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TNC Archive 2012

Javier Mariscal

When we think about design we tend to lump designers into set categories and we get a little surprised when they break free. This is perhaps our preset prejudice but it cannot be underestimated how influential Javier Mariscal. He has covered every possible medium of design there is culminating with the integral design of the Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao in 2002. It was a rare honour to talk to Mariscal ahead of the DVD release of his Oscar Nominated animated film 'Chico & Rita' in 2012

Hello Javier, how are you doing?

Good, thank you.

Could you tell us a little bit about “Chico & Rita” and how you and the director (Fernando Trueba) came to the project?

Fernando and I are very good friends and we have made many album covers and art together in the past. He is a very good producer of music, especially Jazz and Latin Jazz, and one day he saw some animation work I had done which focused on the streets of Havana – he said, “why don’t we make something, like a movie, together?”

It was very quick getting the project off the ground because we both love the style of music and we both love Havana and Cuba; we found that it was a very nice location for us to work together. It was also a good excuse to work with Bebo Valdés (who wrote the score and album soundtrack for this film).

With you and Fernando already being friends, do you think that made your working relationship closer?

Yes, definitely. It was very interesting for Fernando to make a movie, not with actors, only with animation. For him, it was like “wow!” It was new for me too; even though I have made many animations in the past, this was the first time I have made a real movie, 90 minutes long.

Where you nervous about taking on such a project?

I have to say no – I have built two hotels in the past so this wasn’t a nervous project to take on (laughs). We started working on “Chico & Rita” around 6 years ago; from the initial talks to writing the script, to finding the funding, and after 3 years of production with people from my studio (120 people), we were then working with all the musicians… lots to do!

What do you think your audience takes away from the film?

Well, I am really happy with the reaction from the audience; it has been fantastic and amazing! All the time, all over the world I’m finding people, in Barcelona, in London, giving me kisses and telling me fantastic things about the film. But that’s not all – in Havana, New York, Paris, Spain and many other places the reaction has been great. Even in the street people stop me and tell me that that they have loved the film and here in London people have been clapping when the film has been shown in cinemas… it has been really sweet…I am so happy and honoured; I never expected this kind of reaction.


"Design is very important; you have to appeal to a variety of tastes, demands, and wants."

After the success you have enjoyed with “Chico & Rita” do you think you will take on another feature film?

Yes, of course, the idea is to make more animation films… we have some ideas. Funding is an issue and getting the film to a broader audience was another problem we faced (with Chico & Rita). We are currently looking at getting funding for new projects, and still working on distributors for Chico & Rita in new territories. Distribution can be a real problem for animated films. Maybe in the future, the internet will have a bigger role in the distribution and will help people like Fernando and myself get our films out to a bigger audience…

Right now the funding is the main hurdle. At present we are talking to Argentina and Brazil about a very nice new project, also with France and Spain … we will see!

Even for me (working in the industry) the distribution business is something I don’t understand and it is scary for me, but the ideas we have are good, especially for two future films, but we don’t know what will happen at present.

You had a retrospective of your work at London’s Design Museum in 2009, how did you feel about your work being on the show?

For me, it was a wonderful exhibition and it was a wonderful place – the people at the LDM really know how to make great exhibitions, I was really happy with what they did. We made a website which received loads of comments from all over the world.

And finally what advice would you give future designers?

Design is very important; you have to appeal to a variety of tastes, demands, and wants. From the internet to buildings and graphics… it is many, many things.

I think it is a very nice profession to be in and it helps society to gain better experiences, and to have better lives. The design gives us better tables, lights, buildings…everything.

It is a job I am very happy to be in.

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