Maca Gil was 15 years old when she decided that she wanted to dedicate herself to animation. It was thanks to the book The art of Tangledwhich explained how Disney researched the story of Rapunzel for more than 65 years and how they brought it to the screen in 2010. “I always knew that I wanted to draw but I didn’t understand how to work on it. When I saw the cartoons I didn’t I understood how what you draw ends up on the screen, and this book was the first contact I had with something that explained the different departments within animation,” says this artist of storyboard (initial sketches that mark the idea of an animated film) in an interview with El Periódico de España, from the Prensa Ibérica group.
Now, this cartoonist from Madrid has doubled her age and is celebrating in the coming days that the last film in which she has participated, Robot Dreams, they have nominated it for everything: the Oscars, the Annies, the most important animation awards, and has already received the European Film Award for the best European animated film and the Gaudí in the same category and for best original music. This Saturday it will be known if Pablo Berger’s film (Snow White, Torremolinos 73) gets one of the four Goyas he opts for.
“We don’t go to the Oscars because it’s too much, but a few of us from the film team go. Robot Dreams to the Goya and the Annie,” says Maca Gil, who tonight will sit at the Valladolid Fair with a mixture of “a lot of emotion and a little stress.” Of all the awards for which the film in which has worked with Berger and José Luis Águeda, art director, is sure that “something falls.”
“I find it very difficult to get the Annie, because Miyazaki is nominated with me (Spirited Away, My Dear Totoro and, in 2023, The boy and the heron), which is very loved by the animation community, but I am super happy that they have already named me. It seems brutal to me. I hope they give it to one of my colleagues. Maybe we can win in the independent film category at the Annie or the animated film category at the Goya.” In this category they compete with Hanna and the monsters, They shot the pianist, Mummies and The sultana’s dream.
Expressiveness without dialogue
Robot Dreams, the story of friendship between Dog, a lonely dog who lives in Manhattan, and Robot, an android that he builds to be his companion on adventurescomes from the graphic novel of the same name by American illustrator Sara Varon. Both the book and the film lack dialogue and all the expressiveness is provided by the gestures of the characters, accompanied by the music of Alfonso de Vilallonga, who opts for a Goya for the film’s soundtrack.
“One of the things that caught my attention the most is that it was a film without dialogue. This represents a fairly big challenge when making the storyboard, but for the better. I was super excited to be able to tell the story in a completely visual way without relying on dialogue. It’s a lot of fun for a storyboarder tell emotions and feelings only with the body language and expressions of the characters,” says Gil.
I fell in love with the characters when telling their story and I felt like they were mine.”
This film “seems to be born from a very childish story,” says Maca Gil, but “it touches Topics that greatly affect the adult audience: “It talks about the loneliness of a big city (New York), the breakup of a friendship and turning the page.”
Maca Gil had to adapt the drawings from Sara Varon’s graphic novel for film. Both being inspired by something already created and inventing her own drawings entail “complications, advantages and disadvantages.” “For me it was a pleasure to draw Sara Varon’s characters, they have an endearing style, they seem childish, but they have the ability to express a lot. We also had Daniel Fernández Casas, who is nominated for another Annie in a nominative way and we are going together in February to Los Angeles. I started the drawings focusing on Sara Varon’s, although I did them in my own way, and it was not until Dani arrived when the details of the design and of Dog, Robot and the rest of the characters were made,” explains this artist who, she confesses, “I became attached to the characters when telling their story and I felt like they were mine.”
Pablo Berger and José Luis Ágreda
Maca Gil had met José Luis Ágreda, the film’s art director, at Cartoon Saloon, the animation studio where it was originally going to be made. Robot Dreams. “The pandemic arrived, everything had to be moved and, instead of Cartoon Saloon, a pop up studio. A studio was set up when the film began to be made and it was dismantled as soon as it was finished,” she reflects. This cartoonist worked at Cartoon Saloon on projects such as My Father’s Dragon or in The one and only Marcie for Apple TV.
“Pablo Berger called me through contacts from Cartoon Saloon. He had just returned to Madrid and I had a crush on the project because of how Pablo spoke about it, so passionately. I was working for a year and a half with José Luis and Pablo in the cabinwhich is what they call Pablo’s studio on Gran Vía.”
After working with Águeda and Berger, what stands out about them is the involvement they had with their work from the beginning. “I was able to have the director and the art director very close in the process of the storyboard and to develop the animatic”. “In other productions it is more hierarchical and perhaps the director speaks with the art director and does not comment on the notes directly. It seemed super cool to me to have the director so on top, to perfectly understand his vision and his intentions for each shot,” he maintains.
José Luis Águeda helped Pablo Berger with the first approaches to storyboard and, says Maca Gil, “they made some beautiful plans.” “I feel very lucky, because in the world of animation it is not so common to be called for such special projects. Robot Dreams eIt’s unique in its kind. It does not have the typical Hollywood format where everything has to go super fast, there are three very marked acts, as in Boss Baby or in any film intended for a very large audience. This one was made with just the heart of the story in mind and I think it’s so unique that it works very well.“he declares.
The Madrid cartoonist considers that, with the nominations she has received Robot Dreams“the animation industry sends a message: “they want smaller, 2D films.” “We haven’t seen two 2D films nominated together at the Oscars for a long time,” he recalls, “and this year they coincided.” Robot Dreams and The boy and the heronby Miyazaki.”
He was trained in Spain
Maca Gil’s dream was to train in animation at the most famous universities in California, but she had to rethink her future. “They were very out of my reach, they were very expensive, they were not for me. I had to borrow $200,000 to go and my father told me it was not possible.”
This cartoonist was part of the first batch of students of the Degree in Animation from the U-tad University Center (Madrid) who completed this degree in 2016. “I had a subject that was storyboard, I learned a little more about its existence, but it was there where I saw that it fit me and that it could be for me. What I like is sketching, while others are more interested in focusing on the details and rendering the drawings. I like to go quickly with the sketches, capture the ideas quickly and go for it.”
Currently, Maca Gil works for Marvelin an as-yet-unannounced comic that will be published next year, and continues to do storyboards as freelance for animated films. Previously, he also worked in DC. Spain is positioned as the fifth European country in terms of production of animated films and employs more than 8,500 workers directly.
Maca Gil dreams of “working on interesting projects that I am passionate about and that the people who develop them are also passionate about” and of “being able to create original things with my friends,” she says, while emphasizing that “in Madrid there is a very of animation professionals”.