Giuseppe Laganà and Animation in Italy: Rebuilding an Industry

by Russell Bekins

Sketch of Giuseppe Laganá by Russell Bekins. ©Russell Bekins.

Giuseppe Laganà began his career at the Italian state-owned Cartoon Film; the studio that produced the animated shorts for the immortally weird Italian television comedy variety series Carosello. He worked with such industry legends as Harry Hess and Jimmy Teru Murakami. Later, he was a background artist for Bruno Bozzetto on Allegro Non Troppo, the classic surrealist Italian answer to Fantasia.

"From about 1980 to 1994, there was a huge crisis in Italian Animation," he lamented, "a blackout." He survived by doing titles for television, videos, industrials and educational films.

A New Beginning
At his Milan-based company, Animation Band, the studio's thirty-odd employees are enthusiastic about Laganà's leadership. "He's been an assistant, a background artist, illustrator, and director," waxed background artist Giorgio Compierini. "He's done everything, so when he offers a piece of advice, you know that he's coming at it from experience."

Lupo Alberto. © Silver/McK 1998

Since 1995, when he produced and directed 26 six-minute episodes of Laura's Sky--a fantasy series about the mysteries of the universe from the perspective of a girl and her cat--Laganà and his Animation Band have been going full tilt. They have also completed another animation series based on the Italian comic strip Lupo Alberto, which might be best described as a cross between Bloom County and Road Runner.

Such intensive production has led the company away from more chaotic, illustrator-based production methods. "It was always a struggle," recalled production director Diego Lo Piccolo. "We were simply tilting at windmills." In order to keep up with the demands of the new series, they had to adopt industry standards in terms of scripting, storyboarding and animation. "It was a change from this, to this," illustrated Lupicolo, flipping his hand over to expose the palm--the Italian equivalent of `from day to night.'

Corto Maltese. © Ellipse Programme/Imedia/ConG. All Rights Reserved.


A Growing Future
The hard work and methodology is paying off. Animation Band has been selected to do an important portion of the production on the upcoming Corto Maltese series, along with Ellipse in France. Executive producer Robert Rea, confronted with the need to choose an Italian production partner (a stipulation of Italian television network RAI), shrugged that the decision was no contest. "They were simply the most reliable studio."

"We [Europeans] have a long way to go to overcome the advantages you have in the American market," Laganà asserted. "A single language, for example." For Animation Band, the "new" methods and developing a core of writers who know animation have been key.

"For a lot of years, we were continually losing talent to America," Laganà lamented, "now that an industry is developing, it appears that people are returning."

Russell Bekins is a disgruntled expatriate of the film industry, now living in Bologna, Italy. Serving his apprenticeship as story and multimedia analyst for Creative Artists Agency, he went on to be a creative executive for Tidewater Entertainment at Disney Studios, where he achieved his level of incompetence in studio politics. He is now working on theme park attractions and consulting on multi-media projects, as well as struggling with the subjunctive tense in Italian.


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