Jorge Gutierrez Makes El Macho:
El Bonito on Screenblast!
By Rita Street
Jorge R. Gutierrez doesn't consider himself
a great animator which is funny considering the fact that his webisode,
El Macho, was number two on Screenblast.com - Sony Pictures'
consumer content and creation site - two weeks before the series
officially launched. Says Gutierrez, "To me, a cartoon is three
things: story, design and animation. Of those three things, the
thing I'm not so good at is animation. My things are design and
story. So Flash has been a blessing; it allows me to put the emphasis
on those two areas."
Yeah, yeah. That's all well and good; it's
just that Gutierrez's designs are so enticing - so spectacularly,
folklorically, colorfully, delicious - it looks like he's animated
the hell out of them. Simply put, El Macho is as pleasing
to the eye as Cartoon Network's luscious Samurai Jack, and
the storylines aren't bad either. The Internet series follows the
trials and tribulations of El Macho, a muscle-bound Luchador (that's
Mexican Wrestler; you know, those big guys with the masks
who is brought up by a nun in her quaint little orphanage. He's
a really muy grande guy with a heart of gold that fights
to protect the orphans from muy malos guys.
Curious to learn about the artistic muscle
behind El Macho we questioned Gutierrez about everything
from his early artistic years to his influences that include another
great stylist, the late Maurice Noble.
AMO: El Macho started wrestling while
he was still in diapers. Did you pick-up a pen when you were still
Gutierrez: I was born in Mexico City
and moved to Tijuana when I was 10 years old. I started painting
around then and I wrote short stories, but it never occurred to
me that you could put those two things together to make animation.
I went to high school in San Diego and was told I should go to CalArts.
So I debated whether I should go into painting or live action; it
still never occurred to me to go into animation, but Jules Engel
accepted me [into the Experimental Animation Program] on the spot.
My parents didn't have enough money for the whole degree so I made
a deal with my dad. I said if he could come up with enough money
for a whole year, it would be my responsibility to get enough scholarships
to finish my degree. CalArts, and the Mexican National Arts Council
completely sponsored me. I'm like a perfect example of someone who
was supported the whole way through.
AMO: Why computer animation?
Gutierrez: At first, I was scared of
computers. My thing was folk art; Mexican folk art. But then I started
working on my computer-animated film, Carmelo, and I got
an Emmy internship to work on Stuart Little. Sadly, I realized
how many people it takes to make a huge feature; and how little
creativity there was for someone like me as a computer animator.
So, I went back to school to finish my own short and just try to
eventually get into story and design. Roman Laney and CalArts animation
teacher Lawrence Fagan began to help me on the El Macho pilot
[El Macho vs. The Mariachis of Doom!] I finally finished
Carmelo my third year and it won a student Emmy for Best
CG Animated Film. The people at Sony called me and I got to pitch
here [at Sony] to Andrew Schneider [Sr. VP, Screenblast.com].
Ive been at Sonys Screenblast
for a year now, where Im constantly challenged to be as creative
as I can. Everything has to be approved but they let me loose as
far as story ideas, designs and colors. One problem I had when I
was pitching [to other studios] was people thought my work was too
Latin. Sonys Screenblast liked that and wanted me to be true
to Latino culture. Hopefully, they'll let me do a Spanish version
as well. What's nice about El Macho, I hope, is that it highlights
the great things about Latin culture. It's also got a lot of heart.
AMO: Do you do all the work on the
Gutierrez: Well, I did at first, but
now I've got super artist Roman Laney to help me. We're going to
be doing between 26 and 32 episodes. We should be getting more help
AMO: Who are your influences?
Gutierrez: The old school UPA guys,
Covarrubias and Maurice Nobel. I got to work with him before he
passed away and it changed my life. We were working together (with
another WB legend Bob Givens) on Chuck Jones Timberwolf
series. Maurice was also in development on a series about folktales
from around the world, Noble Tales. Maurice and Tod Polson
contacted me to come up with the Mexican folktales. He loved Mexican
art. Maurice had a gazillion stories and great advice. He liked
El Macho but he thought I used too much color; he told me
I was giving it away for free, not saving it for special moments.
At first I was a little hurt, but he's right in a way. Still, Latin
color is like Chinese color; it's bright most of the time. It's
harsh but in a nice way. Also, Craig McCrackens Powerpuff
Girls, Bruce Tims Batman and John K.s Spumco
work continue to inspire me.
AMO: What's next?
Gutierrez: My superdream is to one-day
make a CG Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) feature.