‘La Calesita’ Director Augusto Schillaci Takes Us on a Special Ride

When Augusto Schillaci’s heartfelt CG-animated short La Calesita (The Merry-Go-Round) debuted at Annecy in June, audiences praised its heartwarming portrayal of an old merry-go-round operator, who plays an important role in the lives of the neighborhood kids and families that enjoy his nostalgic attraction. Schillaci, a veteran at Reel FX who has worked as an acclaimed VFX and CG supervisor on projects as wide-ranging as The Book of Life, Daffy’s Rhapsody, Enchanted and Robots, was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about his charming labor of love.

Augusto Schillaci by Shane Wapskineh
Augusto Schillaci [ph: Shane Wapskineh]
Animation Magazine: Can you tell us a bit about the short and when you started thinking about the premise for it?

Augusto Schillaci: I started the idea many years ago when, through my wife, I met her town merry-go-round operator, Don Luis — he was 93 years old and still running the neighborhood merry-go-round. I saw how everyone around the town loved him and how much he loved the kids and the town. That gave me the inspiration for creating a story around the neighborhood. The story is not real, but the inspiration for the character is.

How long did it take to make and which animation tools did you use to produce it?

The whole production took around a year and half and the majority was done through the pandemic. Reel FX Animation Studios helped me with all the artists and producers, but we can only work on it when we don’t have other projects going on at the studio. We mainly used Autodesk Maya for animation, Arnold for rendering, Houdini for effects and Nuke for compositing.

How many people worked on the short with you?

If you look at the credits you will see a lot of people, more than 150 I believe, but the majority of the times we only had an artist helping for a day or two, then that person will go to another project and a new artist will come help. It’s funny to see our credit list and people will think, “Wow, it took that many artists to make this short?” It was important for me to have all the names of people that helped.

La Calesita
La Calesita

What are you most pleased about the final results?

As a director and creator, you always want more, but I’m very happy with the end result.

What were your biggest challenges?

Since the short has no dialog, animation and rigging were the biggest challenge in order to get the right emotion to the main character so the audience could understand how he felt.

How did working in VFX and CG animation for the past 20 years help you on directing your short?

Before transitioning to director, I was a VFX supervisor on movies, The main job of a VFX supe is to help the director realize his movie, work with artists and producers to achieve that. This short was very ambitious — around 50 characters, big sets, rain with the change of seasons, different lighting setups, etc. Being a VFX  supe helped me organize the whole short and make it happen with limited resources.

La Calesita
La Calesita

What do you love about working in the short format?

The challenge of making a great story that the audience can understand and feel, but with limited time and resources.

Who are your big animation heroes?

There are too many to mention since I love all styles of animation, but the biggest one for me is Hayao Miyazaki. He can make you see and feel stories in a very unique way.

La Calesita

When did you realize you wanted to work in animation?

A long time ago, I started to work on 3D animation in 1993 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I loved it with such a passion that I made the big decision of leaving my country and moved to North America to pursue my dream.

What do you hope audiences will take away from your wonderful short?

I believe that this short has a very strong message for the times we live today. The biggest message of the short is the importance of community above the individual. It is also very important for me that the audience sees elderly people with different eyes. It is not often that we see an elderly person as a main protagonist.

You can find out more about the short here: https://www.lacalesitafilm.com

Watch the trailer below:

 

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