Gladius wants to put Puerto Rico on the animation map. The oft-overlooked US territory is ripe with talent, and now, armed with a number of tax credits and a bevy of new projects, the San Juan-based studio is gearing up to produce new kids and family entertainment.
New to its slate is the 2D-animated series Slimies (30 x seven minutes), about the adventures of a young girl and her friends who create art with magical creatures named slimies. Delivery on the five-to-seven-skewing show (pictured), which has a budget of US$1.4 million, is set for February 2021.
The prodco is also jumping into the feature films with the first full-length 3D-animated movie to be fully produced in the territory. Hotel Paraiso, is a family-friendly film with a budget of US$1.5 million, with delivery expected in October 2021. Centered on young Latino musician Chico’s journey to make it big in Miami, the aspiring artist gets turned into a dog and must then decide between gaining fame and success, or becoming a human again. Slimies and Hotel Paraiso are in pre-production, and Gladius is now seeking distribution and broadcast partners for these projects. Beyond film and TV, the studio also has two mobile games in development, which it plans to deliver in July.
It’s also made the 2D/3D-animated series Fantomville (12 x 11 minutes), about a young Latino boy, his friends and a phantom chef, who befriend spectres and help them solve their unique problems. The first animated series to be fully produced in Puerto Rico, the show for seven to 13s has a budget of US$1.85 million. Puerto Rico’s talent is already starting to hit the international awards radar, says Martinez de Dios, and that show snagged a 2019 Emmy in the graphic arts category from the 43rd Annual Suncoast Regional Emmy Awards.
The growth in projects has also let the studio build out its team to 55 people, says Heri Martinez de Dios, the founder and CEO of Gladius.
Martinez de Dios is the EVP of Puerto Rico’s Atlantic University College, which specializes in animation and digital art, and in an effort to retain the talented animators from the country who had been leaving the country to work abroad after graduating, he launched Gladius five years ago. The full-service animation and VFX studio is focused on making kids entertainment, and also provides VR, AR, post-production services and animation for video games and films and commercials.
To support its growth efforts, Gladius has been tapping into the new tax credits in the region. Through them, international companies looking to produce animation and films in the region can get tax credits of up to 40% on productions that are fully done, or done in part, in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican-based producers can get additional 15%, and on top of these, there’s also a 20% credit for international talent, including producers, writers and actors. The promise of saving large amounts of money on productions is meant to entice producers to make content in the region where unemployment was at 8.8% in February, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and which in 2017 the country had accumulated more than US$70 billion in debt.
But there’s an economic silver lining for the region, and in 2018 the country’s GDP was US$101 billion, above that of a number of US states, including Hawaii and New Hampshire, according to the World Bank. Its GDP declined slightly to US$99.9 billion in 2019, and is expected to climb to just over US$100 billion in 2020 and 2021, the International Monetary Fund finds.
With COVID-19 hitting the region, the Puerto Rican government issued a stay-at-home order and now the Gladius team is working remotely on all of these projects. But this isn’t the first storm the territory has weathered, and Martinez de Dios is confident that Puerto Rico will emerge from the pandemic strong enough to continue growing its nascent animation industry.
“We’ve endured hurricanes and earthquakes, and for a time everyone here was very worried,” says Martinez de Dios. “But we continued on, and now we feel stronger than ever. People are interested in developing and co-producing projects with us, and we plan to keep producing, showcase Puerto Rico’s talent, and move forward without fear on our new projects.”