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The artists and the models: animating a Galician mystery

Creating stop-motion 3D animation 'O Apóstolo' began with a live-action film

From left: Luis Tosar, director Fernando Cortizo, Carlos Blanco and Jorge Sanz.
From left: Luis Tosar, director Fernando Cortizo, Carlos Blanco and Jorge Sanz.EFE

O Apóstolo, which hits 80 cinema screens this week, is the first 3D stop-motion animation made in Spain. More than that though, the novel element of this dark mystery story, set on the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James pilgrimage route), is the technique employed to create it.

Debuting filmmaker Fernando Cortizo first directed the scenes as if it were a live action film, but without “make-up or sets.” The process took place over two weeks in 2008 and included big-name actors such as Geraldine Chaplin, Jorge Sanz, Luis Tosar, Celso Bugallo, Carlos Blanco and late horror star Paul Naschy.

In this way, says Blanco, the role of the performers was not limited to merely “dubbing” the dialogue — they also “constructed the characters” and in some cases made contributions to the script.

Theatrical experience

Director Cortizo says he wanted the actors to have “a theatrical experience in which they all talked about the roles” during the recording. He is keen to include some of the scenes they shot as extras on the DVD of the film.

Nevertheless, Blanco admits, the most important aspect of the movie was the technical work that came after the recording, where the handcrafted movements of the characters were created via stop-motion animation.

It took a team of more than 200 professionals — among them animators, model makers and 3D technicians — around two years of work to create this part of the film, incorporating the sets and models.

Given the handcrafted nature of the film, the creators of the movie’s soundtrack wanted to bring a similar artisan feel to the score, according to one of its music directors, Xabier Font. And for that they turned to a curious combination: the Royal Philharmonic of Galicia, and Anxo Pintos, a member of Galician folk group Berrogüetto, who were conducted by renowned American composer Philip Glass.

Font reveals they are considering developing an international version of one of the tracks next year, which would be performed by The Who frontman Roger Daltrey.

A mix of suspense, humor and fantasy, O Apóstolo is the story of an escaped prisoner who travels to a remote village to recover some long-hidden loot. Once there, though, he encounters sinister old people, spirits, a peculiar parish priest and even the archbishop of Santiago de Compostela.

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