Meet Kayara, a New Inca Heroine
Tunche Films founder César Zelada discusses his new pic and plans for his growing studio.
Peruvian director/producer César Zelada’s first animated feature Ainbo centered on a spirited young heroine who sets out on a quest to save her beautiful home in the Amazon rainforest. The beautifully crafted movie, which was directed by his brother Jose, had a limited release in 2021 and found its receptive audience despite facing the challenges of the Covid pandemic worldwide. This year, the talented Peruvian filmmaker is working on a new movie, a CG-animated project titled Kayara, another female-led adventure about a young Inca woman who dreams of joining the Chasqui messengers, an alite male-only league of the official messengers in the famous empire. The film, which is written and directed by Zelada, is produced by Peruvian/Panamanian animation studio Tunche Films and co-produced by Toonz Media Group Spain and distributed/exec produced by Cinema Management Group. The film, which will be available for delivery in mid-2024, will have an estimated budget of about seven million dollars. “The story of Kayara is about a courageous young woman and an ancient myth of how the Golden City—which remains undiscovered today— was protected and hidden from the great dangers of exploitation and stolen resources y an unsung hero of the Incan Empire,” says Zelada. “What I love about Kayara is that she’s a strong, intelligent girl, who at the same time has certain insecurities typical of her age. I’m also pleased to be able to recreate Peru’s wonderful landscapes such as Machu Picchu, as they were was more than 200 years ago.”
Preserving an Ancient Culture
According to the director, in animation, very little has been done about the Inca empire, which was as great as other known empires in Europe and Asia. “This is a new IP created by a Peruvian studio since we know the culture from the inside,” he adds. Zelada says telling these stories about empowered women and bringing his culture and history to the animated screen has been a great passion of his. “Tunche films is a family-run animation studio, created by my brothers Jose, Sergio and me,” he explains. “Our previous film Ainbo was inspired by our mother and the stories that she told us about living and growing up in the Amazon. From a very young age we grew up admiring those stories and seeing our mother as a strong figure with a great spirit of adventure. So, perhaps that’s why and perhaps also unconsciously, we made our second protagonist Kayara a similar kind of woman.” The director says his love for animation began at an early age, when he saw Disney’s The Jungle Book for the first time back in the 1980s. “That’s a movie that really had a big impact on me,” he recalls. “You can definitely see Mowgli’s influence on Ainbo! Animation was something that my brothers and I always dreamed of doing since we were kids. We all had some talent in drawing, and we used to draw animation sequences on the edges of the pages of our school notebooks.” Looking back at the experiences of his first movie, Zelada remembers, “The best reactions to the movie were definitely those of the children, because we made the film for them. But, perhaps the most memorable opinions for me were when we projected the film in the Amazon in a village of the Chipibos Conibos tribe, which had inspired our movie. It was very gratifying to see their reactions and laughter when they watched it.” Zelada explains, “As a Peruvian studio, it is interesting to tell our own stories since it is what we know best, in addition to having the opportunity to show the world a little about ourselves. Over the past few years, animation has grown remarkably all over the world and it still has a lot of room for growth. Latin America is no exception and in Peru more animation is produced every year, even for large streaming platforms. As for Panama, there are great incentives and very good cash rebates that help co-productions. We are a new studio that generates IP, looking to find a space in the global animation industry. Our pipeline is based on Maya, Arnold, Houdini, Nuke for compositing and Shotgun. We are willing and excited to co-produce with different studios around the world in the years ahead.”