As kids, we all have had dreams and aspirations linked to what we want to be when we “grow up.” But for some, that dream becomes a reality and in a big way—at least, that’s the case for one Lansdale native.
Gwendelyn Enderoglu has been working with Pixar for almost a decade, with her first film at the company being the critically-acclaimed ‘Inside Out.’ Before then, the Ringling College of Art and Design graduate worked with Sony Pictures Animation on other hits such as ‘Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs’ and ‘Hotel Transylvania.’ Growing up in an artistic home with encouragement from her father, Enderoglu found a passion for animation and for theater early on.
“All kids grow up watching animation, but in middle school, I realized that my friends stopped but I was still into that,” she explains. “[Animation] is really this amazing amalgamation that put together acting and art and is one of the only careers that can put them together…But it takes acting one step further than who I could be on stage. In theater, I was bound by my age and my gender and appearance, but in animation, I could be literally anything…Which is remarkable and one of my absolute favorite things about the job.”
On her latest project, ‘Luca,’ coming to Disney+ this Friday, Enderoglu really had the opportunity to work on a film that sparked notes of nostalgia from her own childhood.
The film follows the title character, Luca, a sweet, sensitive and endearing boy who has a hesitancy about being his full real self because of the fact that when he is in the water, he takes on a sea monster form. Set in 1950’s Italy, the story blends the idea of friendship well with the notion that acceptance from others may really begin with accepting yourself, and relationships can help you realize that.
For this particular story, Enderoglu had the opportunity to work on Luca as a character from the beginning. As an animator, her job is to bring the character to life. Before she even starts to work on the film, there have already been teams working on the artwork and the story and making it fun and hilarious before she even throws her cap in the ring. Enderoglu notes that a lot of people get the idea of today’s animation techniques from years passed, in that the creators sit at a desk and flip through the pages to create the worlds we watch onscreen. For 3D and computer animation, however, their work is mainly with puppets similar to claymation or stop motion and posing those puppets for 24 images in a second… so saying their job is meticulous would be an understatement.
“There’s an amazing freedom in animation in general to create fantasy and to create different worlds. I think Pixar is so good at coming up with that and coming up with these worlds that feel so believable and so amazing, ” Enderoglu says. “With 3D animation specifically, the technology has grown so amazingly and just in my career really to a place of detail and nuance. Pixar talks a lot about truth to materials and making the world feel real and tangible and I think 3D animation really gives you access to that. This film really speaks to childhood, and I think many animators are still kids at heart. So, this story about these kids in particular, there’s just such a charm to this age and to childhood, and I think it really just brought back a lot of nostalgia for me and my childhood.”
Her childhood obviously influenced her decision in career choice. Enderoglu recalls seeing the 1997 film ‘Princess Mononoke’ at an indie theater in Doylestown as a pivotal moment, as well as the character of Gollum in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ as her introduction to just how real 3D animation could be. “It was so believable, that I think it skewed me more into 3D animation,” she explains when talking about the infamous character.
For Luca, the film embodies a lot of pulling on your heartstrings and its not just for kids either. Adults can take away their own sets of nostalgic memories from the heartwarming film as well.
“I found it bringing me back to a lot of my own summer memories. I think as an adult watching it, you will be brought back to your own childhood with the friendships that you formed and many of us, especially those of us that are grown, we’ve had relationships that have come in and out of our lives… Friendships that were formed and then vanished because we went on different paths and I think it’s incredibly relatable,” she says.”Luca is the perfect summer movie, more than any other film I’ve worked on. It has a lot of character and specificity in the design choices that the art team made for the characters. It feels painterly and artistic, in every detail, not just the design on the boys but even the shape of the water splashes. Everything was thought about.”
Spending time with Luca takes a good chunk of the animator’s own personality as well. “The characters become such a part of us…We put so much of ourselves as animators into their personalities, that when you get to the end of a project, it’s actually really hard to say goodbye to them,” Enderoglu explains.
What might be most pivotal however is what audiences will take away from the film now that we’ve all gone through a global pandemic. The idea of relationships and being authentic to yourself while remembering your own roots is something that everyone can relate too… Even under the guise of sea monsters.
“I think we certainly always hope our film is going to hit the right nerve at the right time,” says Enderoglu. “I think this is the perfect film that those of us who are still nervous about venturing out will be able to take a vacation from home by watching this movie.”
‘Luca’ drops on Disney+ June 18.