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This project was successfully funded on August 16, 2012

The Codex Migratus Animatus

by Michael Menchaca


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Thank you for your interest in my project. I want to create an animated film that chronicles a narrative based on current events along the US-Mexican border. Using the form of an ancient codex, or specifically, the Mesoamerican manuscripts connecting humans to their fates, I tell the story of downtrodden cats. Through metaphor, I present contemporary stories of illegal immigration as artifact. The narrative follows disadvantaged cats in search of a better life after tyrannous rats have infested their homeland. Dogs guard a safe point. By turning towards ancient methods of documentation, I’ve developed a system of recording episodes in the life of these cats in a way that channels into ancient Mexican history. I present their story as an ancient codex not unlike the ancient codices of the Mayans and Aztecs. These elaborate and ornate books were used to document cycles of time and were created by theme.  Similarly, the theme of this project is on migration, hence the Latin root word “Migratus” in the title.


In 2006 President Felipe Calderon ignited an offensive against the drug cartels in Mexico. Since then, over 34,000 murders have taken place. Drug traffickers slaughter innocent victims in the crossfire’s of rival drug gangs’ battles. Mexico also suffers from a staggering economy, one held back by governmental corruption, poverty, and lack of development. Many Mexican citizens have no choice but to flee the country. Thousands of Mexican citizens make the attempt to immigrate to the United States illegally every year. Not all who attempt make it successfully across and not all who attempt the dangerous journey survive.

Each animal in the Codex Migratus personifies a real-life participant from the events. The associations these animals carry with them, whether from art history or from modern-day culture, become part of each participant’s persona. This gives the viewer a new context for framing these current events. The horrors along the US/Mexican border become easier to digest when introduced with an indication of levity. The use of humor in the work allows for a tension to exist that I’m interested in creating. Humor is a universal language that has the ability to cross both geographical boundaries and age boundaries. There is no limit as to who can interpret this language. It’s also a subjective one. This reflects the nature of the subject being presented.


The type of animation I’ll use on this project will be based on modern cartoon productions of the 1940’a —1960's. This style of animation will carry out a familiar presentation for humor that's beneficial for re-interpreting these events as an allegory. The reference to saturday-morning-cartoons clashes with the news subjects being presented,  creating an ambivalence that characterizes the real-life situation. As for the execution of the animated sequences, I am creating elaborate ornamental patterns for the character interaction to take place in front of. I am making over 100 sets of patterns to be used in this film in order to re-create the spectacular visuals of the ancient codices in an animated format. This mix would relate to the original idea of assigning real-life actions with animated representations of actual events. The dialogue between characters will consist of entirely of sound-effects, surrendering to communication of primitive man.


This project is very important to me. You would be helping me reach a lifelong dream of making an animated feature-length film. With the minimum goal reached, I will be able to purchase the software necessary to produce such a project and also a computer that’s powerful enough run this animation software. Simple post-production would also be included with this minimum amount. Donations beyond this goal would be used towards the next phase of production. These would include purchasing a video camera for incorporating live-action footage into the narrative and also towards adding a soundtrack to accompany the film. 


The current state of affairs affecting Mexico is not getting much coverage in the United States. Living in Texas has made me very conscious of the inhumane treatment of illegal immigrants. The extent of their horror stories is not something to be taken lightly. By calling attention to these factors that are affecting both the US and Mexico, I aim to create a figuration of these events and present them as an allegory. This project can help establish a critical dialogue necessary for the success of both countries.


Thank you for reading.


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    • March 25, 2014 nelsonpitterp Community Member

      It is good to know that rats and cats are enemies from ancient times. What are tyrannous rats. Is there any role of pest control in the film.