Feature-Length Cartoons featuring the
Native Peoples of Central and South America

= Lame, Crummy.    = OK, Watchable.    = Good.    = Very Good.    = Great, Classic.

The Emperor's New Groove

Studio:Walt Disney
Director:Mark Dindal
Writer:Mark Dindal
Art Directors:Thomas Cardone
Thomas Stimpson
Music:John Debney
Length:77 minutes
Native Content:high
Released on:DVD
Rating: very good

This entertaining comedy could have taken place anywhere, and at any time-- or at least, wherever there is a bratty emperor threatening to demolish peasant lands in order to build a royal swimming pool. John Goodman is the peasant Pacha who befriends the emperor (David Spade) who has been turned into a llama. The film shows very little of Incan culture except for the wonderful backgrounds, which creatively play upon motifs of Incan art and architecture. Eartha Kitt and Patrick Warburton also provide voices, and Sting wrote an original song for this film, which came out the same year as the very similar The Road to El Dorado. The sequel, Kronk's New Groove (2005), besides showing the usual decline in quality you'd expect from a sequel, sheds the Incan theme altogether--it could pass for an episode of The Flintstones.

Director:Carlos Kuri
Writers:Carlos Kuri, Riley Roca
Animation: Armando Avilez, Ramón Baturoni
Music:Renato Vizuet
Year/length:2010, 100 minutes
Setting:Mexico, 1790-1821
Indian Content:high
Released on:DVD (Mexico)
Rating: lousy ok good very good

A surprisingly good telling of the Mexican War of Independence as seen through the eyes of an indigenous family: the young Mixcóatl, his brawny brother Tahatsi, his quick-thinking sister Tonatsin, her Spanish novio Carlos, and their mestizo half-brother Xama, who betrays the family. Xama kills their grandfather and blames it on Mixcóatl, who must go into hiding with his best friend Carlos. When they seek refuge in a church run by the progressive priest Don Miguel Hidalgo y Castillo (an actual historical figure), the whole family is swept up into the cause for independence, except the half-brother Xama, who is reluctantly recruited to the loyalist army. Aside from the silly musical sequences this is a genuinely absorbing film that draws the viewer into the drama of Mexico's history, with moments of suspense, sadness, and humor.

Sinopsis en español:
Cinco jóvenes (un criollo, tres indígenas y un mestizo) se ven involucrados por azares del destino en el movimiento de independencia de México. A través de sus ojos y acompañados de emocionantes aventuras y buen humor conoceremos personajes históricos y veremos la conspiración de Querétaro, el grito de Dolores y las campañas de Hidalgo, Allende y Morelos, hasta llegar a la culminación del movimiento.

La leyenda de la Nahuala

(The Legend of the Nahuala)

Director: Ricardo Arnaiz.
Writers: Antonio Garci, Omar Mustre.
2007. 82 minutes.
Setting: Ciudad de Puebla, 1802.
Language: Spanish
Indian Conent: low
Released on: DVD

On the Day of the Dead in 1802, an easily-frightened boy named Leo must enter a haunted house to rescue his brother Nando, who has been captured by La Nahuala, a creatured from old Poblano legends. There is one Indian character, Xochitl, who is a ghost in the house, and other themes and images from indigenous or mestizo traditions. Unique, beautifully animated, with a great cast of characters. The DVD includes many extra features, including games for kids.

Sinopsis en español:
Ambientada en Puebla el año de 1807, La leyenda de la Nahuala cuenta la historia de Leo San Juan, un niño que vive eternamente asustado por las historias de terror que le cuenta Nando, su hermano mayor. Entre ellas está “La Leyenda de la Nahuala”, según la cual, una vieja Casona abandonada se encuentra poseída por el espíritu de una malvada bruja conocida como la Nahuala, que espera el alma de un niño inocente para resucitar y obtener poder absoluto. La Leyenda se convierte en realidad cuando el espíritu de la Nahuala secuestra a Nando y Leo se ve obligado a vencer todos sus miedos para rescatar a su hermano. En su recorrido por el interior de la Casona Embrujada, Leo se enfrentará a peligros, seres sobrenaturales, y descubrirá que esa casona esconde una terrible historia que pone en grave peligro no sólo la vida de Leo y Nando, también tranquilidad de toda la Ciudad de Puebla.

Martin Fierro la pelicula

Aleph Media/Maiz Producciones Directors: Norman Ruiz, Liliana Romero
Writer/designer: Roberto Fontanarrosa
Animators: Iván Pizarro, Liliana Romero, Mariano Sister
Music: Mauro Lázaro, Fernando Pécora
2007. 88 minutes. 2.35:1.
Setting: Patagonia, 19th century
Language: Spanish
Indian Content: medium-low
Released on: region 4 DVD

Argentina's national epic poem El Gaucho Martín Fierro (1872), written by José Hernández (1834-1886), is colorfully brought to life in this dramatic, suspenseful film. The tale laments the fallen heroism of the gauchos--Argentine cowboys--when the goverment expanded into the west and hired poor ranchers to drive out of the indigenous peoples, who are here presented as the enemy, although Fierro's wife and children are also indigenous. As the epic was rooted in the oral tradition of payadas, the folksongs of the gauchos, the music in this film is appropriately sumptuous, evoking the cold, howling plains. The artwork, designed by popular cartoonist Roberto Negro Fontanarrosa, is also excellent. Martín Fierro, la película is one of several adaptations of the epic (and not the first animated version). The DVD released by SBP Video is region 4. It plays perfectly on a computer. Subtitles in Spanish and English, with about an hour of making-of features.

Sinopsis en español:
La pampa argentina vive tiempos de cambio, los terratenientes avanzan hacia el sur en busca de más territorio para su ganado, empujando la tenaz resistencia de los indios. En los fortines, los soldados son escasos. Los poderosos reclaman protección y los Gauchos son el recurso más económico para defender sus intereses. Uno a uno se los arrebata de sus campos y sus ranchos para formar parte de un ejército alimentado de hambre y olvido: Martín Fierro es uno de ellos. Lejos de los suyos, con la promesa incierta de un regreso al hogar que nunca se produce, obligado a enfrentarse con pobres e inocentes, Fierro y su puñal, se levantan contra tanta injusticia para recuperar su familia y su libertad. Montado en su potro fiel, atravesará los innumerables peligros de la pampa hostil, para volver a su hogar. Martín Fierro, la película es la increíble aventura de un hombre que se enfrentó contra todo y contra todos para recuperar su dignidad.


Director: Ricardo Arnaiz
Writer: Ricardo Arnaiz
2009. 86 minutes.
Setting: Yocán, a city in Hule (fictional places)
Indian Content: high
Language: Spanish
Released on: DVD released in Mexico

While a family is visiting an Olmec site, the oldest daughter, Nikté, falls asleep and dreams that she is back in pre-Columbian times, in the city of Yocan. Learning of a prophecy that a princess will fall from the sky when a comet comes, Nikté and her friend Chin arrange for her to fall from the sky right in front of the temple of Xtabay. However, Nikté finds that she must undergo a series of adventures before she can become princess. She encounters ghosts, monsters, dragons, scorpions, giant worms, a flatulent turkey, and a boy who wants to seduce her for his father's dire plans. This is the second feature from Animex, which also made La leyenda de la Nahuala. But Nikté is even better, with a more exiciting story, and a great variety of funny characters.

Sinopsis en español:
Situada en lo que ahora es Tabasco, durante la época precolombina, la película narra la historia de Nikté, una niña huérfana de carácter muy difícil que desea ser importante y, para lograrlo, engaña a su pueblo haciéndose pasar por la princesa anunciada en una profecía. Lo que no sabe es que la profecía exigirá mucho más de lo que ella puede ofrecer y que para cumplirla vivirá muchas aventuras, donde aprenderá que para ser el más grande, primero hay que ser el más pequeño.

Director:Alejandro Rojas
Writers: Themo Lobos, Daniel Turkieltaub
Animation:Rommy Rivera, etc.
Music:Joe Vasconcellos,
Mito Manutomatoma
Year/length:2002. 75 minutes.
Setting:Rapa Nui, Chile
Culture:Rapa Nui
Indian Content:medium
Released on:DVD (outside U.S.)
Rating: ok

Mampato is a Chilean boy with a time machine who transports himself to Pre-Colombian Rapa Nui. There he meets his friend Ogu, an ape-like creature whom he runs into in all his time travel adventures. In Rapa Nui the pair find themselves embroiled in a political fued between the evil ruler, el Gran Ariki, who forces everyone to make the monumental Moai statues, and his son, the enlightened Joven Ariki. Partaking of local custom, the heroes participate in a dangerous obstacle race which includes a swim to the small island of Motu Nui to capture the first egg of the Tara bird. The winner becomes the Tangata Manu (birdman) for the year. Based on a popular Chilean comic book series by Themo Lobos.

Sinopsis en español:
Entusiasmado por las historias que le cuenta su padre sobre Isla de Pascua, Mampato decide visitar este lugar y conocer más acerca de sus misterios. Con su cinto espacio-temporal, viaja a la prehistoria en busca de su amigo y compañero Ogú, un simpático hombre de las cavernas. Juntos viajan a través del tiempo y el espacio, destino a la mítica isla de Rapa Nui. En ésta conocen a una pequeña lugareña llamada Marama, la que será su guía y compañera en esta aventura. Involuntariamente, los protagonistas se internan en los conflictos y rivalidades de sus habitantes, donde los ariki (Orejas Largas) mantienen sometidos a los Orejas Cortas, de los que Marama es parte. En la aventura, gozan de la hospitalidad de los isleños Orejas Cortas", pero también son perseguidos por los "Orejas Largas" y sus protegidos, que han mantenido subyugados a los pascuenses por años, dominándolos y explotándolos. Deben ocultarse de sus secuaces y finalmente participan en una rebelión en su contra, que culmina gracias a la astucia de Mampato con la posesión de la isla y la recuperación de los derechos de los pascuenses.

Director:Juan Antin
Writer:Juan Antin, et al.
Art Direction:Carlos de Carvalho
Aurélie Raphaël
Music:Pierre Hamon
Length:72 minutes
Setting:Tawantinsuyu, 1532
Language:French; dubbed into English
Culture:Inka, Quechua
Native Content:very high
Released on:Netflix
Rating: great

The Inka's tax-collectors come to a village outside Cusco and take more than their share of the harvest, as well as a golden statue sacred to the village. Tepulpai and Naira, a boy and girl, decide to travel to Cusco to get the statue back, accompanied by their pets, a llama and an armadillo. Although this magical film doesn't seek to be accurate, it does delve past the popular understanding of the Inka Empire and gets quite a few things right: The Inkas were ethnically and culturally different from the peoples they conquered. The Quechuas were nature worshippers, focusing particularly on apus (mountain peaks), unusual rocks, and sources of water, while the Inkas claimed to be descendents of the sun and focused their worship sunward. The Inkas did indeed collect taxes of crops and labor, and probably some of the kings were as out of touch as the one in Pachamama seems to be, refusing to believe the reports of white-skinned invaders. We also see chaskis, offerings of first fruits, mummified ancestors who are consulted and revered, and even a few Quechua words (kirkinchu for armadillo, pututu for the chaski's conch). This French production is a beautifully animated film full of adventure, wonder, and laughs. Let's hope it is dubbed into Quechua soon. Coming to Netflix in the summer of 2019.

Trailer: vimeo.com/157586595

Available on Netflix: netflix.com/title/81029736

Sinopsis en español:
Tepulpai, un travieso niño de diez años que sueña con ser chamán, es el protagonista de la historia y se aventura en un viaje por tierras inexploradas y llenas de peligros, junto a su amiga Naira y su mascota, una llama que habla, para intentar recuperar una estatua dorada de gran valor ceremonial para su pueblo.


Director: José Luis Massa
Writers: Dante Quinterno, Axel Nacher, Omar Quiroga
Animation:Franco Bittolo, etc.
Music:Eduardo Frigerio
Year/length:2004. 75 minutes.
Setting:Patagonia, Argentina
Indian Content:medium-high
Released on:DVD (Chile)
Rating: lousy ok good

Patoruzito is a Tehuelche boy living in Patagonia, and is the last descendant of the Patoruzek dynasty. When the time comes for him to become cacique, Cachicó, another boy his age, challenges him. Cachicó teams up with the evil archaeologist Mr. Ferguson, who seeks the missing half of an ancient Egyptian amulet in a hidden valley sacred to the Tehuelches. This is decent entertainment for kids. Based on the comic strip begun in 1945 by Dante Quinterno (which was in turn based on the adult version of the character, Patoruzú, who first appeared in 1928).

Sinopsis en español:
A Patoruzito le ha llegado, según la tradición de los Tehuelches, el momento de convertirse en el cacique de la tribu. Creció rodeado del amor de la Chacha, en la estancia, junto a Ñancul y Upita, y cuenta ya con el coraje y la bondad propia de su linaje, que siempre ha ofrendado su esfuerzo para que el bien prevaleciera sobre el mal. Pero para cumplir su destino, deberá antes enfrentar y vencer a peligrosos adversarios que harán lo imposible para evitarlo. Uno de sus enemigos es Cachicó, un envidioso indio de su misma edad, siempre acompañado por sus secuaces Tino y Moncho, quien encuentran en Patoruzito un obstáculo insalvable para sus codiciosas intenciones. El otro es Mr. Ferguson, un misterioso arqueólogo extranjero, obsesionado por acceder a un mítico lugar llamado "El Valle Perdido", tierra sagrada para los Tehuelches.

Director: José Luis Massa
Writers: Axel Nacher, Omar Quiroga
Animation:Jorge Marinucci, etc.
Music:Eduardo Frigerio
Year/length:2006. 81 minutes.
Setting:Patagonia; Buenos Aires, Argentina
Indian Content:low
Released on:DVD (Argentina)
Rating: good

Patoruzito is invited to march in a parade in Buenos Aires. He and his friends go to the capital and encounter further adventures when they stay in a haunted house. The second Patoruzito has fewer Indian characters than the first movie.

Sinopsis en español:
Patoruzito viaja a Buenos Aires para representar a su raza en una fecha patria, y allí se encuentra con una mansión en la que una bruja pretende hacer prisionera a un hada.

(Pirates in Callao)

Director: Eduardo Schuldt
Writers: Pipo Gallo, Hernan Garrido Lecca
Animation: Alpamayo Studios
Music: Diego Rivera
2005. 78 minutes.
Setting: Callao, Peru,
Language: Spanish
Indian Content: medium-low
Released on: DVD

In 1969, a class on a field trip visits the colonial fortress Real Felipe in the port town of Callao a few miles from Lima, Peru. One boy, Alberto, is inexplicably transported back in time to 1624, when Peru is about to be invaded by Dutch pirates. Alberto is invisible to the people of 1624, but that doesn't stop him from falling in love with the Indian girl Urpi. He resolves to help her and her older brother Tupac, who plan to join forces with the pirates to defeat the Spanish. The plot--based on 1996 children's book by Hernán Garrido Lecca--is quite complicated, but the dialogue and humor seem intended for younger children, and the whole cartoon feels like a product. This was the first computer animated film in Peru or in Latin America, and the art isn't so bad for a fledling effort by 14 animators. It's a valiant effort, but they should have taken more care to construct a quality story to go along with the technology. Also available in an English-dubbed version.

Sinopsis en español:
Cuando el niño Alberto realizaba, junto con sus compañeros, una visita a la fortaleza colonial conocida como el Real Felipe, no imaginó la gran aventura que iba a protagonizar. Tras extraviarse en sus pasadizos, toca accidentalmente una piedra mágica que lo lanza en un viaje a través del tiempo. Así, nuestro amiguito acaba en el año 1624, poco antes del ataque de la flota del pirata holandés Jacques L Hermite al puerto del Callao. Pronto conocerá a dos amigos más, también de su edad: Urpi, una niña indígena, e Ignacio, proveniente de 1866 (otro involuntario viajero del tiempo). La invasión de L’Hermite parece inevitable… ahora, serán estos tres niños de diferentes épocas, quizás, la única esperanza de salvar al Callao de los piratas. También conocida como Piratas en el Pacífico, es la primera película animada en 3D peruana (y latinoamericana). Basada en el libro infantil de Hernán Garrido Lecca.

Popol Vuh

Director / writer: Patricia Amlin
Animators: Patricia Amlin, Joanne Corso, Martha Corzycka, Bud Luckey
Narrators: Larry George (Yakima)
Voices: Teatro Campesino
Music: Tod Boekilheide, Xochimoki, Mazatl Galindo, Jim Berenholtz
1988. 60 minutes. Rated G.
Setting: Guatemala, pre-Columbian times
Language: English
Indian Content: high
Released on: institutional DVD (for libraries & museums)

A creative adaptation of the ancient Quiche text. The unusual animation is based on actual Mayan art, morphing back and forth from still images to movement, and from authentic art to more stylized animation. The intended audience seems to be children, but the slippery Ovidian transitions between episodes and the overall weirdness may be disorienting to people unfamiliar with the myths. This film will appeal best to those who are already fans of Mayan culture. Patricia Amlin also directed Five Suns: A Sacred History of Mexico.

Sinopsis en español:
La gran épica Maya de la creación contada por medio de una animación que se deriva de libros y cerámicas antiguas.

Director/Writer: Luiz Bolognesi
Animation:Bruno Monteiro
Music:Rica Amabis, Tejo Damasceno, Pupillo
Year/length:2013. 74 minutes.
Setting:Tupinambas Village, 1566;
Maranhão, 1825;
Rio de Janeiro, 1968 & 2096
Indian Content:low
Released on:DVD (Brazil)
Rating: lousy ok good good

Loosely based on Tupinambá mythology, the film tells the story of Abeguar, a warrior who has been chosen by the god Munhã to protect his people from the evil spirit Anhangá, who will seek to destroy them again and again throughout the ages. The first sign of evil is the arrival of white strangers from two tribes, France and Portugal, who invade their land. Abeguar and his wife Janaína escape by turning into birds and flying away. The story then advances to other times: a slave revolt in 1825, a student insurgency movement against the dictatorship in 1968, and a war over water in a resource-starved future in 2096. In each scenario, Abeguar and Janaína are reborn as different people and must fight oppression all over again. A very unique and original film.
Official website (in English or Portuguese): umahistoriadeamorefuria.com.br/en/
Facebook page (Portuguese): facebook.com/umahistoriadeamorefuria

Resumo em português:
Uma História de Amor e Fúria é um filme de animação que retrata o amor entre um herói imortal e Janaína, a mulher por quem é apaixonado há 600 anos. Como pano de fundo do romance, o longa de Luiz Bolognesi ressalta quatro fases da história do Brasil: a colonização, a escravidão, o Regime Militar e o futuro, em 2096, quando haverá guerra pela água. Destinado ao público jovem e adulto com traço e linguagem de HQ, o filme traz Selton Mello e Camila Pitanga dublando os protagonistas. O longa conta ainda com a participação de Rodrigo Santoro, na pele do chefe indígena e de um guerrilheiro.

The Road to El Dorado

Dreamworks Studios
Directors: Don Paul, Bibo Bergeron
Writers: Terry Rossio, Ted Elliott
2000. 89 minutes. Rated PG.
Setting: a Mayan city, 1512.
Language: English
Indian Content: medium
Released on: DVD

Tulio and Miguel are a couple of Spanish con artists who flee from the police by jumping on a boat which takes them to the New World. There they try to convince the locals that they are gods, aided by the curvaceous thief Chel. Taking advantage of tensions between the emperor and the religious leader, the two rogues manage to put an end to human sacrifice while also scoring a treasure of gold. The humor works principally through an annoyingly contemporary sarcasm, expressed through Tulio and Miguel's cliche buddy-banter. The voices, facial expressions, and gestures are all reproduced with slavish accuracy to 1990s pop culture, leaving little screentime for Mayan culture. However, the background artwork is sumptuous--the architecture, artifacts, jungles, and costumes are all so beautiful that no one should mind the historical inaccuracies. And the special effects used for the magic sequences are also impressive. This film came out the same year as Disney's The Emperor's New Groove. Although Disney's Incan cartoon is funnier, Dreamwork's Mayan adventure sports better artwork, and will probably appeal more to fans of Indian culture.

Studio: ChileToons
2010. 70 minutes.
Setting: Mapuche territory, 1534-1557
Language: Spanish
Indian Content: high
Released on: DVD

Based on the life of Leftxaru (1534-1557), chief warrior (Toki) of the Mapuches, who led several successful battles against the Spanish. His father Curiñancu was also a Toki, and gave his son a name that means "swift falcon." Leftxaru sees his father die in a battle with the Winkas (foreigners) and is captured by them. He lives with the Winkas for several years, learning their strategies, strength and weaknesses, their weapons and their horses, until he is old enough to escape and lead his people against them. The art is simple but effective, and the battle scenes are not bloody, making this cartoon suitable ideal for kids. The DVD (available from Amazon) has no subtitles, but the Spanish is spoken slowly and is very easy to understand. Leftxaru's name is pronounced Leftraru here, as it is sometimes spelled in other sources. Based on the graphic novel series Histocomix.

Sinopsis en español:
Narra la vida del guerrero mapuche Leftxaru [Lautaro] y su lucha contra los españoles. Un niño que era feliz en su tierra con los suyos, pero luego de presenciar la terrible muerte de su padre se vio cautivo de un extraño winka (invasor). Tras vivir como caballerizo del jefe winka y luego de un difícil tiempo pero lleno de enseñanzas y descubrimientos, sintió el llamado de la tierra, de su tierra. Escapó y volvió con los suyos para transformarse en su líder, devolviéndoles su tierra, su equilibrio y su dignidad. La esperanza renacía, hasta que Leftxaru encuentra su destino en Peteroa. Basado en Histocomix.

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