FOR THIS man, dreams do come true.

DreamWorks Animation television director Manuel Luis “Louie” del Carmen debuts on his 18th year in the animation industry and plans to continue his craft for as long as he can.

“As far as I can remember, imagining and drawing things from my mind was something that I was pre-occupied with. I was drawn to movies, television, cartoons and illustrations and started to mimic all these things that fascinated me,” said the 46-year-old animator, who earned an associate degree in Commercial Arts from UST in 1985.

Right after graduating from the College of Architecture and Fine Arts then, Louie worked for small advertising agencies in Manila and later on found a new arena far different from drawing.

“It wasn't until I moved to the United States that I got really serious into making art my career,” Louie said. “My last job in Manila was at the now defunct 99.5 RT as an FM DJ. I did that for about six months until I departed for Los Angeles in July of 1989.”

Apart from doing animation, Louie has also worked on several short stories. The most substantial project he has worked on is the Steel Noodles, a three-book science fiction graphic novel.

“I self-published [it] out of my house and it made the rounds at conventions when the first book premiered in 2009 to great reviews,” said Louie, who now lives with his wife and two kids in Los Angeles, California.

Humble beginning

After leaving his work in Manila in 1989, Louie and his brothers Ronnie and Rick, who work for Pixar Animation and Fox Animation, respectively, moved to the United States where they began his career in animation.

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“I realized the opportunity to learn animation as a well-revered medium of film making and started to become serious about it,” he said. “Both my older brothers Ronnie and Ricky had already been working in animation at that time and it was almost a gift that I followed suit.”

Before making objects move in the silver screen, a 6-year-old Louie doodled and sketched different cartoon characters on paper and later on in his school notebooks.

“I drew what made me happy which was mostly things on TV and especially cartoons like Flintstones, Gigantor, Jonny Quest and Marvel superheroes,” said Louie, who is the youngest among the three Del Carmen animators.

With his older brothers being dedicated animators, too, Louie’s inner artist was brought to practice through their influence.

“Having two other brothers who like to draw helped a lot. I received a lot of inspiration from their passion for art and drawing,” he said.

Although there were no other artists in their family, it seemed the Del Carmen brothers have started a lineage of artists.

“My mother was a professional singer in the 1950’s so we probably got the artistic linking from her. Speaking for myself, I think it was a situation where we shared a common upbringing, a common value,” he said.

Louie said that the animation industry in the United States is small that you end up bumping into someone you know.

“It’s a small industry and thus, we end up working with colleagues who've worked with all of us. So I consider it as a positive thing,” he said.

Filmography

Starting as a character designer in 1995, Louie worked his way up while working for almost all the major studios in Los Angeles until he finally took a spot in DreamWorks Animation in 2007.

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“I am very fortunate to have worked on some amazing projects. I started with Aaah! Real Monsters and Rugrats in the mid to late 90’s where I learned how to direct animation for television,” he said. “Then there’s Invader Zim which to this day enjoys such a loyal following even though it’s been off the air for over 10 years.”

When he was under DreamWorks, Louie started working on feature films like Kung Fu Panda, Megamind, Rise of the Guardians and the most recent, The Croods.

“That journey is on-going which I am happy about and it has even brought me back to television where I am currently directing Dragons: Riders of Berk,” said Louie, who also worked for Disney’s Kim Possible and Nickelodeon’s Mighty B.

For all the animation works that he has been a part of, Louie’s passion for the arts and hard work earned him nominations from different prestigious award-giving bodies.

“I have been on numerous Emmy-, Oscar- and Annie-award winning and nominated projects, but I did not win. I am truly blessed to be where I am and that is the award in itself,” he said.

For Louie, animation is a “true art form” and unique among the different media of film making, and it is something that brings people together regardless of age or culture.

“Though a predominant amount of animation today is done on a computer, the craftsmanship is still pure,” he said. “It's still the personal bond between imagination and talent that the animator and artist develop.”

Being a Filipino, Louie believes that local animators around the world should tell great stories in the Filipino perspective.

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“Let’s tell the world how rich and unique our experiences are as a people and as a culture so that they may know who we are,” he said. “Because the very essence to what inspires Filipinos will help inspire the world.”

Though his work entails a lot of hard work and dedication, Louie is grateful for the values he has acquired in the University that has helped him get through over the years.

“UST is a great institution with an amazing history and a solid foundation in the Catholic Church. The values that it upholds and instils in its graduates are something that help forge great people,” he said.

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