Bobby Pontillas Shares his Journey to Becoming an Academy Award-Nominated Animator
Academy Award nominee, Bobby Pontillas, knows what it takes to never give up and follow your dreams. Between 2018 and 2019, his film “One Small Step” was nominated for an Academy Award for best animated short film, as well as being nominated for several other categories in various international film festivals.
Pontillas has been drawing since he was young, but, as a child of a single-parent household, he wanted to follow in his mother’s footsteps by joining the Navy. She knew that he had a natural talent for art, and encouraged him to pursue his passion.
While attending the Art Institute of Seattle, Pontillas had an “aha” moment after seeing the Disney film “Tarzan” in 1999.
“I was blown away by what I saw on the screen,” Pontillas said. “I don’t know if you guys have had that one moment – or one movie – where it kind of changed your perspective on what you wanted to do in life, but, for some reason, it was this movie. It changed the way I looked at animation.”
While Pontillas was speaking with students about his journey thus far, he made an interesting point: our favorite childhood films have animated characters that are larger than life, yet we never stop to think about who makes this magic happen.
Seeing drawings come to life is what inspired Pontillas to become an animator. He worked his way up by learning how to create CGI, or computer-generated imagery, worked for companies such as ArenaNet and took an animation mentor course.
The reel that he created for this online course is what helped him break into the animation world. Even though it took Pontillas some time to understand what he was doing, he never hesitated to ask for help.
“You ask for feedback from everyone that’s around you, which is what everyone should be doing all the time,” Pontillas said. “I know it’s hard sometimes to just be vulnerable and show your work to anybody, but that’s the only way you are going to grow.”
After applying to several film studios, such as Sony, Pixar and DreamWorks, Pontillas finally found his footing at Disney.
From that moment on, he would work on films such as “Tangled: Before Ever After,” “Zootopia,” “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” “Rio” and “Wreck-It Ralph.”
Even before he could gain experience by working on multiple animation films, he took the time he needed to brush up on his craft.
“Your skills can excel in three months, let alone six months, let alone one year,” Pontillas said. “You can get way better if you’re tenacious and keeping at it.”
Pontillas has always kept an open mind when seeing where his talents can take him, and decided to join a small start-up studio by the name of Taiko Studios. The first project created was Pontillas’ Academy Award-nominated film, “One Small Step.”
Since then, he has gone on to create short films and pitch ideas to studios about future projects. Pontillas works day to day with his team to bring something fresh and new to the minds of viewers.
As a former college student, Pontillas knows how stressful balancing schoolwork and finding a career path can be. But he advised everyone to take risks.
“We all have our North Star goal, but don’t be afraid to deviate,” he said. “It can bring the best experiences of your life.”
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