Jesse Soto

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What is your name and your current occupation? 
My name is Jesse Soto. Currently, I’m a Freelance Storyboard Artist/Animator. I was fortunate enough to intern for Disney Consumer Products as a Artist/Animation Intern for their Blue Sky Think Tank a few months ago.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
This isn’t crazy, but I taught a 9-year-old how to animate her first film for a School District Competition. The girl, Ariana, had a piece where a young girl uses friendship to clean the beaches, one helping hand at a time. I felt like a school teacher because her and her best friend were the voice talents and I had to do parent/teacher conferences to make sure she did her animation work. She had to go through a little crunch time for not doing her homework, and fell asleep during the final composite 10 P.M. the night before. She won 1st place and gained a bit of confidence for kicking butt.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I was very proud to be working on a secret development project during my time at Disney. Our group, the Blue Sky Think Tank was comprised of 7 talented individuals with their own points of view and completely different backgrounds (Artist/Animator/Social Media/Writer/Filmmaker/Marketing) and locking them in a room for 6 months. Our project involved a lot of awesome ideas coming from Anime, Old School Disney, LA Culture/Counterculture, and our favorite TV shows which we learned a great deal from. Over the course of a few months, we saw a simple concept grow into flushed out characters, a strong and meaningful story-line, and great artwork/animation. The creative impact made would not be possible without the guidance of the excellent and talented storytellers/artists that reside within Disney.  Another favorite was the Black Dynamite Pilot that was featured on Adult Swim. On my first day interning at Titmouse, I was thrown into clean-up animation and color along with a few other interns. The studio was in the final push to completion. Every animator was working tirelessly, often through the weekends. Great fun came in each scene where it had either some neck-breaking karate chop or possessed puppets whipping out their machine guns and Desert Eagles.  Dailies had a lot of funny shots and high level of violence that was being animated. Also, artists were open about sharing what they know, and tag-teamed the production work very well. The end result made everyone very proud of their work.

How did you become interested in animation?
As a youngin’, I grew up always interested in art and sketching cartoon characters. In middle school, I found out that my favorite TV shows, movies, and video games were animated. I took animation in high school, where my Animation Teacher showed us his past students films and those of CalARTs students. The films were very inspiring, so much that I wanted to dive right into making a film, before knowing any of the techniques.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business? 
Burbank happens to be my hometown, so I consider myself lucky that CalARTs and the major companies were only a few miles away. I started getting into the business through a Disney Internship. My friend had kept telling me about a few great internships over at Disney Consumer Products, and kept pushing me to apply. With that in mind, I received an e-mail about a creative DCP internship from the CalARTs Jobs Opportunities. It felt like one of those life clues, so I applied with a storyboard portfolio and my student film. Fortunately, I was accepted and thrown into a 6 month internship that showed me a big scope of the animation business from the Disney perspective.

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job? 
A typical day during my Blue Sky Think Tank days was based around learning. I started my morning with some creative exercises and reading before heading to work. The beginning of the work day was mostly getting in touch with fellow co-workers, seeing what’s new, and e-mails. Our Think Tank morning meeting with our two Directors really kicked off the day. Normally, it’s a check-in but we would brainstorm with each other and break apart into small teams. Halfway through the day we’d visit the Creative Resource Center (Disney Library), and return with inspiration for the last half of the working day -or- we have a creative class at the end of it.

What part of your job do you like best? Why? 
I like doing the artwork the most, especially at Disney since it’s usually a really fun concept to work on. When working on a project with a team, the collaboration gets you out of your comfort zone, and learning/expressing something new as part of your job is very rewarding.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
When crunch time hours get 16+…this is an easy way to have tunnel vision and sometimes you lose sight of your creative goals. So the last few hours sometimes wind up not always being worth it. However, it’s easier to get artwork made when the office is empty.

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
The very best! Our desk stations had Mac Pros, cinema screens, and we were spoiled rotten with Adobe CS5 software and access to any software we ever needed to get our hands on. On occasion the professional camera equipment was available for stop motion animation or interviews. The consistency and excellence of the equipment kept us focused on the artwork.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Networking has always been a difficult thing. Relationships come and go, and it’s really hard to keep up if you have a life outside of animation/art. I do what I can to keep in touch with my core group of artistic friends, since we support each other. I also have a difficult time up-selling myself, and each major networking session feels weird when I don’t sell my talents as the greatest thing since shortbread and waffles. In time, I will get the hang of it.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
It’s actually the opposite! CalARTs and the nearby CTN-expo exposed me to animation greats such as Glen Keane, James Baxter, Eric Goldberg, and John Ripa on a lecture basis. Their inspiring stories and teachings have been interesting ice breakers whenever I run into artists when traveling.

Describe a tough situation you had in life. 
My current situation is the toughest moment in my life. At this point I’m financially responsible for myself; as well as my own well being and artistic growth. There are also some of negative people in my life, which can eat up your time and confidence. At some point enough is enough, and you need to focus on yourself and making the right steps in order to have a better life. I’m currently revamping my portfolio so that I could apply to studios while having to support myself (Who hasn’t gone through this, though). This coming of age situation really prioritizes that a positive atmosphere and stable job is pre-requiste to doing good. It lets your take on pro-bono art gigs and do them well, with the end goal being an established artist.

Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I compete in Dodgeball leagues around LA. The culture is a very creative one filled with filmmakers, writers, directors, animators, etc. and as such host the strangest named events such as the RAD Mama Christmas Tourney with my team being called PAINDEER. Players dress up as reverends, undead disney characters, 8-bit video game icons, and hurl balls at each other on a weekly basis. Can’t get more fun than that! This past weekend we did TRON Dodgeball where I threw clear balls with glow sticks at other Tron-dressed players.

Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I have super eyes and hearing. My ears can pick up on interesting conversations when I’m asleep. It freaks my friends out to see me wake up from the couch to answer their questions and immediately fall back asleep. My eyes pick up on crazy details and catch things from really far away.

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? 
Always stay passionate about your artwork and never stop the creating. Speak up about them through blogs, Facebook, Twitter and stay open minded about the constructive feedback you get. To be able to creatively collaborate with others will definitely get your foot through the door. If possible, try to collaborate with people in the industry. It will raise your level of art making and be a great opportunity if their company is hiring.


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