Spanish director Salvador Simó stepped into the global animation spotlight with his 2018 indie biopic Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles, which won the best animated feature Goya Award, European Film Award and Annecy Jury Award (to name a few). This Friday, the 20-year animation & VFX veteran delivers a very different project for Disney Channel, tooning up a hit live-action TV movie franchise in Descendants: The Royal Wedding.
The new animated special invites viewers to Auradon’s most anticipated social soirée: Mal and King Ben’s wedding. As the kingdom’s power couple prepare to say “I do” amid an epic celebration with friends and family, Hades plots to ruin it all.
Animation Magazine caught up with Simó to learn more about creating Disney TV’s hottest invitation of the season:
Can you tell us how you came to direct this movie, which is quite different from your previous acclaimed feature?
Le Cube contacted me to work together on a pitch for Descendants: The Royal Wedding, and Disney saw in us our unique vision, our passion to do an amazing job and a great team, so here we are.
I’ve been working in animation for 30 years, and the chance to direct a Disney project is a big and amazing challenge. I was excited to bring my experience and background to the project. Descendants has its own personality, and I hope I contributed to make it shine more.
What attracted you to the characters and the storyline?
They are human, in that they feel and fail. They have imperfections and that is what connects with the audience: empathy. We all have some corners here and there that need to be polished, this is how these characters create that connection. This special is a very human story that talks about feelings, around the bigger one, “Love.”
But personally, I love to work around the different perspectives of the same story. I love to imagine how the characters might see the same thing in a very different way. This information helps to fill the different pieces that let us see the whole picture.
Where was the animation produced and how did you work with the team?
The animation was produced all around the globe; Le Cube and Final Frontier in Madrid and Buenos Aires put together an ensemble of amazing professionals to create a worldwide team connected 24/7. Advancements in technology allows us new ways to create visually and new ways to connect with great professionals globally.
What did you love about this project?
Everything — this has been an amazing experience with the entire team at Le Cube and Disney. Our close collaboration has made the film much better each day.
What was the biggest challenge?
Time is always the big challenge. We tried to work as smartly as possible to optimize every single step, not wasting any effort. We rely on teamwork every day, enjoying what we do and using passion as a pencil to draw the characters.
Can you tell us a bit about the visual style of the special?
Designing the characters in the time we had was a big challenge. The style of the animation needs to be connected to the design of the characters to work properly. Sometimes we had to find the balance between both, but also always trying to keep the resemblance with the actors in live action.
What were your biggest sources of inspiration?
The three Descendants movies. We worked with the Disney team and relied on them to bring us into the Descendants universe and pass along insight and knowledge of these characters.
Your career has been quite remarkable, moving between big VFX projects like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Chronicles of Narnia, more traditional animated fare like A Goofy Movie and artsy indie titles like Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles and El Cid. How did you manage to work on so many eclectic titles?
Years of experience have allowed me to work on all of these various projects. I am so thankful to be able to work in this industry for many years – always learning and growing. I hope that never ends.
Each one of these different projects has made me a stronger person in many different ways. Little by little, they have helped me develop myself more as a professional and as an artist – and to help me find my own voice.
Which animation tools were used to produce this special?
I could mention all the different software and hardware, but the main tool was passion and an amazing team that did an incredible work.
What do you hope audiences will take away from Descendants: The Royal Wedding?
I hope the audiences will connect more with the characters and enjoy this special, and it will be amazing if it leaves them with a big smile at the end and an opportunity to look at the things from different angles.
What’s the best career advice anyone gave you … or you can offer newbies today?
Learn from everywhere and everyone, always. Every job is an opportunity to improve and do good work and enjoy each opportunity. Always be faithful to yourself and your principles, but challenge yourself and keep your mind open … you might find another way to see things.
Created by Sara Parriott & Josann McGibben (Descendants) and Ricky Roxburgh, Descendants: The Royal Wedding features a brand new song and original Descendants cast reprising their roles: Dove Cameron as Mal, Sofia Carson as Evie, Booboo Stewart as Jay, Mitchell Hope as Ben, Sarah Jeffrey as Audrey, Melanie Paxson as Fairy Godmother, China Anne McClain as Uma, Jedidiah Goodacre as Chad, Anna Cathcart as Dizzy, Dan Payne as Beast, Bobby Moynihan as Dude the Dog and Cheyenne Jackson as Hades.
The absence of Carlos, played by the late Cameron Boyce, will be acknowledged in the storyline and Boyce’s memory will be honored in the telecast.
Descendants: The Royal Wedding premieres Friday, August 13 on Disney Channel.