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Sandro Cleuzo during his workshop at Sharjah Animation Conference Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Sharjah: Animator Sandro Cleuzo, famous for his work on hits such as The Princess and the Frog, Tarzan and Kung Fu Panda, walked fans through the process of creating characters during a workshop at the Sharjah Animation Conference.

A world-renowned animator with over 37 years of experience, Cleuzo was born in Brazil to Italian parents. His love for illustrating and characters was sparked at an early age, when he would ask his family members to pose for him as he attempted to recreate the characters he saw on television.

He honed his skills through a combination of self-teaching and books on the subject. One day, while sketching an amateur comic strip during school his teacher asked for a copy and secretly sent it to a famous Brazilian cartoonist, which landed Cleuzo a coveted internship at the prestigious Mauricio de Sousa Productions in Brazil at the young age of 14.

Shortly after this Cleuzo was invited to an animation studio by a colleague at the time. This was his first glimpse into the behind-the-scenes world of animation, and he instantly fell in love with it. He used a book called Animation by Preston Blair to refine his skills, eventually becoming a self-taught animator by age 16.

After being inspired by the animated film Secret of Nimh, Cleuzo saved up for a year and flew to Ireland to seek a job with the studio that produced it. After impressing studio founder Don Bluth with his portfolio, Sandro was hired on the spot working on productions including Thumbelina, Anastasia, and The Emperor’s New Groove.

He went on to work for Disney, DreamWorks, along with other studios, and has since received several awards for his work, including an Annie Award for his contributions to Mary Poppins Returns.

Fans and learners packed the hall to gain insights from the expert Image Credit: Supplied

But despite his impressive resume of animated films such as The Iron Giant, The Angry Birds Movie, and Space Jam: A New Legacy, Cleuzo remains humble and eager to share his knowledge with others. During the workshop in Sharjah, he took attendees through the entire process of creating an animated film, from ideation and scriptwriting to final compositing and sound design. He also shared valuable insights into the finer points of animation, including tips on character design, movement, and expression.

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Challenges to triumphs

One of the most inspiring aspects of Cleuzo’s workshop was his emphasis on persistence and dedication. He spoke candidly about the challenges he faced throughout his career, from rejection letters to layoffs, and emphasised that success in the animation industry requires a deep commitment to one’s craft.

“I encourage you all to be patient with yourselves and persevere, even in the face of setbacks,” he advised. “If you have a dream, don’t give up.”

Cleuzo told Gulf News: “This is my first time here, in this part of the world. I love it and it’s full of energy.”