What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Angelo Libutti. Senior Storyboard artist at Digital Domain Media in Florida.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
First job was bar tending, just for cover a friend’s shift, but that job didn’t turn out so good, (even though I made a lot of money in tips), I accidentally broke all the glasses that were just taken out from the dishwasher. I started really young at 16 doing illustrations for magazines and newspapers and got contacted by Disney to draw comics in Italy…and since then I kept art jobs.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Definitely “Triplets of Belleville” a classic for the animation lovers, even if was my first official job in the animation field I had the honor to start as lead Key animator. It had a European style that was familiar to me, and I was able to deliver my footage quickly.
How did you become interested in animation?
I was quite a good draftsman at a young age. Back then I watched a lot of Disney movies and dreamed of becoming an animator.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am originally from Rome, Italy. There, animation is not as strong a cultural art form. There are no animation schools. I ended up buying as many books as I could on animation. All those books were written in English. Back then, my English was quite poor, so I had to pay a translator to translate them from English to Italian.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I get to work an hour early so I can start to warming up. I study something work related and then by 9 I am ready to work. Usually we finish our day at 6 pm. The closer we are to a deadline or a screening, the more often we find ourselves working until 10 pm or later.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Being surrounded by great artists and sharing ideas with them. Creating something that has never been done before.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Some people in our industry become so obsessed with advancing their career, they lose the love of creating art. That ruins the chemistry that we should all have with each other. The best artists should naturally have the best achievements. This is my naive idea of what it means to be an artist.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Photoshop on a Cintiq.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I think a difficult part of this job is having to constantly put yourself out there, promoting your art. You have to continue to learn and to challenge your self. The nature of our job is mostly freelance based, jumping from one project to another. You feel like a gypsy.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I think my mind is set to the medieval times when the mentor/master was considerate toward his pupils even though they aspire to eventually surpass him. I see my directors as the masters, someone who knows many things I don’t know. I am a sponge, trying to soak up their knowledge. I’m forever thankful for that opportunity. I admire my mentors. There are 3 artists in particular who I’ve connected with and become close friends. One is Lyndon Barrois. He and I share a birthday and have lots of similar stories in our lives, and make everyone around us happy by valorizing the artist work. He loves Animation as Ido. The other is Dan St. Pierre. I still remember seeing Dan’s art in Disney’s The Art of Tarzan book. We have worked on two feature films and now we are like brothers. Last but not list, Chris Sauve. His knowledge about story structure is incredible, and his resume as animator is something that who loves animation can’t let that go trough with ought a Wow, since he was the Animator Lead for one of my favorite film ” Iron Giant” and Work side by side with Brad Bird, after Few months working on Story for “Dorothy of Oz” we become really close friends, in a Way that I got the official “Uncle Angelo” title from his kids. Dan and Lyndon and Chris are genuine people.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I learned one decision can change your life. Once, I had a big job offer from a feature animation company in Vancouver as a storyboard artist. That time was a slow period for the industry. I was teaching and doing work for advertising and TV shows, so that opportunity was a breath of fresh air. As soon as I signed that contract, a big company in California offered me a job as an animator. Even though being a story artist is my passion, up to that point I never had 3D animation experience on a feature film. This opportunity in California would allow me to diversify my skills, and this could help broaden my career. They offered to train me for few months in 3D. This is a very rare opportunity in the fast-paced animation industry. To make my decision more difficult, the company in Vancouver was offering me a lot more money than this other company in California. I was really torn. It was probably the hardest decision I had to make. I decided to go for the California job. It put me in a tough economic situation. It turned out to be the better decision. A few months later, the project in Vancouver got postponed for a few years.
Any side projects or you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I have been working for almost a decade on three projects of mine. I’ve put everything I’ve learned as a story artist into them. It’s amazing how my point of view changes after being exposed to different directors. One is a book project I’m getting close to publishing, called “Fantastic 4N”. I hope to adapt this story into a film, and I am dreaming of making three successful films from it! I envision Fantastic 4N as the type of movie that makes the audience laugh from beginning to end. So far every director I’ve showed it to has given me amazing responses. Hopefully when my book comes out I will have the support of the public as well. They say that every good story will be successful if it is grounded in the author’s personal experience. As an artist who moved to America 15 years ago, I definitely have lots of stories illustrating what it means to be a foreign man in the New World. 🙂
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I love to play soccer! I used to play in a competitive league in Italy. I also loved participating on the swim team and the volleyball team in college.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
The biggest advice is to really look into your heart. Really make sure you love what you’re doing. Foster that love and passion because in hard times, that passion will help you overcome obstacles. Sometimes you’ll think you’re not good enough. But if you believe in yourself and make that extra push you will be able to achieve the impossible. Michael Jordan once said: I was not born Michael Jordan or had a statue of myself outside the stadium when I was born. Life was not easy. I fell down over and over, but the reason I became who I became was because I got up every single time.