Rising Stars of Animation 2021

April 6 2021

By: Animation Magazine

Carlos Baena

Director, The Tiger’s Apprentice [Paramount]

Stats: 46, born in Canary Islands and raised in Madrid, Spain.

I knew I wanted to work in animation: 

When I moved to the U.S. in 1993 to study art. While growing up in Spain, I was not aware one could actually work in the field of animation even though I loved movies from a young age. It wasn’t until I watched the films Nightmare Before Christmas and Toy Story that I wanted to learn more about animation and film.

First job: 

I just finished a 2D short film and a bunch of 3D animation exercises in early 1998. For about a half year I was sending old VHS demo reel tapes and resumes to many places unsuccessfully. This was a challenging time because if I didn’t find a job, I’d have to return to Spain due to my visa status. Though later that summer I was lucky that I was hired by Will Vinton Studios to work on the M&M’s CG commercials. During the day, I’d work on the computer, and during the evening, once my day job ended, the studio allowed me to practice stop-motion animation on one of their unused sets. It was a great first job that gave me wonderful memories.

What I love about working on the movie: 

Many things. I feel fortunate I get to work on something unique and learn from my co-workers constantly. I’m also very thankful we have the support of Paramount Animation when pushing towards creating something different, as well as having a truly dedicated team around the world. It’s an important film for me because of personal reasons. The film is based on a beautiful book written by Laurence Yep, and also portrays an inspiring message that I love, especially in a time where there’s been so much division in our country.

Toughest part: 

Nothing comes easy in animation, that’s for sure! Even projects or shots that I thought at times would be simple, ended up surprising me. Additionally, I found things tend to take a lot longer in 3D animation to produce and not necessarily in the most affordable way, which makes it challenging to try things outside the box within our medium. But I personally have liked the challenge over the years. If it’s too easy, I feel like it’s missing something.

Favorite toons growing up:

I wasn’t big into animation growing up. I remember watching the old versions of The Jungle Book and The Sword in the Stone as well as Takahashi’s Captain Tsubasa anime. It was definitely during and after college that I started studying it seriously. Since then I’ve really enjoyed and been inspired by films such as The Iron Giant, Spirited Away and the works of Satoshi Kon.

Best advice: 

I’d say, to not get ahead of yourself. Not to rush. I’ve made that mistake a few times, and it always makes me want to take a few steps back. So take your time learning different things at whichever pace feels right to you. Additionally, leave room for learning, even if you made it to your dream job. And lastly, don’t forget to have a life outside the computer screen. Those experiences will give you the best animation material you can ask for.

Future plans: 

To hopefully continue telling stories as well as pushing our medium forward. There is truly so much more we can do in this medium, so many different stories we can tell, that not only we get the kids to enjoy it, but adults can embrace the experience just as much. I want to tell stories that not only use comedy to hook audiences, but also have depth, substance and thought-provoking themes.

To read the full article and see all the amazing featured stars: