Jorge R. Gutierrez

Carmelo

Jorge R. Gutierrez, as it turns out, has something of an artistic fascination with death. His first feature film, The Book of Life, opened last weekend. Produced by Guillermo del Toro, it’s a love story that crosses into the afterlife and builds upon the aesthetic and spiritual traditions of Dia de los Muertos. Death comes early on in the film, when Manolo (Diego Luna) is bitten by a venomous snake and sent into the next world. To regain the love of his life, Maria (Zoe Saldana), he has to find a way to come back from the beyond. It may not be the only recent animated feature for kids to address death, after Paranorman and others, but its embrace of such a morbid narrative is an exciting risk. For Gutierrez, however, this is nothing new. His final film as a student at CalArts in 2000 was a 3D short called Carmelo. It won an Emmy for student animation and played at a number of festivals. He has since mostly worked in television, for Nickelodeon, Disney, and Warner Bros. He created the 2007 Nickelodeon series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, which was that network’s first ever flash animation series. The project won a number of Emmys, as well as two Annie Awards. These three most significant projects, Carmelo, El Tigre and now The Book of Life all draw from Gutierrez’s childhood and his heritage in Mexico.

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According to Variety, Guillermo del Toro is headed back to Mexico to pair with director Jorge R. Gutierrez for a CGI romantic adventure called Day of the Dead. There is nothing short of fantastic about this news. For one, they’ve chosen perhaps the second best holiday as their backdrop – one that can provide a wealth of vibrant and meaningful imagery. For two, Gutierrez is an eclectic and skilled animator. For three, del Toro wrote the script along with Doug Landale – who has worked on animated television shows since the early 90s. As for the title, it’s unclear how George Romero will feel about it. There are some cool sensibilities here, and the story is supposedly “Romeo and Juliet”-style, so the fantastical elements can probably be in full force. Of course, del Toro has a tight schedule and he won’t be directing, but his reputation as a hands-on producer speaks for itself. There’s no doubt his presence will be known in the final product. Now if he’d make a horror film about La Llorona…

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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