“Executives hardly realise the demand for anime,”

“Executives hardly realise the demand for anime,” says ‘Onyx Equinox’ creator Sofia Alexander

Sofía Alexander is a rising star of Mexican anmation. Born in Quintana Roo, she is the creator, illustrator and executive producer of Onyx Equinox, anime streamer Crunchyroll’s first original series that launched in 2020. She is serving as a jury member for the main features competition at Annecy.

She began her career in the US, moving to Los Angeles after studying at Savannah College of Art and Design. She first worked as a storyboard artist for Hasbro Studios’ Stretch Armstrong And The Flex Fighters and a storyboard revisionist for Cartoon Network’s reboot of The Powerpuff Girls. Alexander then spent time as a concept artist for Disney Imagineering, the company’s theme park design and technology arm.

Onyx Equinox is based on the legends of Mesoamerica, featuring gods from Aztec, Maya and Zapotec mythologies. It follows a young boy on an epic journey to save mankind from the deities.

How does Onyx Equinox differ from your work as a storyboard artist?

In 2018 Crunchyroll gave me the opportunity to do Onyx and I started a completely different career that I had never considered. Suddenly I was working as a showrunner, producing, helping to develop ideas…As a storyboard artist, I was told how everything was going to be. The most important thing I learned is to have faith in others and not to feel overwhelmed because I cannot be everywhere. Though it’s my baby, it’s my story… my ideas are not always going to be the best, are they? Teamwork was undoubtedly the greatest challenge and the greatest learning.

What has been most pleasing about Onyx’s success?

Onyx came out in the middle of the pandemic so, unlike many showrunners, I didn’t have the opportunity to go to conferences to meet the fans, to present the show and see what the audience liked or what the reception really was. It all happened when Crunchyroll was something close to an indie animation studio, before its acquisition by Sony Pictures. I haven’t really been aware of Onyx’s success until recently. It made me feel extremely happy because this show is a love letter to Mexico. Especially considering that most of our stories in cinema are told by foreigners. I wanted something 100% told by Mexico.

As a creator, do you have the feeling that adult animation is growing?

In Europe, there is more experimental and artistic animation. This is barely seen in the US. It is quite difficult for that to change in the US because the formula that exists -family animation cinema- is the only one to exist for the majority and is the one that has been consumed by audiences for more than 60 years. However, signs of change began to appear with Castlevania and Blood Of Zeus. I think these shows really helped to expand diversity. And I think they also helped Onyx to have a chance to be made.

In Annecy,  anime is no longer just Japanese. An African anime, Mfinda, is in the Mifa Pitches, and France’s Mars Express is a competition title.

People of my age grew up very exposed to anime, and anime has stories of all kinds and for all audiences, from very young children to people 60 or 70 years old who can see stories specifically for them. There’s a hunger for different stories. There’s a demand that executives hardly realise exists.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a story, a series, which takes place in the middle of the 14th century Black Death plague. Despite this, it is also an idea for adults about hope.

Are you looking for international co-producers in Annecy?

Absolutely. I’m also taking advantage of it for networking. I’m not rushing to make a new production. I also like to work on other people’s stories, to help them produce, or direct, or make storyboards. I’m interested in continuing to develop as an artist.


Source :EMILIO MAYORGA/screendaily

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