Since childhood he dreamt of being a musician, but he knew that it was not his calling. For this reason, whilst in high school, Gabriel Osorio took drawing classes with the artist Alejandra Wolff. A pastime which transformed into a passion and would later catapult him to succes thanks to ‘Bear Story’, the first Chilean animated short film to win an Oscar.
Towards the end of February 2016 Chilean cinematographic history was changed forever. No one ever imagined that one day Chile would step up onto the podium at the famed Oscar Awards, and yet it happened. Four young Chileans achieved this feat when they won the coveted award thanks to their short film ‘Bear Story’, in the category of Best Short Film (animated).
The ‘brains’ behind this achievement can be credited to Gabriel Osorio, founder of Punkrobot, the Chilean animation studio which created ‘Bear Story’.
Osorio is a plastic arts graduate with a distinction in painting from the Universidad de Chile, he went to middle school at Colegio Gabriela Mistral and he went to high school at Colegio Pedro de Valdivia. Today, he teaches classes at Universidad de Las Américas, where he gives 3D I and II workshops.
Since childhood he dreamt of being a musician, but he knew that it was not his calling. For this reason, whilst in high school, Gabriel Osorio took drawing classes with the artist Alejandra Wolff.
“It was an incredible experience. She taught me drawing techniques which were much more structured. At that point I said “right, this is what I want to do. I’m going to study art”, explains Osorio in an interview with the newspaper La Tercera.
The secret behind ‘Bear Story’
At first glance, ‘Bear Story’ seems to have a simple interpretation: a sad and solitary bear who builds a magical handmade diorama in an attempt to remember a past, happier life, with a wife and son, before a circus rips him from his home and forces him to work and lead a miserable life. However, the animated short film hides a far deeper meaning.
It refers to the exile of Gabriel’s grandfather, Leopoldo Osorio -who was secretary to the overthrown President Salvador Allende-, to England in 1975, after spending two years in prison. Therefore, the critically acclaimed film is transformed into a metaphor for the fates of the political prisoners, those who were exiled and those who disappeared in Chile between the 70’s and 90’s.
“Throughout my childhood I felt an invisible presence of an absent grandfather, who was not dead, but neither was he present in my life. My short film is not about the life of my grandfather, but it is inspired by his absence and how that marked me”, explains Gabriel Osorio in the presentation of ‘Bear Story’ on the website of his animation studio, Punkrobot.
The emotive Chilean animated short film beat ‘Sanjay’s Super Team’, a Disney/Pixar film inspired by the childhood memories of its Indian director, which was rumoured to be the favourite to win the 2016 Oscar alongside ‘World of Tomorrow’. The remaining nominations which completed the category were the Russian short film ‘We Can’t Live Without Cosmos’ and ‘Prologue’.
Plans and role models
After the success of ‘Bear Story’, Gabriel Osorio stated in an interview with the newspaper La Tercera that his ideal job would be to make an independent animated film, that would not be too costly, but neither would it have a very low budget.
His role model is the producer Cartoon Saloon, who, in his opinion, have animations which stand out for the strength of their messages and clarity surrounding their identity.
What are Gabriel Osorio’s plans for the future? In an interview for BBC World, the filmmaker confirmed that he is happy working in Chile with local talent. “Even if everything is a bit more homemade, we can have more control over what we are doing. I’d rather be first in a village than second in Rome”, claims the distinguished national director.