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Argentine director creates award-winning, animated film about the 90-year-old man who kept the carousel running

The essence of the film revolves around the concept of community – people coming together (which didn’t occur during the COVID-19 lockdowns). Nevertheless, in a beautiful twist, people from all over the world collaborated on the project. We formed a tight-knit, united team, as if we were preparing for the end of the Pandemic ourselves. We poured an immense love into our work and the movie became a symbol of community.

  • 11 months ago
  • June 19, 2023
5 min read
The award-winning animated film short La Calesita captures the story of the town's carousel owner Luis Rodriguez who dedicated his life to bringing happiness to his community. The award-winning animated film short La Calesita captures the story of the town's carousel owner Luis Rodriguez who dedicated his life to bringing happiness to his community. | Photo courtesy of La Calesita Film Press
INTERVIEW SUBJECT
Augusto Schillaci is an Argentine director and screenwriter specializing in visual effects with more than 30 years of experience working in animation. He directed multiple projects, including the inaugural animated shorts for the Best Friends mobile app franchise, animated commercials for LEGO, Batman, and Chevrolet, as well as cinematics for video games for Transformers and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He also oversaw visual effects on Reel FX’s 3D feature films, including the Golden Globe-nominated The Book of Life.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
La Calesita is an animated short film inspired by the Calesiteros of Argentina and their importance to the community. The story was inspired by Luis Rodriguez (Don Luis), an emblematic carousel owner from Buenos Aires who touched the hearts of everyone he met.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The first time I met Luis Rodrigues remains forever etched in my memory with vivid clarity. We arrived at his house in Villa Luro, in the center of Buenos Aires, near a famous merry-go-round. Into his 90s, Luis single-handedly operated the carousel. His home and the emblematic merry-go-round became a cherished spot to all who visited.

We walked up to his door and rang the bell. When the door opened, I came face-to-face with this 93-year-old man who exuded vitality and sharpness. In time, Luis would inspire my animated movie La Calesita.

Read more stories from Argentina at Orato World Media 

Meeting the man and the legend

Luis warmly welcomed us inside and offered us Mate to drink. He instantly made us feel at home, sharing stories and inquiring about our lives. His living room felt familiar and cozy, decorated with random items he found. Don Luis captivated me with his unwavering joy, constant anticipation, and deep gratitude for everything he possessed.

He spoke of old memories with such fondness, it made you feel as though you lived those moments right there beside him. Luis described the carousel as the heart of the town, which motivated him to keep it running. His words touched me deeply. 

That day, I understood why everyone in town adored him. He possessed an energy few could match. Simply sitting down and engaging in conversation with him uplifted me. I felt grateful to know him and wanted to honor his life. I decided to include Luis in my project – hoping others would remember him as the kind, generous soul that he was.

As a way to honor Luis, I came up with a short film to truly immortalize him 

I intended to create a live documentary, capturing the essence of Don Luis’ life. My team and I organized a grand two-day celebration. On Sunday, we brought the entire neighborhood together at the carousel. Don Luis looked ecstatic as I interviewed him, but circumstances prevented me from completing the documentary.

Nonetheless, he left an indelible mark with his captivating history. He spoke of the lineage of Calesiteros [individuals who manage carousels], and his unwavering devotion to the neighborhood and to generations come and gone. Soon, I began to conceive another idea. As an animation director, I wondered, what if I dedicate an animated short film to Don Luis?

The project lingered in my mind for a decade, but creating a high-quality animated proves an arduous task. Eventually, thanks to my position at Reel FX, I could finally access the necessary resources. The company’s operations had come to a halt during the Pandemic, and although it felt like a terrifying ordeal, it paradoxically provided me with an opportunity. Amidst that chaos, I managed to complete the short film about Don Luis’ life.

A still of the character inspired by Don Luis, from La Calesita. | Photo courtesy of La Calesita Film Press

The essence of the film revolves around the concept of community – people coming together (which didn’t occur during the COVID-19 lockdowns). Nevertheless, in a beautiful twist, people from all over the world collaborated on the project. We formed a tight-knit, united team, as if we were preparing for the end of the Pandemic ourselves. We poured an immense love into our work and the movie became a symbol of community. Through Don Luis’ life, we formed our own life-long bonds. When we finally finished it, we felt so excited we could barely contain ourselves. 

As soon as we witnessed the public’s reaction, we knew we had done our job

Experiencing the final animation on screen delivered an indescribable sensation. What started in the depths of my mind – a mere concept transferred onto paper – became a living thing in the digital realm. We meticulously crafted and shaped it until it was real. From initial character sketches to the culmination of the entire creation, the journey delivered so many highs and lows. Witnessing the finished product felt awe-inspiring. After that, we had the opportunity to showcase the film throughout Argentina.

I felt so touched by the public’s reaction. They shared powerful memories of Don Luis. Soon, our inboxes overflowed with heartfelt emails from grateful individuals, moved by seeing Don Luis recieve the respect he truly deserved. His nephew, in particular, was overcome by tears. He described the experience of watching the film as profound. Distant relatives and friends of Don Luis said the film connected with them so deeply, it felt like reliving the wonderful moments they had with him all over again. 

The movie honors Don Luis, who operated the town’s carousel his entire life as a way to bring happiness to the children of his community. | Photo courtesy of La Calesita Film Press

During our visit to Annecy, France, the very place that hosts our cherished Animation Festival, we encountered a merry-go-round. It felt like a sign, Don Luis was there with us, living this moment. His name, to me, remains synonymous with joy and selflessness. While my initial hope was to keep his legacy alive, I realized the unwavering love of those who knew him was the real testament to the man. We continue to participate in festivals, eagerly awaiting the moment when we can share the short film with the world. By next year, it will be made available on YouTube for everyone to enjoy. 

Translation Disclaimer

Translations provided by Orato World Media are intended to result in the end translated document being understandable in the end language. Although every effort is made to ensure our translations are accurate we cannot guarantee the translation will be without errors.

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