interview with Carlos Baena by Mike Rickard.
3D Total: Tell
us about yourself.
Baena: My name
is Carlos Baena. I've been animating
since 1997. I've been fortunate enough
to have worked at places such as Will
Vinton Studios, Click3X, Wildbrain Inc.
and more recently Industrial Light &
Magic. I'm currently an animator at
Pixar Animation Studios. I've been enjoying
this field more and more every year
as well as the people you get to meet.
character from Carlos' extensive portfolio
What's a typical day for you?
I basically start out by going to "dailies".
These are meetings & reviews of the
animation shots in progress with the
director, the editor and all the animators.
Sometimes dailies can be as early as
8am. In these "dailies" both the director
and the animators tell you whether your
shot is going the right way, or which
changes could improve it, performance
wise and direction wise. Throughout
the day and with the help and feedback
of the animators surrounding me I work
on my shots and I try to bring my best
ideas to my shots. Sometimes someone
will give me an idea about my shot that
ends up being better than the one I
originally thought of. This is when
you realize how much of a difference
team work can make to any project. At
the end of the day, the director/animation
supervisors go through people's offices
reviewing shots again. At Pixar they
call these "walkthrus". This is when
you end up either going home early or
maybe staying a little later at work
trying to improve the shot. In the end
all this feedback makes the film better.
typical day for Carlos, hard(ly) at
work! He's the airbourne guy btw...
You've worked for some pretty high profile
companies - notably ILM & Pixar, which
for many 3d artists would be their dream
job. Is it as cool and glamorous as
Well, I do have to say that I've had
the most fun I've ever had in these
two places than in most other places
I got to work. For me it all comes down
to who are the people surrounding you
every single day. Both at ILM & Pixar
I've been fortunate enough to work side
to side and to share offices with some
of my best friends whom I knew from
long before. ILM or Pixar added a lot
to this, in the sense that I got a chance
to work on really fun projects that
not everyone has the chance to work
on and that you are proud of them. But
I really think if you work with people
around you who are constantly making
you have a good time, making you learn
and improve at what you do and make
you forget that you even have a job,
then to me, that's a dream job.
Is there any part of your job you don't
Like any other job, there are things
like deadlines, stress and pressure
that you have to constantly deal with
somehow. Sometimes deadlines can drive
you a little crazy - shots don't come
out the way you first expected them
to, or you get last minute changes that
will turn your shot upside down. Unfortunately
this comes with any job so you have
to do your best at dealing with it.
Some people do know how to deal with
them with such a good attitude.
here is one of the main characters in
Carlos' short film.
Who are your favourite artists or animators?
Who inspires you?
Wow...Long list here. I've been getting
really inspired by my co-workers. It's
just mind blowing the talent & knowledge
going on at Pixar. Something as simple
as a quick sketch done by another animator
already impresses me. There is definitely
a few artists and animators I'm looking
up for constantly. Here at work there
is a few animators that I feel are doing
the best animation work I've gotten
the opportunity to see in this industry,
such as Doug Sweetland, Brett Coderre,
Rich Quade or John Kars to name a few.
Dailies are always humbling, It's almost
like watching the work of these people
makes me tell myself "would you look
at that? Now go back to your desk and
let's try a little harder, come on...".
It really pushes you. Other animators
whose work I've always respected or
who I've learned from in the past are
David Weinstein, Delio Tramanzotti,
Steven Rawlins, Mike Thurmeier, Scott
Robideau, Rodrigo Blaas, Traci Horie,
Bobby Beck, Shawnk Kelly, Joe Henke,
Glenn McIntosh, and the list goes on
and on. I love the attitude of people
like Glenn Keane and Glenn McQueen.
Everytime I see one of Glenn Keane's
lectures it makes me so aware about
how much I have to learn....in many
ways. The guy is just so humble about
his work...and he's just so good, it's
certainly inspiring. Glenn Mcqueen was
an animation director at Pixar for the
last 7-8 years I believe. He was certainly
a very inspiring person to hear him
talk about animation and understand
what it really is that we are doing
here. I didn't know him as much as many
of the animators here, and I wish I
had that chance. He did influence a
lot of people. He passed away a few
months ago and was a very sad time around
here at Pixar. There are a few things
he said that will always motivate me
as an animator/artist. In terms of 2D
artists and illustrators, there are
two names that come to my mind right
away, that are Jon Wayshak and Scott
Campbell. They are two good friends
I went to college with whose illustration
work is some of the most impressive
stuff I've ever seen. I also want to
mention Nancy Kato, a brazilian animator
here at Pixar, and one of my closest
Carlos is currently working on Pixar's
upcoming movie, "Finding Nemo".
Image copyright Pixar Animation Studios.
What's your favourite piece of CG animation?
I think it's between the little Scrat
intro in the "Ice Age" film....and Doug
Sweetland's Woody shot getting out of
a box in "ToyStory2" trying to impress
Jessie. To me, there is a huge difference
between characters that are "animated"
and characters that are "ALIVE". I tend
to struggle in my shots as they constantly
feel like they are just "animated".
They lack that something that makes
animation spark. In Sweetland's shot
of Woody opening the box and walking
towards Jessie, Woody was totally "alive".
poses for the camera.
You left Spain to study art in America.
How important do you think education
is in the field?
think education is really important
in general and in this field it's as
important in that sense as any other
field. It's always good to have some
general culture, whether you go to school
or you study it in your own. In Spain
they teach you about pretty much everything.
Some of the stuff I studied my first
few years of college was non-art related
and I used to think it was useless.
Now as I get older I start to realize
why was it all so important, and I actually
wish I paid more attention to it. Studying
art will give you some more foundation
to what animation is all about.
example of Carlos' cg work.
What do you think is the most important
lesson when learning to animate?
Definitely patience. Not trying to rush
into things. This applies to animation
in the biggest of ways. Animation &
films for me have been like a giant
staircase. Animation builds in itself.
You have to know and practice a lot
about certain things before you can
move on to other things. And even when
you move on to other things, you still
have to go back and don't forget about
those first things you started with.
I've read Frank & Ollie's "The Illusion
of Life" a few times in the last 6 years.
Every time I read it again, I always
find something new I didn't catch last
time. Stuff that perfectly applies to
what we do now on the computer and that
these people knew for decades and decades.
You can only learn about this stuff
if you are patience and give it enough
time to sink in. I personally think
animation is a combination of many,
many things such as films, cartoons,
figure drawing, body language, staging,
photography, composition, music, etc
etc. It definitely requires observation,
practice, study and sharing and you
can't learn this stuff in weeks or months.
I think I've been animating for 5-6
years and every time I begin working
on a new shot I still feel like I'm
starting all over.
the robot dog.
What sorts of projects have you worked
on & which have been your favourite?
I think they have to be "Star Wars:
Episode2" and "Finding Nemo". Working
on "Episode 2" was such a fun experience
because of the people involved in this
project. They made it the best show
I got to work while I was at ILM. "Finding
Nemo" has been my most growing experience
as an animator by far. Not only has
it been a very fun film, but there has
been a lot of dedication put on this
film. People have been working so hard
on it I really think it shows. The other
cool thing is that animators in this
show also found time and ways to get
away from the pressure of working on
a film. There's been so many days where
I've been at work laughing all day long.
It's been awesome.
was one of the arena monsters Carlos
gave life to during his time at ILM.
Image copyright Lucasfilm ltd
What advice would you give to aspiring
artists or animators?
I would tell them to have fun at what
they do and not rush into things. I
would also tell them to practice, study
as much as they can and be as patience
as they can. Some animations will take
us longer than others....some won't
be as good...but the important thing
is to enjoy what we are doing/learning
and have fun while we learn.
us a bit about "Screws", your short
"Screws" is a project that sort of developed
over the last few years as I was creating
robot characters to practice animation
on my free time. As I was creating these
characters I wanted to keep the designs
really simple and easy to animate in
terms of modeling so that I could focus
on animation and the fact that they
are robots made the modeling part easier.
I always loved robots since I first
watched Star Wars when I was little.
One of the things I always remember
from it was the Jawa's sequence with
those junkyard robots and how appealing
that was for me. Then I watched "Iron
Giant" and I just went nuts. I loved
this film so much I started doing animation
tests with one of these robots I did,
and a couple of years ago I came up
with a little story idea for them. I've
been working on and off on this film
Screws will definately be one to look
out for in the future.
What plans do you have for the future?
For now, my main goal is to finish this
short film. It's hard to do that while
having a fulltime job that demands so
much of your time and energy. If I can
pull this off I'll be stocked. I'm really
happy at Pixar right now, so this is
my number one priority. I'm currently
finishing up on "Finding Nemo". I'm
really proud of being able to work on
this and I'm very excited to see this
project on the big screen. Thanks for
All images are copyright Carlos Baena,
except otherwise noted. For more information
on Carlos, click below to go to his
to visit Carlos' site.