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Peter Juliá discussing his animated series "Run Nuki!" It was the production team's first face-to-face meeting due to COVID-19 | Photo by Luz Tapia

‘Run Nuki!’ is born: Finding inspiration to tell a new story during a pandemic

At first, my insecurity awakened many questions and doubts. But by our second short, I felt in control of my vision. Whether it’s judged as good or bad, it’s mine. I take responsibility for this creation we put out into the world.

Peter Juliá
Pedro Juliá, 26, is a multidisciplinary artist from Buenos Aires who works in music, drawing and cinema.

Run Nuki!” is his first animated project. It is about a little raccoon named Nuki discovering a huge world full of amazing creatures. The series promotes ecological values in an entertaining way.

You can see the pilot of “Run Nuki!” on Youtube.
Background Information
On March 19, 2020, Argentine President Alberto Fernández announced a strict quarantine throughout the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many creative industries experiences shutdowns, delays and difficulties, but the animation industry flourished despite the new logistical challenges.

Boasting more than 140, Argentina is the country with the most animation studios in Latin America. The territory already has produced more than 45 animated feature films. However, making a minute of animation can cost up to more than $5,000: a budget that is expected in North American and European countries but extravagant in South and Latin America.

Pedro Juliá largely self-financed the “Run Nuki!” short—he said that though he was able to compensate his team, it was not equivalent to the time and effort they invested.

BARILOCHE, Argentina— I am from Buenos Aires, but whenever I come to the south—to the striking beauty of the Patagonia region—fits of creativity strike me. I don’t seek them out; it’s as if someone whispers to me or downloads information into my brain from somewhere else.

I wanted to act on these ideas and give them life. From this desire, Nuki was born.

Creating my main character

I drew the initial character of Nuki and composed some music around the idea a long time ago in Bariloche, a city in Patagonia. Initially I envisioned the character as more of an adult, but my ideas shifted as I imagined bringing him to life in a TV series. I wanted it to be entertaining but also endearing and metaphorical.

In the end, Nuki took the form of a child. I loved to tell his story when he was a baby because it allowed me to showcase his gigantic learning stage. I felt like it was an allusion to me being a baby in the world of animation. He’s chaotic too, which I think will help children see themselves in him.

Nuki lives in a world where ecological values are paramount. Caring for the environment and fostering awareness for the state of the world feels so important to me. It’s even more so at this moment of humanity because there is a sort of war against time, an urgent need to reverse the ruin we’ve already caused. With Nuki, we have a chance to make little ones aware, so they make adults aware.

Sketches of Nuki | Photo courtesy of Peter Juliá

Bringing an idea to life during COVID-19

Bringing a vision to life and elevating it to a bigger platform is a huge, overwhelming undertaking—even when you’re not in a global pandemic. I had never directed a project like this before, but my ignorance turned out to be a gift. Because I didn’t fully understand the challenges that lie ahead, my innocence and desire to see the process through made it feel more like a game.

I relied on talented coworkers to lead areas I was less experienced in, such as production and logistics, while I headed animation.

Because of the COVID-19 lockdown, we worked on everything virtually for the first Nuki short. We worked on everything without even seeing each other’s faces. Most of the team is introverts, so they often didn’t even have a profile picture. It was challenging, but also magical in a sense; it felt like I was working with the very souls of these people.

We met in person for the second short—it was crucial to finally see each other’s faces and discuss the project face to face, to convey the depth of our feeling and energy for this story.

I wore my kitty ears for our first meeting at a café in Buenos Aires. I had already composed the music for the short film, and created a very basic storyboard with another team member. We stood in front of everyone, ready to present.

I was nervous, but I knew now was the time to lead. Though I am a peaceful person, that does not mean that I am passive. I needed to be confident, to show my passion. When you don’t have show fighting spirit, you start to say to yourself, “what if they don’t hear me out?”

In the end, I stated a clear direction: “I trust this is going to be more beautiful than Ghibli, guys.” That’s how the meeting ended, with laughter and energy. To reach the stars, you have to aim for the moon. I wanted to set high goals, and I always trusted my team had those capabilities.

Run Nuki! team in a coffee shop, talking about the new animated short
Run Nuki! team in a coffee shop, talking about the new animated short | Photo by Luz Tapia

Seeing the world react to Nuki

At first, my insecurity awakened many questions and doubts. But by our second short, I felt in control of my vision. Whether it’s judged as good or bad, it’s mine. I take responsibility for this creation we put out into the world.

The first animation was for festival screenings, but I also craved feedback from real people, not just industry judges or animation fans. I wanted anyone with internet access to be able to see it, give their opinion, and judge for themselves. We also needed feedback from real people, not just judges and animation fans.

When we shared it to social networks, we got the feedback we sought—people reacted with an explosion of love for this little raccoon.

Relief, happiness and fulfillment fill my heart when I see these comments. I am glad to know that people understood our intent, the references we made, the wink to the past. They reacted with tenderness, and told us what they were seeing was like an awakening to the soul.

The next step with Nuki is to be able to start communicating those ecological values in his adventures. For now though, we have proved that it spreads a lot of love regardless.

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Journalist specializing in animation.