Posted on Monday, May 4, 2009 by Jim Norrena
UPDATE (June 17, 2010): Daniel Gonzales is now a full-time professional animator at Pixar Animation Studios.
San Diego native Daniel Gonzales came to CCA—the first member in his family to attend college—and declared [Painting/Drawing](/academics/painting-drawing) as his major. His direction shifted, however, after taking an animation course taught by CCA's Andrew Lyndon, chair of the [Animation Program](/academics/animation), who helped Gonzales identify his talent: " . . . describing an event from a special perspective of the person who's telling it . . . that's what animation is—it's telling a story."
Following his inspiration Gonzales soon thereafter changed his major to Animation and went on to secure a prestigious summer internship at Emeryville-based Pixar Animation Studios, the celebrated visual effects company (a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company) known for such award-winning feature-length animation classics as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., Ratatouille, Wall-E, and the forthcoming feature Up, to name just a few.
Pixar selects only 22 interns each summer from a candidate pool of more than 2,500 postgraduates. Of this select group Gonzales secured the highly competitive internship while currently an undergraduate. The accomplishment earned Gonzales the noteworthy distinction as Pixar's youngest intern.
Says Lyndon, who, along with other members of the Animation faculty, has worked for Pixar: "Due to his wonderful talent and also the people he knew from the [Animation] program here, Daniel got this great opportunity to basically go to Pixar and sit down for a couple of months with Pixar animators and work on Pixar tools to create animation that's just like what they do there. And he did a great job there."
Lyndon also acknowledges the geographic relevance of studying animation at CCA: "The Bay Area is almost a perfect place to have an animation school because there are a number of opportunities for students during school and after graduation. . . . A great deal of contemporary animation is located right here in the Bay Area. People want to come and be at CCA, and people from here want to go and visit these places. . . . We're really ideally suited and located."
Specifically, the Bay Area offers a rich climate in which to study and work in professional animation. In addition to Pixar, there's Tippet Studio, Wildbrain (San Francisco); and Lucasfilm, which includes the Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Lucasfilm Animation, and LucasArts divisions (Marin county). Collectively, these award-winning companies (Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, and technical and scientific awards) represent industry excellence, and are world-renowned leaders in animation and postproduction visual effects.
Gonzales returns to Pixar regularly to maintain the valuable relationships he built as an intern, some of whom also are positioned here at CCA, such as visiting artist and Pixar animator Andrew Gordon, who worked on A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille.
Lyndon adds: "Maybe pound for pound the best animation faculty that you're gonna find anywhere in the world. . . . who are working full time and they basically teach the students what they do everyday."
When asked to describe working with some of the leading animators in the industry, such as Lyndon and Gordon, Gonzales responded, "If you're thinking competitive, no, it's not competitive. It's more we look at each other's work and criticize it to make it better, not to tear it down as if we see something that's wrong. We tell the person because we don't want them to show bad stuff. And if it's something that's good, we'll tell them, and they'll keep on doing it."
While his trajectory is aimed principally toward character animation, Gonzales acknowledges that at CCA students often seek to learn experimental forms of animation that incorporate painting, sculpture, or even video. Yet one of the most important learning experiences at Pixar was the realization that despite the number of people doing video production, " . . . if a student here [at CCA] can be learning all these really specific techniques that have to do with character animation, they can use them to do all kinds of stuff they want to do.
"[CCA] gives you the tools and the teaching to do whatever you want. CCA teaches the foundation. I'm pretty sure you can take that foundation and do what you want with it. As artists you're free to do that."
So what will the youngest Pixar intern do after CCA? For now he plans to use his ties at Pixar to pursue a career in animation: "CCA teaches you how to take from people and what to give to people. You share your ideas and you share your techniques, and you also see how other people do things—and you take it. I don't think that many other majors or subjects or professions you can do that except with an art school.
Watch the Daniel Gonzales / Andrew Lyndon interview.
Digital Arts interview with CCA visiting artist and Pixar animator Andrew Gordon
Read The Pixar Blog for additional news and information.