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Director Miguel Puga Talks ‘The Casagrandes Movie’ and Mexico’s Talented Animators

Produced by a team that includes Guadalajara-based Mighty Animation, the all-new film heads to the titular family’s Michoacán home in a surprise trip that derails Ronnie Anne’s 12th birthday plans in a confrontation with an ancient pre-teen demigod whose angst has apocalyptic potential; debuts today, March 22 on Netflix.

Growing up as a first-generation Mexican American, The Casagrandes series director Miguel Puga spent his childhood visiting the Jacona, Michoacán home of his parent’s every summer and winter. In the center of the town there’s a mountain that the locals claim harbors an ancient temple. And, like all eerie mountains with hidden temples, it’s said to be cursed. 

This was one of the stories that laid the foundation for Nickelodeon Animation Studio’s all-new The Casagrandes Movie, which debuts on Netflix today, March 22. 

“The crew and I talked about this as we were figuring out the story and we were like, ‘Everything that the network didn't let us do in the series, let's do it in this movie,’” shares Puga. “We’d always planned to go to Mexico in the series, but we never got to it. And this was our chance to go grande or go casa.”

The Casagrandes Movie begins with Ronnie Anne’s (Izabella Alvarez) 12th birthday. Though the pre-teen planned for an adrenaline-filled trip with Sid Chang (Leah Mei Gold) to the local theme park, her family surprises Ronnie Anne with a trip to Mexico, specifically the family’s home in Michoacán. But, despite the wrench thrown into her own plans, Ronnie Anne is determined to prove that she's old enough to do her own thing–even if it means confronting the ancient pre-teen demigod Punguari (Paulina Chávez) whose angst has apocalyptic potential. Who knew skateboarding on a mountain could have such disastrous consequences?

The film comes two years after the show’s third season aired on Nickelodeon, which Puga and the team learned was to be the show’s last. “When The Loud House Movie premiered on Netflix, it was a hit,” the director explains. “So, plans started to be made to maybe do a movie about The Casagrandes. We didn’t hear about it until maybe right in the middle of the show’s Season 3, as we were wrapping up, and finding out that Season 3 was going to be our final season. Nothing was set in stone. Contracts were signed, but you know how movies work. It’s touch and go.”

Luckily the film crossed the production finish line, which aside from writing time, took less than two years to complete. And if the timetable wasn’t anxiety-inducing enough, there was also the matter of the fans and how to make The Casagrandes’ brief return as worthwhile as possible.  

“We have some of the best fans,” says Puga. “And they're so supportive. And they're part of The Loud House family. The same is true for everyone who works on these shows. We all have almost this ownership of all these characters and feel like we actually want to hang out with these characters. So, I totally understand where the fans are coming from. And the pressure was on. On top of that, we were following a very successful first Loud House movie, so it was our turn to step up to that plate. And obviously, it being the first movie I directed, and the first movie a lot of those on the crew got to work on, I honestly think we did an amazing job.”

Working from a script by Tony Gama-Lobo and Rebecca May, as well as by Lalo Alcaraz and Rosemary Contreras, who had both laid the narrative groundwork on The Casagrandes series, Puga says there was much to “pick from and explode” in this fun-filled movie. 

Introducing demigods, ancient legends, Viejito masks, the game Pelota Purépecha which uses a ball that has been set on fire, and a Jedi-wielding chancla in her Purepecha outfit, Puga wanted to touch on the cultural specifics of the Purépecha, the indigenous people of Michoacán. 

“I threw in a lot of Easter eggs, like mountain ranges and certain cathedrals from Jacona, but we always tried to stay focused on the Purépecha community and showcase their art and culture through all of it,” says Puga. “It’s peppered all around the film. Even in the music. Marcelo Treviño is our composer and he got to bring in a Purépecha orchestra and choir to come and sing certain moments. If you pay close attention to it, you can hear them speaking Purépecha while they sing about Michoacán or Punguari. It gives me chills every time.”

The colors are just as moving, with vibrant, tropical vegetation and rich purples and pinks to give the power of gods and goddesses a traditional, yet very teen blacklight bedroom vibe. Then of course there’s all the fire, earthquakes, and lightning storms. 

“I want to give a shout-out to Miguel Gonzales, the art director, and Caue Zunchini, associate art director, who made this movie look as beautiful as can be,” says Puga. “We try not to steer away too much from the series in animation but there's a lot that we nudge and push, especially when it comes to the hair and the drapery. We had amazing animation directors as well, Frans Vischer and Mitch Kennedy, and I want to also shout out Mighty Animation.”

Mighty Animation is a Mexican animation studio based in Guadalajara that, like Ronnie Anne, is 12 years old. The studio specializes in 2D and CG animation and has worked on projects such as Disney’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty, DreamWorks’ Cleopatra in Space, and Nickelodeon’s Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“There’s incredible animation being done in Mexico, and I wanted to have those animators involved,” notes Puga. “And they really went all out, reaching out all across the world to find other Mexican animators who were working in bigger animation studios to help work on this film. They impressed us daily with their deliveries and their effects team and everything they added to plus this movie.”

Mighty Animation also did a lot of work on the third act of the film which, according to Puga, was a “giant,” careful not to give away any more details to prevent spoilers. 

“I’m so excited to show fans what we’ve made with all these Mexican animators who are so hungry for more,” says Puga. “Annecy last year gave Mexican animation a huge tribute and celebration, but now, those animators are just waiting to get more work. It’s really dry out there with opportunities. Whatever this movie does to help give them a bigger spotlight, I hope it brings them more opportunities and more work and creates more connections. It’d be great to have big networks intrigued to go work with them or collaborate with them because there are amazing artists out there.”

Both on-screen and in production, Puga made sure to honor the deepest message of the film, which is geared toward anyone who is first-generation. 

“Being a first-generation Mexican American, along with Lalo and Rosemary, I wanted to make this a universal message for kids who are first-generation born anything,” Puga emphasizes. “It doesn't matter where you live in the world, when you go visit your ancestral home, it’s a similarly life-changing experience for everyone.”

And it’s why the director also wanted to pay special attention to Ronnie Anne’s relationship with her mother, who is so excited to show her daughter around their Michoacán home. 

“I had always wished we would have explored more of the Maria and Ronnie Anne relationship because that was hard to work on when we were focusing on the entire family,” says Puga. “So that was one of the main things we wanted to address and make it a mothers and daughters movie.”

He continues, “With the film, we were always like, ‘How much can we get away with? Can we go bigger? Can we add more?’ Netflix and Nickelodeon and other exec teams, on both sides, were so supportive, and they trusted us. That was one of the best experiences in my career. And I can honestly say that this is probably the best thing I ever got to work on.”

Unfortunately, everyone, including Puga is still in the dark as to whether The Casagrandes Movie could be the start of the series coming back to life. Either way, the family will continue their time on The Loud House and the rest might be in the hands of Punguari. 

I know as much as you do,” says Puga. “We just wanted to go big and do this movie. The Casagrandes are still part of The Loud House, though. They're still going to be appearing on the series and there are some great episodes coming out. So, I just want people to enjoy the movie and have fun, because it's a really fun movie. And there are a lot of funny moments in it that we–me and the rest of the crew–poured our hearts into. We also have like little message at the end to give a big thank you to everyone who’s been a big part of The Casagrandes universe, including the fans.”

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Victoria Davis is a full-time, freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She's reported on numerous stories from activist news to entertainment. Find more about her work at