Remember the cute animated characters in “Kung Fu Panda,” “Puss in Boots” and “Flushed Away”? They would never have come to life if it wasn’t for Colombian-born William Arias.
Arias has always loved animation, film, and lighting — so he combined all three and became a lead lighting artist for DreamWorks. He says he’s excited to take his 3-year-old son to see his latest 3D creation — a comedic animation about the world’s first cave-dwelling family, called “The Croods” — which premieres nationally in theaters on March 22nd.
“I’m waiting to see how he’ll react to this one,” he says, explaining that his son loves putting on the 3D glasses to see his work pop off the screen.
Arias has been working at DreamWorks for the past seven years, and this film — his 10th — he says, is his personal favorite.
“I really wanted to work on ‘Croods’ for a few years,” says the 44-year-old, who was chosen to work on a team of six for the film. “There’s a lot of stuff that is involved in the character design…Everything needs to be modeled for a 3D world. It’s not drawn, but objects are made out of computer software…Like you are making something with clay, but in a virtual world.”
As a lead lighter, he says his job entails creating lighting rigs and setting up the look for the environments and the characters in a film.
“It’s the process of making the animation look real,” he says. “Just like a cinematographer would do lighting on a real-life film, that’s basically what I do for 3D animated films.”
His favorite part in “Croods” was making the part where it rains.
“I really liked working on that, because it was challenging to make the characters look wet,” says Arias. “It was a really intimate moment between the main characters, but there are so many parts in this film. The end is my favorite — it’s really emotional.”
He says he really enjoys the creative process of his job, and that he’s always creating something new.
“I was really influenced by ‘Tron,’” says Arias, explaining it was the first 3D movie, that came out in 1982, that got him hooked on 3D animations. “I was really fascinated by that.”
Arias studied film in New York’s Long Island University, had a stint doing video editing for news, and then did motion graphics.
“I always did animation on the side,” says the soft-spoken artist, who also studied computers on his own whenever he could. “Eventually, I decided I really want to do this.”
After working for a small animation company in New York, he eventually got a job at DreamWorks, in California, as a lighter. A few years later, he got promoted to lead lighter.
“This is a job that requires you to be constantly learning,” says Arias. “You always have to keep up with technology, because it changes so fast in this industry.”
Currently, he’s working on his next project, “Turbo.”
“It’s amazing,” says Arias, about the story about a snail that wants to race. “I like it, because it has Latinos in it…the voices are amazing too. I’m in the middle of it.”