Animating 2D FX for Rick and Morty, TMNT, and The Cuphead Show!

animation interview Feb 14, 2023
Animating 2D FX for Rick and Morty, TMNT, and The Cuphead Show! - Featured


2D FX Artist Milena Gonçalez shares insights to getting a job in 2D FX for animated series. 


This is an amazing interview about how to break into the to the effects industry for television and film. We're talking with Milena Gonçalez. She's a legend. She's worked on shows like Rick and Morty, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Cuphead Show!, and many others.

The conversation that we had is just fantastic. I'm super excited for you to hear all about the world of 2D effects through Milena's perspective.

FYI, the following is just an excerpt from the entire fantastic conversation, which you can find inside of the VFX Apprentice Free Training course. There you can find more in-depth interviews and training on all things VFX for animation and games. 



See Milena's Work:




How should you approach building a reel for studios?

Milena Gonçalez: To be honest, I think the industry was very brutal hiring. Like they they get like hundreds of people and they're not going to watch a reel that is very long and they're not going to remember every reel that is full of repetitive stuff, I think is like what a teacher said and I did and it always worked. Start with your best piece, end with your best piece, no longer than one minute, and only your best stuff.

At the studio we would watch reels together and be like, I saw 30-second one video that was amazing. But then you see a one minute and a half one that's too much. You know, it's like it's 5 times the smoke and it's like, okay, I want to something else now. But that was it.

Jason Keyser: And I'll tell you this is exactly what happens because I think about the people that are in that room. These are leaders, these are senior level people. The company pays them a lot of money compared to junior level people and that's a very expensive meeting. So that one meeting, if it goes for an hour, it gets pricey for the company to have that meeting.

And so everyone feels that there's a certain sense. It's not like, hey, look at us, we're senior level, we're important. It's like we don't want to waste time, we don't want to waste money. We want to get that back to work. We want to get this production done. I've got like ten or 15 emails of people waiting on me that need my feedback because I'm a senior level person and I do that as part of my job. So and there's like five or ten of us in the room and we all have that. We all have people waiting on us to get back that are blocked by us not approving their stuff.

It's a very expensive meeting is my point, right, Both financially, but also because other people are not able to do their work without you.

So this is why it's brutal. This is why it's like the first effect needs to catch the attention. It needs to be exciting. It needs to make them say, Oh, and take their hand off the mouse and sit back and enjoy the reel. You want them to take their hand off of the mouse. They're not going to click close, right? That's your goal.

MG: You don't want them to say "boring, next." You know, seriously.

JK: I have watched this happen and I was I was always the nice one in the room. I think I'm like a natural nice person, I just want to help. Give them a chance.

MG: It has to be LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME, OH MY GOD, LOOK WHAT I CAN DO. That's the vibe. Don't show them your five different smokes. Show your best one. 

JK: You know how Hollywood makes these supercut perfect trailers that only show the best moments and they spoil the whole movie because it's all the best parts of the movie. That's what your demo reel needs to be. You need to sell yourself. It doesn't mean add music. Music covers up. Like let the work speak.

MG: The music doesn't even matter. They might even turn it off. If you think you don't have enough for a minute, make 30-seconds Amazing. It's not quantity it's quality. That's what it takes to get hired.


How should you prepare for an interview?


MG: You have to prep the day before. I prep for mine. I always talk to my partner pretending he's interviewing me and write down some key points that I don't I forget to say, because when you're nervous, you forget a lot of things.

If it's a for an interview, for a job you really want, like try to prep it and write down some answers and read about the studio. Don't go like all nervous and blank. They're going to ask you things and then 3 hours later you are going to think I should have said this.

JK: Definitely research the studio. That's another huge one. Like, that's huge. If you show them that you care enough about them and what they're doing that you took some time to look behind the scenes. You know, and try and figure out who people are like pause it on the credits if they don't have any material online, which is pretty rare.

Usually studios have some kind of promotional "come and work with us" or "Here's what it's like working here" or people there give talks at conferences. If you can't find anything, at least pause the credits on a sequence that are from an episode or movie that you really like that they did, and look at the people listed in the credits and follow their filmography and see what they've done. Oh my gosh, Did you know that Milena works here? And she worked on Cuphead and that was so inspiring to me. And she also worked on Ninja Turtles and like, just like showing with the little bit of name dropping, like I know the people who work here and I want to learn from them.


What are some red flags to notice when interviewing at studios?


JK: If the person interviewing you loves talking about themself and doesn't really want to get to know you at all, that's a red flag. That's an ego, that's an egotistical leader. If that's going to be your leader and they don't care about you, they don't really want to get to know you. They just want to talk about how great they are. That's probably going to happen when you're working for them, too. And that might not be something you want to work with

If you at no point are sort of laughing and getting along with the interviewer, then you have to know this is probably a more serious work environment you're getting into. For me, like there's a very specific kind of work environment that I work for right?

I looked for that in the past when I was on the interviewing circuit. I would always look for that. And even when I'm working with new clients and I'm considering if I want this to be a client that we're going to mentor and consult with as a studio, I'm still watching for the same stuff. I'm like, Are you going to be difficult? Are you going to be like, demanding a lot of me all the time and never giving back to me? Because this is a relationship I'm getting into and I need it to be mutually beneficial or I'm going to be sad. It's going to ruin my personal life. I don't want that. Right.

And so with your first interview, it might be hard to watch for that stuff, but just have enough confidence to know that you deserve a good employer and they do exist and you might need to go through a couple of teams that you're not totally jiving with before you realize what you want in your career. And that's okay.


What advice would you offer your past self?

MG: I would say the most important thing that I learned was like something I already said Don't take things personally. Be open to criticism and learning. It's not about you. You don't suck at this. It's about what they want for this project. And you will learn with time and just be open because it hurts less and  you improve.

You might disagree with their comments sometimes, but be open to them. I wish my student self knew that because my first job was very hard with that sort of mentality switching because you can be like the best from your effects class, and then you go to work and your the worst. It's such a big difference and is so much harsher and I, you know, and then you don't want to be like that person that is hard to work with, you know, So make it easier for you and everyone else. Just be open to criticism.

JK: Yeah, you know, it's funny, mine is so similar because I had a really hard time with the harshness, but for me it was coming from myself. So the funny thing is I would say my advice would be there is no advice. You're doing everything exactly perfectly the way you need to. And it's not like an egotistical thing, like, you're amazing, good job.

It's really because I was so worried about the future and where I was headed and I was so anxious about, am I going to be good enough? Am I going to do it? That it became a problem. It slowed me down and it closed doors for me instead of opening possibilities, I think the stumbling journey that we all take through learning anything in life, especially effects or any art, it's a winding road.

No one has a straight road of how they learn things. And that on that winding road, you find us in ditches and some holes that you have to climb out of because you make mistakes. Every mistake I've ever made was a precious learning experience for me, and that's easy for me to say now because I'm not in the painful hole.

But that would be my advice to that old version of me is just breathe, trust the process. You're getting where you need to go. It's all going to work out. But I don't know that I would have believed it anyway.

I probably would have said something like that if I could talk to the younger me.



I really hope you like the video. Thank you so much for watching. If you're curious to learn more about visual effects animation, whether it's 2D effects, video game effects, television, all of the above, we have some amazing content. You should go check out on our website.

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