Meet our second LXiA Member and Youth Cinema Project (YCP) mentor, Angel! Tell us more about yourself and your journey as an Animation Mentor.
I’m so happy to be a member of LXiA and grateful for this interview! My name is Angel Ruvalcaba. I was born in California and moved to Arizona when I was 12. I was raised solely by my mother, who made a lot of sacrifices for me and my brothers. She always supported our dreams, and my desire to pursue a career in film and animation. I owe her everything and it’s because of her that I am where I am today.
I went to Mesa Community College and got an Associates in Digital Arts (Illustration) and a Bachelors in Filmmaking at Arizona State University. Films like Toy Story, Jurassic Park and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, inspired me to pursue filmmaking in animation. Ever since seventh grade, I have always been working and going to school. I worked at my school cafeteria, I worked at Chuck E. Cheese, I worked at Home Depot and I was a manager at Harkins Theaters. A couple years ago, I got really lucky and got into the Disney College Program. I worked over at Disneyland and worked Custodial and it was such an amazing experience. It wasn’t exactly related to what I wanted to do but I don’t think I’d be where I am now if not for those years of self-exploration.
I spent some time at an animation company in Arizona called Velorean Productions or Innovelore Entertainment where I learned so much about animation and really learned the production process! I was primarily a 2-D Animation Compositor and I would wear different hats depending on the project. Unfortunately due to Covid, I’ve been looking for new opportunities and came across YCP. I found this really amazing job with Youth Cinema Project as an Animation Mentor and if it felt perfect for me in so many ways. The passion I feel about animation and film is the same feeling I get when teaching and working with kids. As a recent college graduate, I realize how much I love and miss the teaching space. And since I’m very loud and always have something to say I’m a perfect fit for these zany sixth graders. I am reminded of people like my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Ortiz, who supported my art–when I was a kid he was (and still is) a comic nerd and would trade his comic books in exchange for my drawings of Captain America and Spider-Man. If it weren’t for people like him and my mom, I’m not sure I’d be doing this. If I can make that change in even one student then it’ll all be worth it.
What other things are you focused on when you are not mentoring?
I’m the type of person who loves to try new things even if I’m not good at them. I draw as a hobby, usually fan art or art of people I know. I’ve started my hand at 2-D Animation and it’s definitely easier to critique than to do, that’s for sure. I also enjoy music (if only I could be better at playing it), and have a guitar I love playing Rock music on–just don’t ask my roommate how he feels about it though! In addition, I love screenwriting, playing video games and of course watching movies, especially during this 2020 quarantine, which has definitely given me plenty of time to reconnect with these hobbies, but most of my time has been focused on career building.
Then there’s networking and applying for career opportunities, which I have been doing a lot of. Right now, my long term goal is to be a Production Coordinator at one of the large animation studios. It’s a role that I believe I am made for since it combines my skills of management and passion for animation. It’s a constant battle to get my foot in the door since I first have to work as a Production Assistant, but I know I’m almost there!
How is representation important for you to see in the animation industry, and how do see it changing starting with children?
It’s wild to me that we live in a world where we’re still fighting to get other voices heard in entertainment, especially in Animation. Hearing other perspectives is so important and Animation is largely a kid-focused medium so it’s even more important for them. Growing up, the selection of TV shows/ films featuring Mexican American kids was so limited. It would always confuse me when a kid on a TV show was portrayed as having a strong accent, liking soccer and guacamole. As a second generation Mexican American, I didn’t relate to those things and yet the media tended to portray us the same way.
Nowadays, a lot of new animated shows are headed in the right direction, where we are seeing content made by people of color and that’s how it should be! It allows children to grow up with an authentic and real understanding of other cultures from the perspective of those that have lived it and not just another white guy who spent a weekend at Rocky Point. There are so many cultures and lifestyles in the world and for some people the only representation of those people is through TV, so why not show the younger generation how beautiful and diverse our world truly is? But we must also tell new stories about people of color; I’m so tired of hearing the same stories!
Can you tell us more about what you do as a YCP mentor and what the program entails?
I co-teach sixth grade Latinx students in the animation process from writing all the way to post production. The animation program is very new and we’re adapting as we go since Covid has also affected how we teach. Classes so far have consisted of students creating protagonists, giving them goals, and thinking outside of the box. Right now the biggest learning curve is helping them learn how a story arc works. It’s not like math where it’s the same result every time—it’s a more creative formula. I believe it can be confusing for them to grasp, but I’m so proud of them for asking questions and willing to learn! A Lot of the classes remind me of how a writing room works and that it’s a collective brainstorm of ideas! The students share how much they love this class and how it gives them a creative space.
What is your biggest hope as a YCP Mentor and why is this program so important to you?
As corny as it sounds, I really just hope I inspire these kids to enter the animation industry. We’ve talked about how this industry needs more voices like theirs and they need to know that it’s a viable career. They have such an amazing imagination and drive and I want to use this time to challenge them to grow as artists! In the future, when I’m old, I want to be able to see one of their names as the director of the newest Pixar movie and smile.
Thank you for interviewing with us, Angel!
Follow Angel Ruvalcaba on social media!