Raya and the Last Dragon filmmaker Carlos López Estrada spoke with Solzy at the Movies about the transition to directing animation.
The following conversation took place during the first of a two-part virtual roundtable for the Raya and the Last Dragon home video release. In addition to Carlos López Estrada, both producer Osnat Shurer and head of story Fawn Veerasunthorn participated in this roundtable. A second roundtable featured co-director Don Hall, writer Adele Lim, and writer Qui Nguyen.
Blindspotting was the first-ever film that I saw on the ground during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. You can imagine the excitement when Disney announced that Carlos López Estrada would be directing one of their animated films. The result of Estrada’s hiring is one of the best animated films this year.
What were the biggest challenges that came with the transition from directing live action to animation?
Carlos López Estrada: I feel like every challenge was new and exciting just because the worlds are so similar on the surface but so different when it comes down to the nuances of how the team works together and the amount of people they get to work on these movies. The workflow that—how characters are designed, rigged, animated, and then lit—there’s just so many layers to how an animated movie is put together.
I think probably the biggest one for me was how the story is developed just because here at Disney, they like story. I mean, everywhere story is sort of the foundation of a movie. But here, the amount of time that you can dedicate to the workshopping of the characters and the scenes of the moments, the amount of times that you’re able to re-approach something and reinvent it. The whole process of making an animated movie has room built in so that you can screen the film, get notes, re-imagine the story, get more notes, and do that again for years.
Learning that Disney process and opening my mind to sort of allow myself to not think in a concrete timeline that I’m so used to thinking. I’m thinking like, okay, we have two months and we have to make this story work. This is more of like, you’re really thinking about it as a marathon and you’re really thinking like, how can we sustain this process? How can we keep learning? How can we keep growing? That was a really big learning lesson because I had done nothing like it.