Jorge Gutierrez – El Tigre of Animation
It’s such a thrill every time we interview a Latino creative, but when we are fortunate to interview such a master talent like Jorge Gutierrez, we can’t contain our excitement. Jorge has not only been an inspiration and pioneer to fans of animation, he is a gracious cartoonista that we are honored to feature in the Cafe.
Judging by your animations, you must had a visually rich childhood in Mexico, what cartoons did you watch as a kid?
When I was a kid in Mexico City, I was in complete love with the old B&W Popeye cartoons. They spoke to me on a visceral level. They were super macho! I loved the idea that an ugly one eyed sailor could win the girl of his dreams as long as he never stopped fighting for her. It’s such a great under dog story. I am in love with what I think are the positive sides of Mexican machismo: strength, tradition, loyalty, honor and family. Without them I am nothing. And I think some of these beliefs came from watching Popeye cartoons.
Was there a moment when you realized you wanted to be a cartoonist or
did you grow up always drawing? Did your family support your creativity
Ever since I was a little kid I remember drawing cartoons. And I remember always doing it to entertain my family at gatherings. For example my grandpa would have me draw someone while looking at them upside down, stuff like that. I loved it! My father was an architect so drawing for a living seemed like a normal thing. Once I was a teenager and our family moved to Tijuana I wanted to be a writer, painter or film director. It never occurred to me that animation would allow me to do all three. When I was in high school I was accepted to CalArts and ended up going there (thanks to many scholarships from both sides of the border) for my BFA and MFA in Experimental Animation.
Mexico is rich in the arts it must have been a joy to be surrounded by such artwork. Who were your biggest influences?
As far as cartoonists, Quino (from Argentina), Miguel Covarrubias and Sergio Aragones from MAD were my childhood heroes. And I have always loved Picasso, Basquiat, Diego Rivera, Siqueiros and Jose Guadalupe Posada. Sergio Leone is my favorite film director. Graphically: Lucha Libre, Day of the Dead, Mayan & Aztec motifs and Mexican folk art are huge inspirations. To me Mexico is an incredible fountain of inspiration that never dries. I just swim in it everyday!
What’s the one thing that you like most about creating cartoons/animations?
I like the idea that you are making up whole new living and breathing worlds. As a creative person, this is a dream come true. Growing up I didn’t see many Latino themed cartoons so I try really hard to change this for my son Luka.
When people see your cartoons, what do you hope they enjoy most from your designs?
I try really hard to layer my work with cultural references to everything I love about Mexico. Hopefully I can share some of that nostalgic love with the audience.
El Tigre was groundbreaking, in that it was developed by a Latino
centered on Mexican culture. Was it a tough sell to the television studios?
Way harder than we ever imagined. Nickelodeon always believed in us and I could not be more thankful that they took a chance. Not every network is ready for a Latino lead, especially someone as morally complex as our hero Manny Rivera. Hopefully we made it easier for the next generation of Latino cartoon creators.
As Latino’s becomes a majority in the US, do you think there will be
more opportunities for Latino produced for themed animations on TV?
I sure hope so. It’s still shocking to me how little we see of ourselves in television and movies. Once things get more diverse the results will surely be far more interesting than what we have now. The problem is that we need more Latinos is positions to be able to green light Latino produced projects.
We would like to mention to our readers that your wife Sandra, is an Emmy winning artist as well. It must be nice to have such talented support and inspiration working next to you.
We were both teenagers when I met Sandra at punk rock concert in Tijuana and I was instantly in love. She wanted nothing to do with me! Two weeks later I proposed, she said no, and we started dating and creating art together. Eight years later I proposed on Day of the Dead and she said yes. She eventually got her Graphic Design degree in Tijuana and she did her thesis on animation while I was at CalArts. We would see each other every two weeks. I swore to her we could be the Diego Rivera & Frida Khalo of animation. Except without all the infidelity and the train cart running her over part. She went for it and here we are. I still believe that since we can actually work together (17 years now), our marriage is bullet proof! Or at least knife proof.
What’s in the future for your studio Mexopolis? Are you working on any
projects that you can tell us about?
Unfortunately I can’t say too much about it until they officially announce it. But I can tell you I’m about to start pre-production on my dream animated feature, which I’ll be co-writing and directing. And one of my Mexican film making heroes is producing it.
Visit Jorge’s web site to enjoy more amazing artwork: