Tag Archives: disney

Jose Zelaya: Disney Animator That Learned To Draw During Salvadoran Civil War


Disney Animator José Zelaya. Disney Junior/Rick Rowell

When Jose Zelaya was 6 years old, while living through the ravages of the civil war in El Salvador, he told his mother that one day he would work for Mickey Mouse. Zelaya made it happen – over 30 years later, he is a character designer at Disney animating “The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar.”

“I grew up drawing war pictures with people shooting each other,”said Zelaya in an interview with NBC Latino. “It was so normal to see a helicopter being shot down and then drawing it. I still grew up thinking we lived in a good world because watching cartoons taught me that.”

Zelaya was born in San Miguel, El Salvador in 1975; he moved to the capitol shortly after. While he drew graphic images of gunfights in the street or buildings burning, he also contrasted his art with animals he found in the forest. He remembers exploring forests and streams in search of colorful fish and lizards, which found their way into his drawings.

“I knew there was no future for my dreams as an illustrator in El Salvador, and my mother knew that,” he said. “So, my mother moved us to California for better opportunities for me to achieve my dream.”

In 1989, Zelaya, his parents, his brother and his sister moved to Los Angeles. In high school, Zelaya resorted to creating timelines and visual projects in place of essays and written tests.

“Drawing came really easy to me, especially because it became a means of surviving bullies,” Zelaya said. “I was identified as one of the kids that could draw, so they targeted me and would mess with me until I drew something for them.”

At just 20 years old, Zelaya got his first major role animating for one of Disney’s staple Saturday morning cartoons, “Recess.” He designed the character Spinelli, whom he based off his friend “Mara” from middle school.

“In 1996, when I broke into the industry, animators were regarded as rock stars,” he said proudly. “At the time it was very easy for me to start working because there was a huge demand for animators; it was like the animation boom.”

Since starting, Zelaya has helped create myriad movies and TV shows. He has worked on Futurama, the Lilo & Stitch TV series and An Extremely Goofy Movie. In his more than 20 years of experience in the business, he said technology has changed the competitiveness of the industry, creating new opportunities for aspiring animators.

Read more at www.nbcnews.com

Brad Pitt, Disney Team Up For Biopic “Dr.Q” About Mexican Immigrant Turned Neurosurgeon


Brad Pitt, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa and Matthew Lopez
[Andrew Toth/FilmMagic/Getty Images; Courtesy of Disney; Walter McBride/WireImage/Getty Images]


Walt Disney Studios is developing a feature project based on the true-life story of an illegal immigrant from Mexico who became the current head of brain tumor surgery at John Hopkins Hospital.

Plan B, the production company run by Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, is producing the project, known as Dr. Q. Matt Lopez, the playwright behind the acclaimed Civil War drama The Whipping Man, is set to pen the screenplay.

Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa crossed the border from Mexico when he was 19, living illegally in the country as he worked on farms in California. He saved up for English classes and then saved up to attend school. He showed a propensity for the medical arts and attended Harvard Medical School. He became a celebrated brain surgeon and cancer researcher, penning cover stories in the fields of science and medicine while also being a cover subject. He is the director of brain tumor surgery at the John Hopkins Hospital.

Plan B’s relationship with Quinones-Hinojosa began in 2007 after execs first heard his story on a radio program.

Disney sees Dr. Q being a modestly budgeted inspirational drama, in the mold of its recently wrapped movie Queen of Katwe — an inspirational true story of a young Ugandan girl who becomes a chess champion — starring Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo.

More at HollyWoodReporter.com