madrid now faces, which is partly relieved by the 3,600 newly trained professionals that regional schools bring to market each year.
“Madrid is like never before. We need to further strengthen our position, but the seeds have already been sown”, adds Matji.