Former Varsitarian art editor Ronald Samson was part of the group of animators who worked behind the animated feature “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” the second of the “Spider-Verse” trilogy that has received rave reviews from film critics. (Photo grabbed from Columbia Pictures)

Filipino animators have been striving to leave their mark in the crowded world of Hollywood as they work behind the scenes to create some of the most mesmerizing blockbusters ever created. 

There’s Ruben Aquino, a Filipino-Japanese animator for Walt Disney who helped bring to the silver screens “Mulan (1998),” “Lilo and Stitch (2002)” and “The Princess and the Frog (2009).” Armand Serrano worked as a visual development artist for Disney and Sony that introduced audiences to Baymax of “Big Hero 6 (2014)” and Flint Lockwood of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009).” And Gini Cruz Santos, a Thomasian, lent her creativity to give life to Dory of “Finding Nemo,” which integrated fish and human movements to make the character realistic and relatable. 

Joining that list is Ronald Samson, who once worked in the ‘90s at Room 112 of the Main Building as a Varsitarian art editor and has since been part of Hollywood blockbusters from “The Matrix Reloaded” to “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.”

As a child, Samson immersed himself in weekend morning cartoons with his siblings. They would imagine themselves as the vivid characters and playfully re-enact scenes they see on-screen.

“These transported us to different worlds while we role-played and those were memorable times,” the Canadian-based animator told the Varsitarian in an email interview. “That was what made me pursue a career in animation. [I want] to sustain the fun.”

Born in Sta. Cruz, Manila to Bicolano parents, Samson diligently worked his way to Hollywood, first working as a lighting director in 2003’s “Matrix Reloaded,” the second installment of the “Matrix” franchise starring Keanu Reeves.

The advertising graduate would then work on several projects for Sony Pictures Imageworks, a visual effects and computer graphic animation studio headquartered in Canada, drawing him into projects like “Rango (2011),” which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and “Hotel Transylvania (2012).”

Outside animation, he also worked in superhero films “The Avengers (2012)” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).”

This year, Samson was part of the blockbuster “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” the second film in a trilogy and an offshoot of the Oscar-winning “Spider-Verse” saga. He generated the light and color used during the opening fight scene between the lead character Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) and the villain Spot (voiced by Jason Schwartzman).

“When [Miles and Spot] were both going through portals and in and out of the buildings, shadows and into the sunlight, I had to determine when the two characters’ body parts get perfectly exposed in lights, properly calculating how to get the right amount of mood and color as they move,” Samson explained.

He enjoyed working on the scenes involving Spot, a newly introduced antagonist in the franchise. He was particularly drawn to the character’s distinct abilities, which demanded the creation of never-before-seen visual effects.

As the animation industry continuously grows, Samson has emphasized the importance of persistence for aspiring Filipino artists just as he did, which helped him stand out in a pool of talented artists.

“It will help if you can learn to become very flexible in fine arts because it will translate great in computer graphics and animation as it gives you the advantage of seeing things [from] different angles and lenses,” he said.


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