Talk about a student success story! Animation Mentor alumnus Yair Gutierrez is killing it at Industrial Light & Magic, where he was a part of the team nominated for an Annie Award for Captain America: Civil War! We caught up with Yair to ask the important questions: How freaking awesome is ILM? What advice do you have for aspiring animators? And are you Team Cap or Team Iron Man?! Enjoy!
Animation Mentor: Let’s do this! Tell us about your journey from Animation Mentor to Industrial Light & Magic and why you decided to become an animator.
Yair Gutierrez: My journey to Industrial Light & Magic started all the way back in my childhood. Growing up watching movies like Jurassic Park and Terminator 2, I was completely mesmerized by the incredible work done by ILM. Back then I didn’t really care about the movie making process, but that totally changed after I saw the first Transformers movie. I remember very vividly, walking out of the theater and telling myself, somehow someway I want to work making movies. I was completely blown away.
I then started researching and looking for a way to get into the industry, but I had no idea what field to pursue. I enrolled into art school, which is where I found my passion for animation, and also learned about the character animation program at Animation Mentor.
I decided to enroll at AM, mainly for the fact that I was going to be learning directly from animation professionals. I went through the Creature Workshops as well as the Character Animation Program. I learned so much while taking the courses, but I also met so many talented and amazing people, some of whom I work with today.
I decided to enroll at AM, mainly for the fact that I was going to be learning directly from animation professionals.
Fast forward a few years, and I was lucky enough to work on Transformers: Age of Extinction, alongside the people who directly influenced my decision to become an animator. I feel so blessed and thankful to work with all these wonderful people!
AM: From what animation shot have you learned the most?
YG: There are a few shots from which I’ve learned tons of new things, either about body mechanics or even about my workflow and how to be more efficient. But if I had to pick one shot, I would have to go back to the very last shot I worked on while at Animation Mentor, which is also the first shot of my demo reel.
Up to that point, it was the most complicated and the longest shot I had ever attempted. I learned about the importance of planning a shot and having an overall idea of where you want the shot to go way before you set your first key.
Prior to working on that shot I wasn’t to big on planning, which I feel really hindered my progress. I remember spending a crazy amount of time just coming up with the choreography. Also, spending as much time as possible figuring out the main poses I wanted to hit. It also helped me a lot to write down the major beats and story moments that I wanted to portray. I really do believe that planning is one of the most important parts of the process, at least from my experience.
I really do believe that planning is one of the most important parts of the process.
AM: What’s your favorite thing about working at ILM?
YG: There are lots of really cool things about working at ILM. From the awesome projects we get to work on to the studio facility, which is so full of history. Just walking around the hallways is a treat, seeing props from a lot of the movies I grew up watching never gets old.
But my favorite thing about working at ILM is the people I get to work with. Everyone here is extremely talented and friendly, which makes for an amazing work environment. I would not change it for anything. I feel super lucky to work at such an amazing place!
AM: Congrats to you and the rest of your team on the Annie nomination! What was the most challenging part of working on Captain America: Civil War? More importantly, are you Team Cap or Team Iron Man?
YG: Thank you very much! I feel very fortunate to be a part of this awesome team!
To me, the most challenging part about working on Captain America: Civil War was making sure I was able to get Spider-Man’s performance right, in the shots I worked on. There’s a certain aesthetic that has been established throughout the years of how he moves, how he acts.
We have to take all of that into account when trying to bring the client’s vision to life. I took that challenge as an excuse to go back and revisit the Spider-Man movies, as well as a bunch of comics, to get even more familiar with the character than I already was. All for the sake of research! It was a very intimidating project to take on but it was also a lot of fun!
Tough choice between Team Cap and Team Iron Man. I think Marvel has done such a great job with their movies and characters that it’s really hard to choose between the two—but if I had to pick, I’m leaning more toward Team Cap.
AM: What about for Avengers: Age of Ultron? What characters/scenes did you work on and what was your favorite part?
YG: I remember watching The Avengers in theaters and being completely blown away by all the incredible work, specially the Hulk’s animation. So when I found out I was going to be working on the sequel, I was over the moon. I worked on a few shots during the opening sequence and also a few shots during the final battle.
But by far, my favorite part of Avengers: Age of Ultron was the chance to work on the Hulk vs. Hulkbuster sequence. It was truly a dream come true getting the chance to work on something so iconic!
AM: What advice would you give to current animation students as they’re working their way through the program and/or looking for jobs?
YG: I don’t want to be preachy, but something that I have learned throughout my years as a student is that you only get out what you put in. Take advantage of the program and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions!
Be patient and don’t be discouraged if you send your reel and don’t hear back. Sometimes things don’t go your way, but it’s important to always keep a positive attitude and continue working toward your goal!
And as far as the job hunt goes, making sure you have a strong reel is super important. Be patient and don’t be discouraged if you send your reel and don’t hear back. Sometimes things don’t go your way, but it’s important to always keep a positive attitude and continue working toward your goal!
Be sure to check out these related posts!
- VFX Animation Chat with Mentor and ILM London Lead Animator Chris Hurtt!
- Top 3 Reasons You Want Creature Animation On Your Demo Reel
- 6 Animation Tips Every Creature Animator Should Know
- The 6 Most Common Mistakes with Creature Animation
Want to follow in Yair’s footsteps?
Try your hand at animating epic creatures with our Creature Animation Workshops! Learn from Framestore and Industrial LIght & Magic animators who’ve worked on Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and more.
Recruiters are always asking us to recommend great creature animators. We want to recommend you!