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The animated world of a Filipina

Before one animated character is drawn, it is all about the story. That’s where Josie Trinidad comes in.

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JOSIE TRINIDAD

JOSIE TRINIDAD

Her father is a doctor and her mother is a nurse. Her cousins are lawyers and engineers.

No wonder Josie Trinidad felt pressured from her family to follow in their footsteps and pursue one of these professions for a living. But, like any clichéd novel or award-winning cinematic picture, she was somehow seen as the “odd one out,” deviating from the family “standard” by pursuing a career as an artist.

It’s not like she was considered the disreputable or undesirable member of the group. In fact, Josie’s family supported her endeavor since day one. They were the proudest when she joined The Walt Disney Company as a story artist in 2004.

“I actually don’t know where my artistic side came from. And my mom and dad would always argue about that!” she laughed during a roundtable interview with Bulletin Entertainment.

Quite the Filipino invasion
Josie is full-blooded Filipina.

She is just one of many “Pixnoys (short for Pixar Pinoys)” who work in Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. She is the human behind every lovable animated character people adore.

Josie’s mother was from Ilocos Norte, while her father was born in Laguna. They eventually migrated to Los Angeles, California, where she was born and raised.

Despite spending most of her life abroad, Josie said she makes sure to touch base with her Filipino identity.

“I come home a lot. I still have couple of aunts in Mandaluyong, in San Juan and in Las Piñas. We are a very close family and we see each other often,” she explained. “Being a Filipino is really embedded in me. Yes, I am fortunate that I get to do what I love to do in the States and the gift of (American) citizenship is very awesome. But I always tell myself that I’m here because there is a whole country I’m representing, and that’s the Philippines.”
Josie was inspired to pursue animation as a career at age 11 while watching “Robin Hood” on VHS.

“We accidentally paused the movie and it continued to play in slow motion,” she recalled. “I saw each frame change and move. It was stunning how beautiful each drawing was. I realized someone actually had to draw each frame of animation, and I knew I wanted to do that.”

She attended University of California, Los Angeles, majoring in English literature and fine art, and studied character animation at California Institute of the Arts. Afterwards, she worked as an illustrator for toy company MGA Entertainment, as well as Klasky Csupo on animated commercials.

Josie joined Disney in 2004 as a story apprentice. Once she completed training, she was hired as a story artist. Her Disney credits include 2009’s feature film “The Princess And The Frog,” Walt Disney Animation Studios’ (WDAS) 2010 adventure “Tangled,” the arcade-game-hopping “Wreck-It Ralph,” 2016’s Oscar winner for best animated feature “Zootopia,” and shorts “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater” and “The Ballad of Nessie.”

She recalled being the only Asian woman in the apprentice program.

“It’s quite overwhelming. Like, ‘Wooh! Why am I the only one?’ I also remember the time when there were only two women in the whole story department of Disney,” she shared. “But now, nearly half are women from all over Asia. Some come from Korea, Taiwan, and Indonesia.”

“It’s nice because each Asian woman can bring their unique perspective there. They can just be themselves and show what we’ve got.”

Right now, Josie said there are three Filipinos working in the story department of Disney. She couldn’t help but be proud with more and more Pinoy artists rising to the top of the global animation stage.

As usual, we asked her to give advice to aspiring animators.

For her, being in that kind of field is laborious. It requires talent and a lot of hard work.

“There are so many Filipino artists. I guess they just have to be persevering, true to themselves, and they should never ever give up that easily,” she said. “Also, they have to find unique and interesting stories to tell. Be creative. Make something that world has not seen yet. The important thing – no matter what happens, no matter what challenges they’ve encountered – is the finished product.”

Given the chance, she would like to do a Disney story about a Filipino princess warrior.

“Darna, maybe?” she said.

A ‘hilarious’ sequel
Josie was in the Philippines recently to promote her latest opus with Disney, “Ralph Breaks The Internet,” where she serves as the Co-Head of Story.

It is a follow-up to 2012’s “Wreck-It Ralph” and it also marks the first feature-length theatrical sequel from WDAS since 2000’s “Fantasia 2000,” which was a sequel to 1940’s “Fantasia.”

Six years after the events of the first film, the steering wheel controller on the Sugar Rush game console breaks, forcing Mr. Litwak to unplug the machine. Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz evacuate all of the Sugar Rush residents to other games before it is shut down, placing the racers in the care of Fix-It Felix Jr. and Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun.

Ralph and Vanellope then use the arcade’s new connection to the Internet to go looking for a replacement steering wheel. While they find a source for a replacement wheel, they need money, leading them to join a free-to-play violent racing game called Slaughter Race. Along the way, the two encounter new customs, worlds, and characters, such as trendy algorithms and the Disney Princess lineup with The Muppets, Star Wars, Disney Animation, Marvel Comics, and Pixar characters.

Actors John C. Reilly (Ralph), Sarah Silverman (Vanellope), Jack McBrayer (Fix-It Felix Jr.), Jane Lynch (Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun), and Ed O’Neill (Mr. Stan Litwak) reprising their roles from the first film, with Alan Tudyk (KnowsMore) returning to voice a new character, alongside new additions to the cast such as Gal Gadot (Shank), Taraji P. Henson (Yesss), and Alfred Molina(Double Dan).

“The first movie ends with the idea that these two misfits are kindred spirits — they have the same sense of humor.
We didn’t want to just give the audience more of that friendship — we have to see that relationship grow,” Josie said of the sequel.

She promised: “This film is compelling, fun, hilarious but also with a heart that people would surely relate to, especially in these days of Internet and social media.”

Directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, “Ralph Breaks The Internet” hits Philippine cinemas on Nov. 21. (All photos from Walt Disney Animation Studios).

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