Success of Paul Abadilla: Fil-am Artist on Board Finding Dory

Even as a young kid, I have always wanted to draw,”

-Paul Abadilla, 32, who works as a sketch artist at Pixar.



Two-concept art pieces from a sequence called “”Touch Pool” from the movie “Finding Dory”


“I got my inspiration from my father, Milo Abadilla, who is the true artist in the family,” he revealed. “He used to do freelance drawings here and there but my grandfather steered him towards engineering. His true passion, though, has always been drawing. He was my inspiration when I was young.”

Born in Manila, Paul is one of six boys of Milo (from Manila) and Cynthia Salonga (Surigao).

“I moved around a few times,” Paul said. “When I lived in the Philippines, however, home was always in Alabang with my immediate family; and Pandacan with my lola (grandmother) from my dad’s side. I also lived in Cebu for a year with my mom’s side of the family…”

He moved to the US with his family at seven years old. He started his career in animation as an intern at Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2007, then at Pixar where he worked on such films as “Brave,” “Monsters University,” “The Blue Umbrella,” “Toy Story Of Terror,” “Lava,” “Sanjay’s Super Team,” and the latest, “Finding Dory.”

Asked how he got involved in the Andrew Stanton-helmed project, Paul narrated, “I immediately joined the ‘Finding Dory’ crew after working on ‘Sanjay’s Super Team.’ At the time (mid 2014), ‘Finding Dory’ was in full production, so it’s normal for anyone in transition to join the next project needing help.”

It was his first time working with Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo,” “WALL-E”).

“It was such a privilege to collaborate with him, especially on this project, since ‘Finding Nemo’ was a film that had largely affected the way I felt about storytelling, film, and animation,” Paul said.

“I was a bit star-struck when we first met during my first art review on ‘Finding Dory.’ I learned that not only is he a very intelligent filmmaker, but he’s a very cool guy. He’s got a good sense of humor, and always very well-dressed. He was always inclusive and collaborative in our reviews, and always gave great feedback and direction to the work I presented.”

Paul confessed he has neither met Ellen DeGeneres nor any of the voice talents for “Finding Dory” although “we do have many celebrities frequenting our studio, so it’s not unusual for us Pixarians to have such sightings or encounters (at times).”

Paul helped design the sets/environments in “Finding Dory.”

He explained, “My job as a sketch artist involves providing drawings and paintings that show the design, dimensions, color, and surface characteristics of environmental elements, as well as set dressing and lighting direction.”

His favorite character in the movie, he said, is Gerald. “Gerald is one of the new characters in ‘Finding Dory;’ one of the three sea lions featured in the film. I’m drawn to his quirkiness. Although his character is quite understated, I thought he was the funniest and most entertaining out of the entire cast.”

So how is it working at Pixar and with the other Filipino animators (they call themselves “Pixnoys”) led by Ronnie Del Carmen (“Up,” “Inside Out”) and Ricky Nierva (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Finding Nemo,” “Inside Out”), we asked.

“Working at Pixar is like working in a metropolitan city,” Paul pointed out. “It has a diverse population with people from around the world from all walks of life. The Filipinos are well represented through various departments like story, art, animation, production, computer systems, human resources, security, and even the cafe.

“With such a diverse population, I believe the stories we tell in our films have the potential to be that much richer. We are all able to pull from our own unique cultural experiences and contribute to the making of our films in our own special way.

“Aside from casually running into each other around campus, or having lunch or coffee, one of the ways we, Pixnoys, get together is through our yearly potluck. I’m actually excited about what I want to bring to the next potluck,” he said.

Asked what he would advise aspiring Filipino animators who want to make it in the animation industry in the US, Paul suggested, “Continue to work on mastering those fundamentals in your respective discipline, be it drawing, painting, animation, design, etc.

“Filmmaking relies heavily on communication, due to its collaborative nature. Not only do you have to communicate effectively through your art, you also have to be able to pitch your work, and give and receive constructive criticism. Being resilient and responsive to changes are important skills to develop – so ask your peers and teachers for feedback on your work and build friendships and good habits while at school.”

Lastly, he always tells students to be nice to each other.

“I mean treat each other well with respect and dignity. The animation industry is smaller than you think, so one way or the other, you’re going to cross paths with your peers sooner or later in the professional world.

“Making these movies is not an easy task, and when days get very challenging, a positive attitude goes a long way.


-Los Angeles, Courtesy to Pixar Movies



Source: Manila Bulletin

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