Interview by Carla Taylor (RIpPle PuDdle)
Animators have the privilege and ability to mold the characters, storyline and therefore, legacy that films impress upon our culture. Interestingly, we hardly know their names, influences or personal stories.I got a chance to interview Pixar animator, Ana Ramirez, one of the animators for the delightful new film, COCO to find our more about what motivates her as an artist.
Carla: Tell us about how you came to be an artist?
Ana: I guess it was when I started working at Pixar. I was 18 and in my senior year of high school when I took my first drawing class. I wanted to go to music school because I really enjoyed playing the guitar. I took lessons for so long and I never really got good at it. It’s still one of my biggest frustrations. My mom encouraged me to try other things, and that’s around the time when I tried drawing. I really enjoyed it and then didn’t stop drawing after that. I applied to Cal Arts a couple of times and on the second try I was accepted. When I got to Cal Arts I wasn’t sure where to direct my focus. I ended up taking classes in dance, lighting and theatre, all of which ended up informing my practice today.
When I graduated, I worked at other places while interning for Pixar but then got hired full time in late 2014.
Carla: Because you experimented with different disciplines, what was it about drawing that drove you to the dedicated field?
Ana: I have always really liked the idea that it is something that I can do anywhere. I’ve never been great at expressing myself through writing or public speaking. I felt that I could express myself best through drawing and art. I felt like time went by so quickly. I could do it for hours without getting bored. During my last semester of high school, I would stay up really late and show up tired because I had been working on my portfolio until 4 am. And then I’d wake up excited to start all over again. It was the first time I’d ever felt really motivated like that.
Carla: What was your personal fingerprint on this movie?
Ana: I feel like as one of the few Mexicans on this project I had a higher responsibility that we do the best to make it as authentic as possible. It was my first film and I was really scared at the beginning. I didn’t know when to speak up. In meetings with the director and producer, if ever there was a time where I thought something was not quite right, they encouraged me to voice my opinions. Of course, we had our cultural team assisting but it’s not usually an immediate fix. Being in the art department, especially being a part of those meetings really gave me the opportunity to culturally assist in the filmmaking process. That is something that makes me feel good.
In a movie of this scope, there’s so much to think about and so much to cover.
We wanted it to feel real. One of my projects was focused on designing the stands in the plaza. It was important for me to capture things that are specific to Mexico. We really wanted to give placement to the things that usually go unregistered.
Everything we do is always a collaboration, so in many ways, we all feel as though we have left our own individual fingerprint. That’s kind of a great.
Carla: After a project is completed and released, all publicity is underway, do you immediately start work on the next project?
Ana: Yes, I’ve already been working on Toystory 4 for the last few months, which is set to release 2019. It’s pretty exciting.
Carla: How do you keep your craft your own after a long day of work?
Ana: I try to draw when I have time. I also put in as much as I can to my side projects. It takes a lot of energy but when I have a bit of downtime, I try to push myself to keep producing work.