Disney expert inspires a new generation of animators during exclusive workshop at Sharjah Animation Conference
Famous character designer and animator of “The Iron Giant,” “The Angry Birds Movie” and “Klaus,” shares his inspiring journey and wealth of knowledge with aspiring animators
Sharjah, May 04, 2023
Sandro Cleuzo, famous for his work on blockbusters such as “The Princess and the Frog”, “Tarzan” and the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise; a world renowned animator with over 37 years of experience in the industry; recently held a workshop that offered aspiring animators a rare opportunity to learn from one of the best in the business. The workshop, which took place in a bustling auditorium at this year’s inaugural Sharjah Animation Conference currently taking place at Sharjah Expo Centre, was packed with attendees eager to hear Sandro’s inspiring story and learn from his wealth of knowledge on the art of animation.
Discovering a passion in illustration and animation
Born in Brazil to Italian parents, Sandro’s love for illustrating and characters was sparked at an early age, when he would ask his family members to pose for him as he attempted to recreate the characters he saw on television. He honed his skills through a combination of self-teaching and books on the subject. One day while sketching an amateur comic strip during school his teacher asked for a copy and secretly sent it to a famous brazilian cartoonist which landed Sandro a coveted internship at the prestigious Mauricio de Sousa Productions in Brazil at the young age of 14.
Shortly after this Sandro was invited to an animation studio by a colleague at the time. This was his first glimpse into the behind-the-scenes world of animation, and he instantly fell in love with it. He used a book called Animation by Preston Blair to refine his skills, eventually becoming a self-taught animator by age 17. After being inspired by the animated film “Secret of Nimh”, Sandro saved up for a year and flew to Ireland to seek a job with the studio that produced it. After impressing studio founder Don Bluth with his portfolio, Sandro was hired on the spot working on productions including “Thumbelina,” “Anastasia,” and “The Emperor’s New Groove.” He went on to work for Disney, DreamWorks, along with other studios, and has since received several awards for his work, including an Annie Award for his contributions to Mary Poppins Returns. Sandro’s journey reminds us that with hard work and persistence, anything is possible.
Sharing knowledge and techniques with the next generation of animators
But despite his impressive resume of animated films such as “The Iron Giant,” “The Angry Birds Movie,” and “Space Jam: A New Legacy”, Sandro remains humble and eager to share his knowledge with others. During the workshop, he took attendees through the entire process of creating an animated film, from ideation and scriptwriting to final compositing and sound design. He also shared valuable insights into the finer points of animation, including tips on character design, movement, and expression.
One of the most inspiring aspects of Sandro’s workshop was his emphasis on persistence and dedication. He spoke candidly about the challenges he faced throughout his career, from rejection letters to layoffs, and emphasised that success in the animation industry requires a deep commitment to one’s craft. “I encourage you all to be patient with yourselves and persevere, even in the face of setbacks,”
Another standout feature of the workshop was Sandro’s live demonstration of character creation. Attendees watched in awe as he brought a new character to life on the screen, deftly manipulating every curve and line to convey a distinct personality and mood. It was a powerful reminder of the magic and artistry that goes into creating animated films, and left many in the audience feeling inspired and eager to try their own hand at the craft.
Making a mark on the industry
In an industry that can often feel isolating and competitive, Sandro’s workshop was a refreshing reminder of the power of collaboration and mentorship. By sharing his own hard-won knowledge and experience, he is helping to create a new generation of talented animators who are passionate about their craft and committed to making their mark on the industry.
As the workshop came to a close, attendees filed out of the venue, buzzing with excitement and inspiration. For many, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from a true master of the craft. But more than that, it was a reminder that with hard work, dedication, and a little bit of luck, anything is possible. As Sandro himself said during the workshop, “If you have a dream, don’t give up.” And with teachers like Sandro to guide and inspire them, it’s clear that the future of animation is in very good hands indeed.