Author: Canadian Diva
Daniel L. Gonzales is the epitome of where hard work, strong values coupled with creativity can lead to one being successful at such a young age. He was the youngest intern at PIXAR Animation Studios which receives over 2000 postgraduate applications a year and picks only 22 for the job. After working 3 years at PIXAR, Mr. Gonzales then moved to Los Angeles, California to work at the Walt Disney Animation Studios where he continues his creative magic for all of us to see on the big screen.
This incredible, artistic prodigy was born in San Diego, California in 1988. His interest and natural talent in drawing, as well as painting, was noticed when he was a child. When he entered into college, he moved to Oakland and studied at the California College of the Arts, where his gift for animation was further encouraged into becoming his major.
Mr. Gonzales is also a teacher for up and coming animators. He has a Blog with great tips for animators as well as other fascinating articles on being creative which also includes life-related articles pertaining to his experiences that you could read about here.
We are so excited to be interviewing Daniel Gonzales for Tips from the Disney Diva.
Hello Daniel, it is such a pleasure to do this interview with you. What a dream job you have! Could you give our readers a glimpse into the day in the life of a Walt Disney Studio’s Animator?
A day of a Disney Animator… Well I can’t speak for my co-workers but besides waking up and the morning commute, my day is pretty much filled up with problem solving! As an artist, you are solving problems all the time. You have a piece of art to create and a mission to find a solution that gives you the right composition, timing, poses, lines, rhythm, arcs and more. They all need to work together in a harmonious way that’s appealing to look at. We animators might make it look easy once it’s on the big screen, but it’s a lot of hard work! To be honest, at the end of the day it doesn’t feel like work when you are doing something you love.
You and I have had similar upbringings, in which we both were raised by single mothers. How did growing up in a single parent environment fuel your career choices and motivate your drive to succeed?
Growing up was hard, but as a kid I didn’t know it was hard. When I was younger it was what it was and I loved it because it was the only life I knew. When you have a single mom as a parent, you are raised pretty much by your whole family. Everyone has to help out and take care of you while your mom goes to work. So I got a lot of different perspectives growing up and I do think that helped me as an artist. I have all these different view points and angles of life to pull from and I am able to insert this into my work. Seeing my mom work hard for us made me want to work hard in something, and it just so happen to be art.
There is often a stigma or stereotype of people in their 20’s. That they feel entitled and not willing to work from the bottom up. Could you comment on this, how you seem to break this stereotype at such a young age. And what steps do you feel young adults of your generation need to do to get ahead?
I think what we call stigma and the stereotype of 20 year olds is a mis-understanding and I’ll tell you why: It’s not that 20 yr olds feel entitled, it’s that they were raised in a time where hierarchy is no longer valued and treating everyone equal and the same makes more sense. This leads to one thinking they are equal to their boss and that everyone’s opinion is dumb and good at the same time and you can speak your mind freely. This, to people who were not raised as such, might see this as cocky, brazen, or an entitlement complex that needs to be included in every conversation in the work space. The ‘not willing to work’ part is just that people underestimate how much work it takes to get things done, this is learnt overtime and with experience.
When I first started to work in my late teens, I was very green. Keeping your head down and taking licks was a concept I had never heard of growing up. In my neighborhood, respect was never given for free and if you thought something then you spoke your mind. But now looking back, I am so grateful for the friends I had working in the many places I have been at. They really helped me adjust and learn. I learned It is very important to be respectful to everyone, humility is a virtue and not a weakness. It is even more important to keep in mind that everyone knows at least one thing you don’t. You are always learning and there is so much one doesn’t know. When I see teenagers and 20 year olds with the mind set that they are going to change the world, that their way is the right way and everyone else is wrong and there is a new big fish in the pond, I smile. Not because I use to kind of be like that, but because I hope they are right. I hope they are the ones that change the world and teach us older people a thing or two. I hope that they challenge the status quo and butt heads against the current establishment and shake things up. I think the world needs this kind of push and pull between some of us who like the way things are and those who want to change it. I believe somewhere in the middle of those two camps is the answer.
I wouldn’t change anything about how this generation is doing things, let them find their own way and hopefully that way turns out better.
You worked on “Frozen” which has literally taken the world by (ice) storm! Did you and the team of over 600 artists, working on “Frozen”, ever imagine the blizzard proportions this would cause? Would you be able to tell us which component of the movie you were part of?
Some foresaw the success and others did not, but boy did it still surprise us all when it took off! I personally did not ever imagine the effect it was going to have on the world. I was a part of a team of about 70 animators. We all worked on all the characters together and animated them to life. I was a small piece in something much greater than me and I love that feeling. Everybody is a small piece, but together we create an awesome, unique team that wouldn’t exist otherwise without us.
“Big Hero 6” is the next Walt Disney Animated Feature coming to the big screen on November 7, 2014. There is so much anticipation and excitement about this film, could you tell us a bit about it?
I can tell you that I am proud of it and I can’t wait for everyone else to experience all the hard work my colleagues and I have put into it.
Disney Animators have literally become a household name with the “Disney Princess Animator’s Collection”. Who are the Disney Animators you admire and enjoy working with?
Like I mentioned above, I believe everyone knows something I don’t, so I am always ready to learn from anyone. This makes every single co-worker someone I respect and makes me eager to work with them. I learnt a lot from the animators who have come before me that are also very very talented. Animators such as Milt Kahl, Glen Keane, and Eric Goldberg are household names in the work place at any animation studio.
You are now a teacher and role model for future Animators, how does it feel like to be in this role and how do you approach being an important key to the future generations in your line of work?
I don’t feel like a teacher, I just feel like another person fulfilling their role on a game of hot potato. I have all this insight and knowledge that is very hot and I can not wait to pass it on to someone who wants and needs it. I approach this role with the mindset of: just be myself, it’s the information that matters, not who is delivering it. The moment I take myself out of the equation I start to relax.
Most people do animation and painting as a hobby yet since you are able to do this as your main work, what are your hobbies and interest outside of your career?
I paint and draw all the time. I hang out with friends a lot as well. I think I do it so much it might as well be a hobby!
Now for some FUN Disney Questions…
Favorite Disney Theme Park?
My favorite spot to check out is Disneyland in Anaheim. Specifically Adventureland!
Favorite Disney Attraction and Why?
I like riding Splash Mountain, on repeat, right before the park closes at midnight because the line is literally nonexistent. When you’re with the right crowd and have a lot of energy it is the best way to end the night. I’ve had so many good times with my brother, cousins and friends posing for the camera when they take your picture on the last fall.
We Have a Lot of Foodies on Our Writing Team As Well As Our Readers Who Love Food… What is Your Favorite Disney Snack or Meal?
There are so many choices to choose from because Disney does food so well. What would I choose?? The ice cream spot on Main Street USA in Disneyland, The Dole-whip Pineapple Float right outside the Tiki-room, Or the tasty drinks at Trader Sam’s Bar inside the Disneyland Hotel and Resort. But HANDS DOWN, if I had to choose one thing it would be the SPICY CORN DOG in California Adventure. Only one spot has it and it’s near Goofy’s Flight School. Sometimes I just go for the corn dog and not the rides, it’s that satisfying.
Any Favorite Disney Themed Restaurants?
Trader Sam’s has an awesome atmosphere and I love grabbing an appetizer because the vibe is so good.
The “Lion King” was a favorite of my younger brother, so I would watch it everyday with him after school. I know that movie by heart, but personally I liked “Bambi”. In my opinion, it’s a very artsy film and I like what they did with colors and the music throughout the film!
Favorite Disney Character You Enjoyed Working On?
I enjoyed working on Olaf. He was so appealing and there was never a boring moment animating him!
I post a lot of Disney jokes on twitter..
Disney Villains Are All the Rage Now…Who is Your Favorite?
HANS from “FROZEN” is by far my favorite. I don’t know why exactly, maybe it’s because he seems like a sociopath and he pretended to be a good guy for most of the film. The fact that he doesn’t have any magical powers and had to rely on his smarts is very cool for me.
With the excitement building of “Big Hero 6” out in November 2014 – being a Marvel/Disney collaboration, who is your ultimate, favourite Marvel Character?
I enjoy “Spider-man”. His comics are always well done and I love how artists have been drawing him. One thing that makes “Spider-man” special for me, is that before he became Spider-man, he let a robber get away for selfish reasons. That same robber ended up killing his guardian Uncle Ben. This story line really made it clear to me that, your choices have consequences which could come back to hurt you. I know other Super Hero’s also have those kind of moments but “Spider-man’s” story illustrated it distinctly for me.
Which Disney character are you most like? And which Disney character inspires you?
I never thought of what character I was most like before. People have told me when my hair is messy I look like Aladdin in a good way or Prince Eric. But a memory of mine did pop up right now that I would of never remembered if it wasn’t for this question! It’s of me when I was younger watching ‘A GOOFY MOVIE’ and relating to the main character. I think his name was Max. Max was in school and had a crush he wanted to impress so bad that he was willing to compromise his family vacation! Now, I never ruined a family vacation but I’m sure almost everyone can relate to doing stupid things to try to impress or get someone’s attention when they were younger.
I don’t know what character I am most like, maybe that’s a question for my girlfriend, she knows me better than I do sometimes!
In regards what inspires me: I am inspired by how Roger in ‘101 Dalmatians’ is animated.
If you were to meet Mr. Walter Elias Disney (Walt Disney) in another life, or in a future heaven, what would you like to say to him?
I would ask him what was his hardest moment, physically and/or emotionally (like hitting rock bottom). What was going through his mind at that time and how he got through it. You can learn a lot about a person when you see them at their worst, but you can learn even more when you see them persevere.
Thank you so much Daniel for sharing your time and telling us a bit of your fascinating life and career!
To learn more about Mr. Daniel L. Gonzales, visit his blog (link)
You can also follow Daniel on…
Are you a “FROZEN” fan? Read this incredible article Daniel wrote about the journey of Disney’s adaptation of this story and how it manifested into the successful Feature Animated Film it is today!