Chico and Rita
|Chico and Rita|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Fernando Trueba
|Produced by||Santi Errando
|Written by||Fernando Trueba
Ignacio Martínez de Pisón
|Music by||Bebo Valdés|
Fernando Trueba PC
Magic Light Pictures
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures (Spain)
GKIDS (North America)
Isle of Man
Chico and Rita (also Chico & Rita) is a Spanish animated feature-length film with Spanish and English languages directed by Tono Errando, Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal. The story of Chico and Rita is set against backdrops of Havana, New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Paris in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Chico is a young piano player with big dreams. Rita is a beautiful singer with an extraordinary voice. Music and romantic desire unite them, but their journey—in the tradition of the Latin ballad, the bolero—brings heartache and torment.
The film was produced by Fernando Trueba Producciones, Estudio Mariscal, and Magic Light Pictures. And received financing from CinemaNX and Isle of Man Film. It won the Goya Award for Best Animated Film at the 25th Goya Awards and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 84th Academy Awards (the first nomination for a Spanish full-length animated film).
In present-day Havana, Chico, a shoe-shiner, tunes his radio to the Radio Progreso station, which is playing old Cuban hits on a program called Melodies from Yesterday. As he listens, the station begins to play a romantic arrangement of A Taste of Me (Sabor a Mí) by Mexican composer Álvaro Carrillo (1921–69) which causes him to remember his life back in 1940s Cuba.
In 1948 Havana, Chico and his best friend Ramón are struggling dandies in a low-life bar. Ramon arranges a double date for the both of them with two American tourists. They take the women to a bar where Chico falls in love with the band's beautiful lead singer, Rita. Chico attempts to talk to her, but an American tourist refuses to let Rita leave him.
Chico and Ramón go to the Tropicana Club with their lady-friends, and sneak in through the performer’s entrance. While walking around, Chico sees upon Rita and her gentleman friend arguing. The Maitre d' overhears that Chico is an accomplished pianist and persuades him to substitute for the main event's missing pianist. Chico fills in, playing at first sight a new piece—Ebony Concerto by Igor Stravinsky. Chico, initially nervous, ends up performing the piece with aplomb, to the delight of the band.
Rita finally agrees to ditch her date and flee with Chico on Ramón’s motorcycle and sidecar, along with the Americans. After a dangerous chase, the American man finally crashes into a car dealership, and the others escape. Rita and Chico leave the rest of the party and go to a bar where Chico introduces her to bebop music, which she takes up quickly. Afterwards they go to Chico’s place and spend the rest of the night together.
The next day Rita wakes up to find Chico playing a new composition on the piano, which he names "Rita". As they play and kiss, Juana, Chico’s former girlfriend, walks in and picks a fight with Rita. The two women angrily leave Chico, feeling betrayed. However, Chico is still smitten with Rita and begs Ramon to convince her to perform with him for an upcoming radio contest. Ramon pays Rita to sing with Chico but after the contest, Rita leaves Chico without speaking to him. He follows her to the house of a santera, who predicts that Chico will cause her much suffering. That night, the station announces that Chico and Rita have won a month's engagement at the Hotel Nacional.
A few weeks later, Chico and Rita are having great success in their performances. Rita’s beauty mesmerizes all the men, which ignites Chico’s jealousy. One of the admirers, Ron, asks Rita to his table to discuss business. He offers to take Rita to New York City to make her a star, where jazz and Latin music are a burgeoning scene. However, Rita insists that the offer must include Chico. Meanwhile, Chico has been watching from a distance and becomes jealous, believing Rita wishes to leave him for Ron. Rita attempts to explain that she is fighting for both of them to go to New York together, but Chico storms off. Rita goes to his apartment and waits for Chico, but falls asleep in the courtyard. She is awakened by Chico stumbling home with Juana.
Hurt, Rita agrees to go to New York with Ron, alone. After her departure, Chico becomes depressed and he and Ramon eventually secure the means to go to New York to seek their fortunes as well. Chico and Ramón give Chano Pozo a letter of recommendation they received from his sister in Cuba. Chano is receptive and excited to meet fellow Cubans. However, he is involved in drugs and has a short temper. After discovering he was sold oregano instead of marijuana, Chano attacks the dealer, who later finds him in a bar and kills him.
Chico finds work as a party musician, and Ramón as an usher at the Plaza Hotel. At one of his party gigs, Chico runs into a successful Rita again, who is hurt by the racist doubts of her fellow party goers about her upcoming film project. Chico and Rita run away in her new car and spend the night together again. The next day, Ron locates Ramón and proposes a deal to finance his artist-agency business, as long as Ramon finds jobs to keep Chico away from Rita. Ramón complies with his end of the bargain and signs Chico with Dizzy Gillespie, who gives him a gig in Paris and a European tour.
Rita becomes a big film star while Chico finds a new girlfriend in Paris. One morning, while playing "Rita" at the piano, the girlfriend's dog, Lily, comes in and sits by Chico. He decides to change the name of the song to "Lily". Back in New York, despite her wealth and success, Rita is still mistreated socially due to her skin color. While being driven to a set, the radio plays a new Jazz hit that she instantly recognizes as the piece Chico composed for her. She is moved to tears when she learns Chico renamed the song.
In New York, Rita goes into a bar and sees Chico playing "Lily". She waits for him outside the bar and demands to know who Lilly is. He teases her about the mystery female's identity, but finally reveals that he renamed the song after a dog. The two passionately kiss and make up. A paparazzo captures the kiss in a photograph that appears in the newspapers.
Chico and Rita agree to marry that New Year’s Eve, after Rita’s debut in Las Vegas. Chico tells Ramón, who worries that their reunion will ruin his business. Ramón slips a packet of drugs into Chico’s coat, which police discover during a search after a raid on his gig at the Palladium in New York. They arrest Chico, and won't let him make a phone call to Rita, who waits in vain in a Las Vegas motel. Chico is soon deported back to Cuba.
Upset, Rita becomes drunk before her New Year's Eve performance, believing that Chico left her again. Despite Ron's urging to not "spoil it all now", Rita deliberately sabotages her career by denouncing the racism of the Hollywood industry and the hypocrisy of being a celebrated black artist. Meanwhile, Chico enters Cuba right at the beginning of Castro's regime, and the new Cuban revolutionary authorities seize his passport. All venues are now forbidden to play jazz because it is "capitalist music." Disappointed with life, Chico gives up music altogether.
Sixty years later, when Chico is shining shoes for a tourist, a young man rushes to him and tells him that a famous young singer and her entourage are eagerly asking for him and his jazz music. He reluctantly agrees to meet them and for the first time in years he plays his music for an audience. The singer asks him to record a song with her and Chico agrees. It becomes a big hit and takes him on a world tour, giving him success for the second time.
After the tour, Chico is allowed re-entry into the United States. He searches for Rita, starting in New York. He eventually finds Ron in a nursing home and discovers that his friend Ramón has died and learns Rita is in Las Vegas. He goes there and knocks on her door and she reveals that she has stayed for 47 years in the same motel room, working as the motel's housekeeper and waiting for him. The film ends with their reunion.
Director Fernando Trueba met designer and artist Javier Mariscal ten years earlier when he asked him to create a poster for his Latin jazz documentary Calle 54. So began a collaboration that saw Mariscal design all the artwork for Trueba's Calle 54 Records, make animated pop promos for the label, and together create a jazz-music restaurant in Madrid. Chico & Rita would be Javier Mariscal’s first animated feature film as designer. The idea to make an animated feature film emerged from one of those pop promos, La Negra Tomasa by Cuban musician Compay Segundo.
Mariscal's younger brother Tono Errando, with a background in music, film and animation, leads the audio-visual side of the multi-disciplinary creative company, and was chosen to collaborate with Trueba and Mariscal. From the beginning, all three men were excited by the idea of making a film set against the Havana music scene in the late-40s and 50s. "That age is beautiful in design and architecture, so visually it belongs very much to Mariscal's world," says Errando.
"And in music it's a moment that's fantastic: it's the moment where Cuban musicians go to New York and join the Anglo Saxon jazz musicians. This fusion changed the music at that time."
Before drawing the locations in Cuba, Mariscal completed an intense research trip. Although many of Havana’s pre-revolutionary buildings had decayed, either deliberately or from neglect, the filmmakers discovered that the Havana city government had assembled an archive of photographs to help with street repairs. Pictures of every street corner in Havana since 1949 were archived, conveying the look and mood of the era.
The team also found pictures taken inside the planes ferrying Americans to the party island. Mariscal explained that the planes arriving from New York, Washington, D.C. and Miami during that period were filled with Cuban musicians entertaining the passengers. They provided much historical information about the Cubans of that era: the clothes, the faces, the streets, billboards, cars, bars, the way they lived, and the sensational life of Havana.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures distributed the film in 100 Spanish theaters on 25 February 2010. GKIDS holds the distribution rights for the film in North America. The film has also been shown at the following festivals and released in the UK and Spain. The English dub will include the voices of Wendell Pierce, Mary J. Blige, Rob Riggle, Chris Pine, and Viola Davis.
- Bradford Animation Festival (UK) on 9 November 2010
- Telluride Film Festival on 4 September 2010
- Toronto International Film Festival in September 2010
- London Spanish Film Festival on 6 October 2010
- London Latin American Film Festival in November 2010
- Holland Animation Film Festival in November 2010
- Cape Town Design/FilmFest at Design Indaba February 2011
- Miami International Film Festival March 2011
- TYPO Berlin 2011 Design Conference on 19 May
- Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (opening gala show) in September 2011
Chico & Rita was broadly praised by critics upon release, gaining a score of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. The BBC's Mark Kermode listed the film fifth in his top five films of 2010. Philip French called the film "the year's best musical and one of the year's finest animated films" and an "utterly delightful, ...affecting, funny, historically accurate and at times pleasingly erotic story", while Sounds and Colors called the film "a crowning achievement; a mixture of great animation, music and history with a narrative that reads like the simple story of heartbreak that bestows the greatest of love songs."
In March 2011, The Miami Herald said "the film melds dazzling visuals and a wildly infectious score into a simple yet affecting love story" and while the "first 30 minutes of Chico & Rita achieve a giddy high the rest of the movie can never match", "Chico & Rita makes you fall hard for music, as hard as the protagonists fall for each other, and the movie is decent enough to give its lovebirds the tender finale they deserve." Fotogramas, the oldest and most prestigious film magazine in Spain, gave the film 4 out of 5 stars and praised how its characters were "more human and alive than many real actors", unlike Variety, which negatively reviewed the film, calling it, "...a test, one that gauges whether your love of Cuban jazz can exceed your threshold for lousy animation... [in] an unflattering style, like a children's coloring book with its rudimentary line drawings and stiff, expressionless characters." The film was "...evocative enough of late-'40s Havana and the sweaty, sensual music of the time."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result|
|Academy Awards||26 February 2012||Best Animated Feature||Fernando Trueba
|Annie Awards||4 February 2012||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|European Film Awards||3 December 2011||Best Animated Feature Film||Tono Errando
|Festival of European Animated Feature Films and TV Specials||19 June 2011||Hungarian National Student Jury Award||Fernando Trueba
|Goya Awards||13 February 2011||Best Animated Film||Fernando Trueba
According to Tono Errando, "it was the moment when new musicians came along like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie with a new kind of music, that is not for dancing, full of notes, played really fast, a music that now we call jazz. Then the Cuban musicians arrived. Dizzy Gillespie has said many times in interviews, there was a moment for him that was very important, it was the moment he first played with Chano Pozo. Pozo was the first percussionist that played in a jazz band."
Cuban pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger of the film Bebo Valdés was living in obscurity in Stockholm, when Trueba reintroduced his playing to an international audience with his film Calle 54, and went on to produce the Grammy-winning Lagrimas Negras album, teaming Valdes with flamenco singer Diego 'el Cigala'.
Trueba was also able to persuade the real-life flamenco star Estrella Morente, who has been performing since the age of seven, to participate in the film.
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- Winners, The Holland Animation Film Festival.
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