The year Cruz Delgado was born, the characters of Tintin and Popeye first saw the light; one of the fathers of audiovisual technology, Vladimir Zworykin, had just presented a cathode ray tube that would lead to the first televisions and the Spanish filmmaker died, and one of the forerunners of animation, Segundo de Chomón. It was 1929 and it was just a year since Mickey Mouse had triumphed with the animated short film Steamboat Willie. All these milestones would mark the life of Delgado, one of the pioneers of cartoons in Spain.
Self-taught from a very young age, Delgado is known today as the creator of the first TVE animation series, as the director of several successful cartoon films that fought for the public’s attention at a time when Disney had a monopoly and as the first winner of the Goya for Best Animated Film. The Filmoteca has just been built, thus ensuring its preservation, with abundant archive material from the creator of the series of drawings Don Quijote of La Mancha that marked an entire generation in the early eighties.
At 91 years old, Delgado (already vaccinated against covid-19) is away from home today and touring the sample Animación.es: A story in an exhibition at the Madrid Municipal Printing Office, where his work stands out among other Spanish reference works: the first Spanish animated feature film, Chickpea from La Mancha (1945), by Arturo Moreno, or Klaus, Netflix’s first original animated film and an Oscar nominee, produced in Sergio Pablos’ studio Spa in Madrid. Sitting on a bench in front of the movie poster that the Goya gave him, The four town musicians of Bremen (1989), Delgado reviews his history, which at the same time is the backbone of the history of animated fiction in Spain, thanks to series such as The cat with boots, Molecule, The Boxy Kangaroo, Magic adventure, The loft of fantasy (with José Ramón Sánchez), The Trotamusicos or the Don Quijote of La Mancha from TVE. “In Spain there have always been very good cartoonists, many things have been done, although there have been very good cartoonists who have not dedicated themselves to making cartoons,” he points out, “as a well-known person and a great artist such as Mingote, who he wanted to do animation tests and it didn’t come out, saying that this was not going to suit him. Animation … not everyone knows how to interpret it ”.
Delgado was attracted to drawing in general and animation in particular when at the age of five he discovered the world of Disney in a central Madrid cinema with The three Little Pigs. During the following years, his passion for comics grew to the point of setting up a comic rental network, which led him to think that it would be better for him to write and draw comics himself. He signed up for drawing courses, in addition to imitating what he saw. “The cartoon was very good for me to make cartoons, because where the cartoon ends, the cartoon begins, is the storyboard [guion gráfico de la historia que se usa como guía para rodar]. It has the characters, there is a shot, a back shot, there are panoramas, etc., all that comes in handy when making a storyboard”.
Episode of Molecule, the first cartoon series on TVE.
Cinematographic techniques were also absorbed by observation. He studied on his own and experimented with old X-rays, which he cleaned with acetone and used as celluloid. “I did it in a little room my father had on Prado Street. When I was able to find super 8 movies, I studied them ”, says the creator. “In the cinema, with what existed then, continuous session cinemas, I got to atrocious things like watching The three knights [también de Disney, estrenada en España cuando él tenía 18 años] 30 times, simply because I wanted to focus on things. It was a thing of madness, of hobby, that you carry inside ”. He bought a Kinamo 35mm rope camera at the Rastro and modified it with a shutter so he could shoot frame by frame. “I made a three-minute film of a character of mine that was being published in a magazine for a couple of years, Molecule, I did the animation, backgrounds, color, filming … very artisan things, but I shot it. It exists, I have it. Years later it became a nine-minute short film, ”he says.
He worked for almost five years in the advertising animation studios of the brothers José Luis and Santiago Moro (creators of the Telerín family) and spent a year in an animation studio in Brussels, where he collaborated with magazines such as Spirou’s Journal and Tintin. When he returned to Spain, he set up a small studio in which they made the short film The cat with boots (1964), which resulted in popular and award-winning success. And television appeared: TVE, which had started broadcasting in 1956, premiered its first own animated series in 1968, Molecule, based on that character that Delgado had invented in the workshop on Prado Street.
His obsession was to make a feature film. And from previous shorts, he developed a project based on traditional stories that he presented to the Spanish division of Warner. He liked it so much that he ended up making that movie, Magic adventure (1973), which would open the doors to other projects. “It premiered at the Imperial cinema, which was dedicated to Disney, and was on the bill for a month and a half,” he congratulates.
At the end of the seventies he started the work that would mark his fame forever. It lasted six years and cost him more than he would have liked, but it addressed one of his great passions: The Quijote by Miguel de Cervantes when we have the information. “I wanted to translate it into cartoon images in a movie; What’s more, that attempt was also made by Walt Disney. I asked for information to register the names and when I did it, Disney had asked for it in those years, but it did not get to do so ”, he recalls. To carry it out, he went to producer José Javier Romagosa. “He brought the series to Spain Heidi, a great success. I thought I was the only person who could listen to me. Either he listens to me, or he sends me to hell. He loved it. I wanted to make a feature film, but he told me that he was interested in making a television series. And I said, ‘is that that is many meters of film, a lot of drawing ”. They reached an agreement and did a 15-minute pilot episode with three popular moments from the book, the mills, the manteo, and the wine leathers. In TVE they took a long time to give the go-ahead and in the end 39 chapters were shot that covered almost the complete work.
Saved by Alfonso XIII
The Quijote it featured the voices of Fernando Fernán Gómez for the knight errant, Antonio Ferrandis for Sancho Panza and Rafael de Penagos for the voice-over of Cervantes. “We started doing episode 1 at the beginning of 1979, the contract said that it had to start airing in October of that year. I had to start a study, I already had my people, but we had to move to a very large place, look for more people and despite that we had a very bad time. We were always very fair ”. And Alfonso XIII arrived to take a break.
In January 1980, the remains of the monarch who died in Rome in 1941 were transferred to Madrid. TVE suspended programming those days, with the exception of the news. “If that doesn’t happen, that Saturday we wouldn’t have been able to broadcast,” recalls Delgado. The series marked a generation of children and was the first Spanish phenomenon to be exploited through the commercialization of products. “Robagosa is an expert at that. The best there has been in Spain. He got very good licenses, such as Danone, Bruguera, important contracts, to feed the staff, the payroll fell and had to pay, and the material. It was said that the sale of books by The Quijote, and that the series had brought children closer together, that they were like adventures …. It was a daring of Robagosa and Cruz Delgado to get into this mess, to do a work of those dimensions ”.
Delgado hasn’t worked since the 1990s. He keeps up to date with what is happening in the field of cartoons and remains a defender of a traditional type of animation that is disappearing: “Computer animation is a colder thing. I make a drawing, I move it, I see it, there is an intention that is very difficult to give on the computer. Which is very good, of course, it is very good, but it is not the same. The other is more intimate, more heart, an emotion that is transferred to the public ”.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.