The closest animated character I saw myself as was Miguel in Coco. My family had Spanish ancestry, and he looked a bit like me: brown skin, a nose like mine, and a story close to home. I think I speak for a lot of people that in the media we consume, we look for part of ourselves — and as Filipinos, we’re okay with just bits and pieces. We’ve learned over time that maybe, this all we’ll have.
But for Bobby Rubio, a Filipino-American story artist working at Pixar, that isn’t enough. Recognizing the value of people seeing themselves on the screen, he created, wrote, and directed a Pixar short featuring two lead Filipino characters in an animated film: a first in the Pixar world.
In Float, a dad decides between running away or accepting his kid’s unusual ability to float. Bobby’s short film is part of the studio’s SparkShorts initiative, a program designed to bring out new stories and techniques within its pool of storytellers. We talk to Bobby about life at Pixar, challenging first ideas, and being seen.
What is it like working in Pixar?
I have been with Pixar Animation Studios for about 12 years now, and it has been a great joy to do so. Everyone at the studio is constantly pushing to tell great stories and working and reworking those stories to get as much entertainment and emotion in them as possible! I’m in the story department and what keeps this job fun and exciting is figuring out the story, the character advancements, and the twists and turns that happen in the story. We try to keep our stories fresh and innovative, so this process of doing several passes to get it right is invigorating and challenging but definitely fun and exciting.
Filipino-American story artist Bobby Rubio has been working in Pixar Animation Studios for 12 years.
You got to work on Toy Story 4. Were you also involved in the previous Toy Story films? Which one is your favorite?
I worked on Toy Story 3, but only very briefly, so unfortunately, do not have my name in the credits – but I loved that movie! Out of all of the four films, I would say that the first Toy Story is my favorite, because it was so new and unlike anything we had ever seen before! The story was so inventive and creative, and that movie really started it all for Pixar, so I have to say it’s my favorite
How is it like working on such a beloved film and characters?
It was so amazing to work on these iconic characters, and I was thrilled to see my scenes come back with Tom Hanks and Annie Potts’s voices on them – it finally felt so real! I’m looking up at the screen and there’s Woody and Bo Peep! I revert back to being a fanboy and I just geek out at seeing those two characters interacting with one another on a scene that I drew!
The best lesson I learned from Pixar is to not be satisfied with the first idea, try out another idea; this process will help you enhance the idea or make you realize that the first idea was strong.
What are the best lessons that you’ve learned while working at Pixar? Do you have any tips that you can give aspiring animators and young creatives?
The best lesson I learned from Pixar is to not be satisfied with the first idea, try out another idea; this process will help you enhance the idea or make you realize that the first idea was strong. Sometimes you just have to put the idea out there and challenge it along the way — the strong ideas stay while the weak ones are cut out of the film. My tips to young animators and creatives are to trust in your gut, trust your ideas, but like I mentioned before, test those ideas, tell them to friends and family, do they like the idea? Can it be made clearer? Tell your story, not theirs, hold on to your beliefs and keep pushing for excellence! Also remember, nothing is perfect, but strive to be the very best that you can be.
Let’s talk about Float and Neighborhood Legend. What should we look forward to the most?
I am so happy and thrilled to announce the first CGI Filipinx Characters in leading roles in the upcoming Pixar Spark Short, “Float,” which I wrote and directed! I am touched by the response that I’ve gotten from people who were moved to finally see themselves on screen! I can relate to this because I know how it feels to be in the invisible minority that blends into the crowd. This time we are front and center and we are the main characters, and I cannot wait for more Filipinx characters to part of the mainstream! When you see yourself on screen there is validation that you are worthy, that you belong, that you’re not on the outside. That you are seen. I am so proud to start the stories to come, I hope to inspire even more Filipinx stories to come! “Float” will be released on the Disney+ Streaming Service in Fall 2019!
When you see yourself on screen there is validation that you are worthy, that you belong, that you’re not on the outside. That you are seen.
“Neighborhood Legend” is my creator-owned intellectual property about a Filipino Superhero! I’m currently working on it and I hope to have something to show real soon!
‘Float’, and the rest of the Pixar SparkShorts, will be streaming on Disney+ starting November 12. Follow Bobby Rubio on Instagram @bobbyrubio