Gabby Zapata

What is your name and your current occupation?
Gabby Zapata, Production Artist at Disney Interactive in Glendale, California.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation? 
I was a chocolatier/ ice cream scooper at a local ice cream shop for 3.5 years during school!

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of? 
Coming out of school, I went to Digital Domain to work on their first film in Animation. Digital Domain specialized in VFX and we were creating a 3D feature film called “The Legend of Tembo”.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business? 
I was born and raised mostly in California, but prior to that I lived in different parts of the states including Mexico due to my Dad’s job. After graduating high school, I moved to Florida to attend Ringling College of Art and Design for Computer Animation. I was picked up right before graduation at Digital Domain and then after a year and a half of working there, the company went under and we all got laid off (300+ of us) and a month later, I got picked up by Disney Interactive in California.

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job? 
A typical day consists of looking at your tasks, checking in with the supervisors, and most importantly enjoying what you do!
What part of your job do you like best? Why? 
Being able to express creative freedom because as an artist, it’s important to be able to share and contribute without feeling shy about it.

What part of your job do you like least? Why? 
I don’t have anything that I dislike. I’m living my childhood dream!

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?

Macs and Cintiqs. Ever since I used a Cintiq at work, it has improved my work tremendously simply because it takes the concept of drawing on paper to digital form.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?  
Nothing really, but every now and then you get the jitters thinking if you’re doing okay, is your work up to par, or things like that. But communication is key to everything.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Being in the industry, it’s hard not to! At Digital Domain, I was grateful enough to be working with Aaron Blaise who was the director of the film and who was an animator for Lion King, Mulan, Pocahontas, Brother Bear just to mention a few. Aaron was taught under Glen Keane so it was a huge honor for me to work closely with Aaron. Most of the crew at Digital Domain came from Disney Florida so it was amazing to be able to work with them! There’s been many more and I cannot be more thankful for all the opportunities I’ve been getting.

Describe a tough situation you had in life. 

Last year 2012, was pretty tough. I went through a lot of personal things and then being laid off from Digital Domain topped it. A week prior to being laid off, my roommates and I had just recently moved into a new house. Packing, unpacking, and packing up again with the span of a month was really rough and emotionally draining. There are still many people that are struggling to find jobs and I am grateful that I was able to be picked up by Disney a month later it happened. But I am a strong believer in things happen for a reason and I take it as a new experience for what’s next to come in life.

Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I have something in mind, but not set in stone yet as I am trying to get a new computer to get me started on what I want to achieve this year. What that is exactly, not sure yet 🙂

Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I was in a depressing state last year and I needed something to keep me distracted so, I picked up cooking and baking. I learned a lot from Food Network and now, I like to make fancy foods for that matter. My greatest accomplishment was a soufflé!

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? 
Just keep swimming and keep moving forward. Both quotes taken from animation, but they are 100% true. There’s going to be hurdles along the way and you need to get a strong grip because it’s going to be one heck of a roller coaster. Don’t give up if you get turned down, there’s many studios out there and it’s a matter of being persistent about it and you’ll do great! 🙂
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