Pinoy Animator Behind Disney/Pixar’s ‘Brave’

Not a single life's bump can stop a "brave" man's goal to reach for his dream.

This proves true for Paul Abadilla, one of the creators behind the successful production of Disney/Pixar's latest release, "Brave." And yes, he is Filipino.

Abadilla works as a production artist in Pixar Animation Studios. He suffered from rejections in the past but never gave up.

"Brave," which tells the story of the passionate, rebellious teen Merida, is the first film to carry a heroine in Pixar's 26-year history.

As a production artist, he provided sketches, paintings, and some sculptures to help design the sets and props in the 3-D animated feature.

In an e-mailed interview with Bulletin Entertainment, Abadilla shares his incredible journey as a successful Pinoy animator in the US.

Born in Manila, Abadilla, 28, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose, California since he was seven years old. "I actually went back home to the Philippines for a visit earlier this July following the release of 'Brave' in the US," Abadilla starts, citing having relatives in Alabang and in Pandacan, Manila, where he spent his childhood before migrating to the US.

He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree Bachelor of Fine Arts, Animation/Illustration in San Jose State University in 2008. Studying in a foreign land was never easy, says Abadilla, especially when his fondest memories of his Philippine stay ("eating 'taho' for breakfast, wide-open spaces, playing outside, walking around Luneta, living in a tiny apartment with my mom in Alabang, long commutes to and from school, and Sundays at the mall with grandma") were all what's life to him - sweet and simple.

'Brave' Enough

Abadilla started out as an intern for Pixar in 2008. He relates that during his internship, he got to work in the "Brave" Art Department, which was then on its early stages of production. He was appointed to design the vegetation in the film ("everything from trees, shrubs, grass, moss, etc.").

After three months, Abadilla reaped the fruits of his hard work. "Pixar liked my work and decided to keep me on the project for the next two years," he adds.

Some works of Abadilla included in the animation are the Witch's cottage, some of the woodcarving gag props (i.e. Adam and God carving) and the cauldron "Rube Goldberg" answering machine that Merida activates when she returns to the cottage.

Like any other artist attached to his work, Abadilla felt the same with the film's lead, Merida.

"I could relate to Merida the most her relationship with her mom reminded me of my relationship with my dad, especially when I was a teenager. My dad didn't have an arranged marriage for me, or anything like that, but instead we argued much about his expectations of me being more responsible, etc.," he says.

When Boredom Strikes

Abadilla discovered his talent due to boredom.

Coming from a humble background, he turned to drawing because the family had no television set.

He explains, "From all that television came with wanting the toys - unfortunately, we couldn't afford it. Instead, school supplies like pencils, pens, markers, and paper were aplenty. By default, I was bored and I needed to pass the time. Because of this newfound skill, I imagined that I could have whatever I wanted on demand - I just needed to know how to draw it. I let my imagination run wild that way."

He credits his drive to his father, who painted a lot when he was a child. He adds, "I knew I wanted to work in animation when I saw Disney's 'Tarzan,' even more when I saw 'Lilo & Stitch,' and all bets were off when I saw 'Toy Story."'

Living His Dream

Working for Pixar is a dream come true for Abadilla. He describes it as an amazing workplace because "the culture here at Pixar generates an environment that fosters creativity. It's like a playground for grown-ups."

Also inspired by life itself; Abadilla encourages the young to observe from life, or better yet, experience life.

"Go out, travel, watch movies, listen to all kinds of music, eat different kinds of food, meet different kinds of people, play games, go to a concert, fall in love, fall out of love, etc."

According to him, these life experiences will enrich your understanding of what you're drawing, painting, or animating because "art is an interpretation of life experiences."

Proud 'Pixnoy'

Abadilla is proud to say that there are plenty of Filipinos who work for Pixar. In fact, he calls their group "Pixnoy."

"We even gather at least once a year for a potluck during lunch where everyone brings in his or her favorite Filipino dish," he adds.

Though he is based in the US, Abadilla still speaks Tagalog. "I'm still fluent in Tagalog, although sometimes, I have to admit, I stumble on some words and phrases... I grew up American, but my heart will always be Filipino."

After "Brave," Abadilla is gearing for a number of future Pixar projects including 2013's "Monsters University."


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