In Mexiquito, Ennio, 10 1⁄2 years old, is part of the SUPER-LUCHA! Guided by his grandad Ruben, he fights off the evil forces thanks to the lucha libre secret techniques. Accom- panied by his best friends Pablo, Lili and Helena, they put on their fighting masks and outfits every day to go and kick the buttocks Moctemomia, the vile mummy from Mictian, the Aztec underworld and its myrmidons, who only has one goal: invade the human world. All before dinner time of course!
Director: Goulwen Merret
Authors: Goulwen Merret and Suzie Le Texier
Visual design: Agnès Lecreux and Goulwen Merret
Producer: Mathieu Courtois (Vivement Lundi !, France)
Format: 52 x 12′
Target audience: Children 6-11
Technique: 2D digital / Stop-motion
Super-Lucha is an action-animation series project with attractive visuals that we came across at Cartoon Forum 2020. It tells a story centering on four kids of the ‘Lucha Libre’ – masked professional wrestling in Mexico – who the target audience will easily find an attachment to. The cute small heroes fight against well-designed villains inspired from Aztec mythology.
This project mixes the expressiveness of 2D animation elements, such as speedlines and saturated linework, and the tactility of stop-motion animation, with its use of paper and cardboard textures, to create a unique style that lends itself to impactful action sequences.
Here is the insightful story behind the project that we heard from Goulwen Merret, the director and author, and Mathieu Courtois, the producer.
Interview with Goulwen Merret and Mathieu Courtois
Hideki Nagaishi (HN): Could you please let us know the key points of this animation project that you would like to appeal to the prospective audience?
Mathieu Courtois & Goulwen Merret: It’s a superhero series for kids 6 to 10, but with a child’s perspective and ideas. It’s an explosive mix of anime, cartoon, stop-motion and Lucha Libre!
HN: How did the project start?
Mathieu Courtois: Two years ago, Goulwen Merret (author & director) and Agnès Lecreux (graphical author) came to talk to me of their project. I had immediately liked the universe and concept of Super-Lucha, both for its purpose and its form.
Since a long time, I wanted to produce an action series in stop-motion for kids, and Super-Lucha is exactly what I was looking for. Even though Agnès had experience in stop-motion series with our preschool series Dimitri that she directed, Super-Lucha is the first project for Goulwen. So, they, first of all, worked together and obtained support funding for the writing, then at the end of 2019, we have decided to develop the project together and pitch it at Cartoon Forum 2020.
HN: Where did the initial idea of the story come from? And what kind of message or experience do you want to deliver to audience through the story?
Goulwen Merret: I imagined the characters of a Mexican boy who goes into Lucha Libre based on my own son and my childhood in Mexico. Making a film was a way to share my origins with my children. The main idea was to show how a child can channel his desire to fight and turn it into something positive for himself and the community. So, it was natural, and with Mathieu’s wise advice, that my project evolved into a story of young vigilantes.
HN: What do you take care in the most when developing the story?
Goulwen Merret: As far as the general story of the series is concerned, we are trying to find a new angle in an ultra-codified and exploited genre, which is the superhero series. Succeeding in innovating while respecting the basics, finding new colors, new places and new mythologies is our challenge.
When it comes to writing an episode, we are trying to find the right rhythm, the right tone for each character in order to make them funny and endearing. We’re also trying to keep in mind that our superheroes are kids: they don’t have to think like adults. They have an important sense of justice but their way to solve the problem or win a fight will be with their own tools, of their age.
To sum up, we want to make people want to follow our characters in a colorful universe they’d never seen before.
HN: We would like to hear about the visual design: What is the most important characteristic of the visual design of the characters and universe for the story? And why did you select stop-motion animation to tell the story?
Goulwen Merret: The story takes place in Mexico, in-between Lucha Libre and Aztec mythology. We want the audience to feel the influence of popular Mexican art, the papier-mâché piñatas, the handmade calacas sold in the markets… Only stop-motion allows the viewers to ‘touch’ this universe. Using 3D computer-generated images or 2D animation would have lost the ‘handmade’ side of it, that gives the project all of its appeal.
The Art Toys side of the characters and the anime style of the direction give the possibility to rejuvenate stop-motion, to bring a breath of fresh air. After all, it’s about children and superheroes.
We try to be consistent between form and content. For this reason, we mix stop-motion animation and 2D animation for the faces. In stop-motion, we will have animation with rhythm, pose-to-pose with smear in stop-motion. The 2D faces will bring us humour and permit us to understand what our characters are thinking using the anime style of expression.
Mathieu Courtois: Why stop-motion? Because Goulwen is a stop-motion animator, because it’s our historical animation technique from 22 years and above all, stop-motion is most beautiful of techniques!
HN: Could you please let us know about the music for the animation that you can share with us at the moment?
Goulwen Merret: The music is naturally inspired by surf rock, which is often associated with the world of the Lucha Libre. We think about the Straitjackets, a music group who wears luchadores masks. Also, we went to Rumble by Link Wray and the music of Robert Rodriguez’s films. We want a music full of sunshine and positive energy, with a certain cinematography aura too, and surf rock brings all of that.