Artist dis­cusses emo­tional jour­ney of fol­low­ing her pas­sion and work­ing on a Pixar film

Vancouver Sun - - SCENE - STU­ART DERDEYN sderdeyn@post­ twit­­art­derdeyn

Ana Ramirez is the art lead on Coco, an an­i­mated fea­ture from Pixar that opens on Nov. 22. She’s also one of the key­note speak­ers at Spark An­i­ma­tion 2017, where she’ll present an ex­clu­sive look at the mak­ing of the film.

The an­nual event put on by the Spark CG So­ci­ety aims to gen­er­ate ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the busi­ness and in­cludes a job fair. Ramirez re­calls re­al­iz­ing while mak­ing her stu­dent grad­u­a­tion film at Cal Arts — ti­tled So Long, Yupi — just what kind of a ca­reer she was en­ter­ing.

“You cry a ton, usu­ally be­cause you are so sleep de­prived and frus­trated that you might not be do­ing your best be­cause of that, and then you get back aches, headaches, ten­dini­tis and so on,” Ramirez said. “But once you see some­thing fin­ished, you are so sat­is­fied, so pleased to have suc­ceeded in mak­ing some­thing won­der­ful.

“A big­ger film is just more peo­ple go­ing through the same thing, so there is a lot of sol­i­dar­ity and sup­port and un­der­stand­ing when you fall asleep at the din­ner ta­ble.”

The 3D com­puter-an­i­mated mu­si­cal/fan­tasy film Coco is based on Dia de Muer­tos, the Mex­i­can Day of the Dead hol­i­day (Oct. 31 to Nov. 2). The screen­play, by Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldritch, is based on an orig­i­nal idea by di­rec­tor Lee Unkrich. The film was re­leased in Mex­ico this week­end, one week in ad­vance of the Dia de Muer­tos fes­tiv­i­ties.

The story re­volves around Miguel, a 12-year-old boy who opens a ver­i­ta­ble world of challenges af­ter putting in mo­tion events that tie to­gether a cen­tu­ry­old mys­tery, a be­yond-the-grave fam­ily re­union and the joy of cel­e­bra­tion and mu­sic that is al­ways part of the tra­di­tional Mex­i­can hol­i­day.

The cast in­cludes An­thony Gon­za­les as Miguel, Gael Gar­cia Ber­nal as Hector, a Land of the Dead trick­ster who has to help Miguel on his jour­ney, and Ben­jamin Bratt as the fa­mous Mex­i­can mu­si­cian and Miguel’s idol, Ernesto de la Cruz.

“The Land of the Dead is where your fam­ily goes, it’s where we all go, and it’s lively, fes­tive and sup­posed to be a fun place,” Ramirez said. “Who wouldn’t want to be in the Land of the Dead and cel­e­brate and party? I’m so in­cred­i­bly proud of the film.”

Ramirez, who hails from Gua­na­ju­ato, Mex­ico, grew up with the tra­di­tions and is pleased to see an all-Latin Amer­i­can cast in­volved in a ma­jor mo­tion pic­ture. She joined the vis­ual de­sign team as an in­tern in 2013.

“I think that this is one of the most adult films Pixar has done, but that isn’t to say that it will be scary at all to kids,” she said. “In­stead, I think about it more like Night­mare Be­fore Christ­mas, which was com­pletely un­like any­thing else when it came out. I watched it at a friend’s house at a sleep­over when I was young and while the rest of the group were do­ing other things, I was just so cap­tured, so cu­ri­ous, ask­ing ‘what is this?’”

That cu­rios­ity and drive to cre­ate sto­ries and films that are new and dif­fer­ent will be a key fo­cus at all of the var­i­ous Spark events. An­i­ma­tion has long been a mixed do­main of chip­per chil­dren’s fare and dark and fore­bod­ing adult anime. But the growth of unique voices and ap­proaches is blur­ring gen­res and lead­ing to works such as Skin for Skin, a fan­tasy/hor­ror al­le­gory about greed and spir­i­tual reck­on­ing in the early days of the fur trade. Spark has bro­ken down its screen­ing se­ries to re­flect 19plus con­tent and non-adult.

Ramirez is ex­cited to be at­tend­ing the event as the buzz around Van­cou­ver’s an­i­ma­tion and VFX scene is known in the in­dus­try.

Spark An­i­ma­tion 2017 fea­tures a busi­ness sym­po­sium, con­fer­ence, screen­ings, awards and char­ity events. The an­nual show­case of B.C.’s boom­ing an­i­ma­tion and VFX in­dus­tries tra­di­tion­ally draws an im­pres­sive list of par­tic­i­pants.

Os­car-nom­i­nated di­rec­tor Nora ■

Twomey (Secret of the Kells) will be on hand for the west­ern Cana­dian pre­miere of her new film, The Bread­win­ner, which was pro­duced by An­gelina Jolie and fea­tures voice act­ing from Van­cou­ver’s Laara Sadiq.

Glen Keane, a 30-year vet­eran ■ of Dis­ney an­i­ma­tion with cred­its such as Beauty and the Beast and The Lit­tle Mer­maid, will be given the Spark Life­time Achieve­ment Award as well as present his col­lab­o­ra­tion with for­mer NBA star Kobe Bryant and Os­car-win­ning com­poser John Williams, ti­tled Dear Basketball.

There is also a spe­cial Spot­light ■ on France seg­ment fo­cus­ing on the ex­cep­tional an­i­ma­tion com­ing from that coun­try.

A full sched­ule is avail­able at the Spark CG So­ci­ety web­site.

Ana Ramirez is the art lead on the new Pixar fea­ture Coco, and is also a key­note speaker at Spark An­i­ma­tion 2017, the an­nual an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try event in Van­cou­ver.


Miguel, voiced by An­thony Gon­za­lez, and his dog Dante travel to the Land of the Dead in Coco, a new Pixar an­i­mated movie based on Dia de Muer­tos. It hits the­atres next month.

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