While us human beings debate endlessly about border security, national integrity, undocumented immigrants, and all those hot button political topics, there are hundreds of thousands of birds who literally don’t give a damn, because they can fly. So what better way to call our attention to the inherently arbitrary nature of national borders than with an animated film about Mexican birds who fly to Hollywood in hopes of enlisting the help of a retired superhero? And who better to voice those birds than Edward James Olmos, Cheech Marin, Gabriel Iglesias, Kate del Castillo, Erik Estrada, and Lisa Kudrow?
In case you haven’t caught wind, the film in question is none other than El Americano, a 3-D animated adventure film produced by Mexican animation studio, Animex, in co-production with EJO’s Olmos Productions and Phil Roman Entertainment. The ambitious binational project is directed by Mexican helmer Ricardo Arnaiz (La Leyenda de la Nahuala) with an assist from Mike Kunkel, formerly of Disney’s animation department.
El Americano tells the story of Cuco (voiced by Rico Rodríguez of Modern Family fame), a pre-teen Mexican parrot who embarks on a border crossing journey to save his family circus from the evil machinations of Martin Kingfisher (Cheech Marin), convinced that his idol and Hollywood superhero, “El Americano” is the only man (or bird) for the job. It also happens that Cuco doesn’t need a tourist visa to do this, nor is he subject to dehumanizing cavity checks at immigration checkpoints along the way. He’s a bird. He just flies.
While this lower budget affair seems squarely aimed at younger audiences, who couldn’t be in awe of the Latino star power El Americano is packing? Indeed, the cast is a veritable who’s who of Chicano and Mexican superestrellas who have likely never shared a bill en masse like this. Visually, the rich colors and textures of Mexican folklore abound while a soundtrack featuring norteño sensations like La Arrolladora Banda El Limón, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, and 3ball Mty should give this little film some serious vato loco cred.
With the recent Guillermo del Toro-produced The Book of Life warming up U.S. audiences to the idea of animated Mexican folklore, El Americano’s attractive Rio/Angry Birds formula might just signal the beginning of a stateside Mexican animation invasion. Plus, birds are hilarious.
El Americano will play at the Hola Mexico Film Festival in Los Angeles on May 14 and is slated for an August 2015 theatrical release.