MANILA – The well-loved “Wreck-It Ralph” characters, Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz go back to the big screen in “Ralph Breaks the Internet”. But before you head over to the nearest cinema house, let’s put the spotlight first to one of the key people that made the film happen, Disney’s Filipina American animator, Josie Trinidad.
As Disney’s Co-Head of Story, Trinidad oversees the story team, which is responsible for translating the script to its first visual form. Adobo magazine sat down with Trinidad to talk about what ignited her desire to be an animator, her journey as part of Disney’s creative force, and the legendary animators she looks up to.
She was inspired to pursue animation as a career at age 8 while watching “Robin Hood” on VHS. Watching the movie frame by frame showcased the art of animation to Trinidad. “I was with my best friend. My best friend and I were watching Robin Hood–and this was on VHS–and we paused it but it started to play by frame by frame and I saw what I thought were characters that were alive and I saw these individual beautiful drawings and then I was like, ‘Wait, there’s a person behind those drawings! This is something I could do.’”
At first, her parents think of her going to character animation only as a “hobby.” But over the years, after earning a degree in English Literature in UCLA and seeing her passion for the arts, Trinidad’s parents became extremely supportive. In fact, they were even the ones who took her to drawing classes in Los Angeles. So after going to UCLA, she went to California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) to take up animation.
Finally, in 2004, Trinidad joined Disney as a story apprentice. Once she completed training, she was hired as a story artist. Her Disney credits include 2016’s Oscar®-winning feature “Zootopia” as co-head of story, 2012’s arcade-game-hopping “Wreck-It Ralph,” WDAS’s 2010 adventure “Tangled,” 2009’s feature film “The Princess and the Frog,” and shorts “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater” and “The Ballad of Nessie.”
When asked how it feels working in a prestigious company like Disney, Trinidad shares, “It’s an honor. It’s really fun working with these directors, writers, and really talented artists. One of the most surprising things I discovered when I started at Disney animation was how friendly, genuine, kind, and generous with their time everyone was.”
One of the exciting things about working in Disney, of course, is to learn from the best animators in the world like Glen Keane and Mark Henn. “You can knock on their door and ask them about their experiences and they’re more than willing to help. They will spend time with you, sharing information on the past of Disney, having worked with Disney’s Nine Old Men or Disney’s core animators who created some of Disney’s most popular movies.”
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows as Trinidad also has her fair share of challenges. “The most challenging part is facing the blank page because it’s so daunting. Everyone’s going to watch this movie and it’s going to be all over the world. It can be very overwhelming.”
For Trinidad, determination, and eagerness to learn helped her to be the animator she is today. “When I’m asked a sequence I really ask the director, ‘What is the purpose of this sequence and how does it fit in with the overall story?’. I gather information and do a lot of research, then I find something that I can really connect to in the material.”
Trinidad also reveals some of the legendary animators that she really looks up to, which includes Disney’s Nine Old Men. “I really like Milt Kahl, he was a great draftsman and animator. There’s also a guy named John Lounsbery who’s another Disney legend. I love the films of Nick Park of Aardman Animations but he’s a phenomenal storyteller. Of course, I love Disney and I admire animators like Glen Keane, Mark Henn, and Ruben Aquino!”
And for those who would like to be an animator, Trinidad shares that it isn’t for the faint of heart. “When you get into animation it’s a little crazy. It’s a laborious process but it’s a labor of love so you really have to love animation, and be true to yourself.”