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Q&A With ‘The Book of Life’ Director Jorge Gutierrez

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Are you a fan of Reel FX’s new animated masterpiece, The Book of Life? Are you dying for behind-the-scenes information on the film? You are definitely in luck! Even though the film just recently had its theatrical release, we Rotoscopers have been connecting with Jorge Gutierrez, director and artistic visionary behind The Book of Life. Jorge is usually there to like, share, and comment on reviews of The Book of Life, and after watching our video review of the film, he eventually stumbled upon, leading to one particularly awesome tweet:


In the past couple of weeks we have been lucky enough to score a couple of interviews with Jorge Gutierrez to talk about The Book of Life. Below is a Q&A I had with Jorge, where I got the scoop on the characters, story, and art style of the film.




Mason: What is your favorite part of the film (obviously you love the whole thing, but if you had to choose one sequence/scene)?

Jorge: I adore the climactic sequence (SPOILER ALERT) in which Manolo kneels down, opens up and plays for the giant skeleton bull and apologizes. He’s not only apologizing to all the bulls that his family has unjustly killed for glory but to his own father for not being like him. The idea of an artist using his art to change the world is very powerful to me. Manolo’s super power is love and forgiveness and nowhere is this more evident than in this sequence. I cry every time I watch it.

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M: The film doesn’t seem to have a clear-cut villain, but rather multiple antagonists (Xibalba, Chakal). Why did you choose that approach?

JG: The film is all about deconstructing storytelling tropes. I wanted to have three antagonists for Manolo: The good (Joaquin), the bad (Chakal) and the ugly (Xibalba). Both Joaquin and Xibalba are changed by Manolo’s actions and they become better versions of themselves. Joaquin becomes a true hero and Xibalba apologizes to La Muerte and wins her love back. Chakal is more of a symbol of evil and destruction and can not be changed by Manolo so there’s no salvation for him. To me, Joaquin represents the rich of Mexico, Xibalba is the government and Chakal is crime.

M: Your characters have very unique designs, body shapes, etc. How did you work with Reel FX artists to realize your vision for the film’s characters? What were the challenges?

JG: Sandra Equihua and I designed all the characters (she does most of the girls and cute stuff and I do most of the guys and monsters). And since I’m the director I was able to protect the designs to stay exactly like they were intended. In most feature animation films, the character designs get watered down by the various approval committees. I could not be more thankful to Reel FX and Fox for allowing the film to look like this.

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M: Which character in The Book of Life do you relate to the most?

JG: Manolo is who I aspire to be but Xibalba is who I really am.

M: Which character was the most fun to develop?

JG: Xibalba was a blast! I still can’t believe we got away with his look and feel. And he has red skull pupils!The animators had a blast with him. And recording Ron Perlman will be the highlights of my life!

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M: How can our fans learn more about you and your work? Do you have a website/blog?

JG: Sure!

Hungry for more? Listen to our very own Whitney Grace’s interview with Jorge on the Animation Interviews Podcast!

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About Mason Smith

Mason is a rigger/animator at Triseum Games. He's also a grad student at Texas A&M working on his Master's thesis. He loves talking about animation, watching old Godzilla flicks, listening to 80s music, and drawing cartoons. Bottom text.