The Animator’s Sketch

They are the ones who give life to our favorite characters. Without them, I think life would be dull. Admit it, figuratively and literally, they give color to our lives. With such powerful hands, they bring our wild imaginations closer to reality. It’s high time that we turn the spotlight on the humble cartoon animator. I’ve recently had the pleasure of sitting down with one of Disney’s more prolific animators, Mr. Adelfo Manao, and finding out what makes a good animator tick.

Toni: How long have you been drawing? Did you have any special training for this or was drawing merely a hobby which you’ve parlayed into a job?

Adelfo: I’ve been drawing since I was young. I guess it’s both an inborn talent, and a hobby. I didn’t attend any workshop or classes. I practiced by myself. But if you wanna know how long I’ve been in this profession, that would be 17 years and 8 months. I’ve been a cartoon animator since January 1988. I’ve managed to hold onto this kind of job but it wasn’t always easy. When I was only starting out I had to transfer from one company to another. I spent 3 years in Fil Cartoons Inc. Afterwards I transferred to Moving Images Inc., and spent another 3 years there. Finally I landed a job in one of the biggest animation groups, Walt Disney, specifically with one of their subsidiaries, Toon City Animation Inc. I’ve been with them for most of my career. By the way, all of those companies are based here in the Philippines, although they are under foreign administrations.

T: Who or what encouraged you to draw?

A: Who? Well, that would be my father, Placido Manao, Sr. But encouraged is not exactly the word I would use. It’s more of, influenced. My father was very artistic. As a kid, I would watch him draw and imitate him. That’s how I discovered that I had the talent. But he never gave me formal lessons on how to draw things. Just like any other kid, I used to draw robots and anything from my imagination.

T: How did you get into this industry in the first place?

A: My sister-in-law knew someone from this field who happened to be her client. She told me to send some of my work to her client, which I did. Then after that, I took the required exams, submitted more portfolios, and luckily I passed. Honestly, this is not the kind of career I planned on having. I took up Marine Engineering during college, obviously hoping to become an engineer. But I wasn’t able to finish. I have no regrets thought, for being in this line of work, because I learned to love what drawing. At least, what I’m using here is my talent, and not only what I have learned in school. In other words, I enjoy my work.

T: Any personal favorites among the characters you’ve drawn? If you were to choose become a character in your drawings, who would it be and why?
A: I like all of my work, but I consider Lilo and Stitch as my favorite because we got more projects after it became a hit movie (laughs). Seriously, it is my favorite because they are troublesome but funny characters. And their appearances are appealing to children. As for the other question, I choose Mr. Incredible, because he’s just so incredible! Although he’s old he has remained strong for his family and for the people who need him. And he’s very funny, too.

T: How does it feel getting to see your masterpieces on the big screen?
A: I feel proud. Who wouldn’t, right? Just seeing those figures I drew come to life is a big achievement. Furthermore, to see your name included in the acknowledgement part, that’s the most rewarding part. I get the chance to become famous even for a second. Even though most of the viewers won’t sit and wait to see that part, at least to us animators we know we’re the ones who made those still figures come to life.
T: Is this profession financially rewarding?
A: It is. I think any profession or job will be, if we know how to make use of our time and skills as wisely as we can.
T: Any downside to being a cartoonist or animator?

A: None, I guess. This is a fun job. It’s like playing all the time, only it’s a more serious game.

T: What does it take to be a good cartoonist like you?

A: Of course you’ve got to possess not only talent but also passion for your craft. One must also think and feel like a child in order to create something that will interest your largest market, which are the children. Most of all, one must be very eager to learn.

T: Do you still see yourself holding that pencil 5 to 10 years from now?

A: 5 to 9 years, yes, definitely. But 10 years from now, I guess I’ll still be holding it, but not as a professional animator anymore. By that time, my daughter might have taken my place, not as an animator, but as the new provider for the family. That’s according to her. She wants me to retire once she becomes successful in her chosen field. But it’s a plus factor because she can also draw.

T: Any tips for aspiring cartoonist or animators out there?

A: The only tip that I have in mind for them is to never think that they know all about drawing just because they can do it. Drawing is a very broad field. There are lots of styles, techniques and tricks to be discovered through practice and continuous learning. Most importantly, try to develop your own style and never copy from another artist because each work of art is unique, each stroke is personal.



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