Sandro Cleuzo Animator/character Designer
I was born and grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil and lived there until 1990 when I then moved to Dublin, Ireland.
I always drew and as long as I can remember I was always with pencil and paper in hands drawing everything and everybody. I would ask some relatives to pose for me so I could draw them when I was 5 or 6 years old. I also used to watch every animated TV show every day. The Saturday Morning shows that you have in the US would be shown in Brazil in the afternoon from 12:00 PM until 6:00 PM Monday through Friday. If I was not playing outside I would be in front of the TV watching the shows and copying the characters.
At that time what I wanted to do was comic books and that’s what I did everyday. I used to create characters and stories for them and did whole books.
One day, my 8th grade teacher saw some of my comics and asked to borrow them. She then sent them to the most famous comic book artist in Brazil. He is like the Walt Disney of Brazil, with comic books, merchandising, animation and even a small theme park. He invited me for an internship and I started there when I was still 14 years old. I would work from 8:30 AM until 5:30 PM and then I would attend regular school at night. My internship there was going well until one day when I met an animator from their animation department. She took me to visit the animation studio and I just fell in love with it. I was thrilled to see those exquisite desks and discs. I think I was already playing with animation. I had acquired the Preston Blair and the Treasure of Disney Animation books and was doing some animation, very crude stuff.
That animator who took me to the animation department asked me if I wanted to work there and I said yes but being young and naïve, I did not know I was making a mistake. I was officially working for the comic book department and I did not know about their rivalry. The comic and animation departments had a fierce competition between them and the 2 groups did not get along.
When I got back to work the supervisor already knew about my trip to the animation studio and that I had accepted their offer and fired me from the company on the spot. She was also the wife of the studio’s owner and very powerful. She was very upset with me and asked me to leave at once. I was really scared and did not know how to tell my parents that I blew it.
However, being fired from there was the best thing that happened to me. One co-worker there came to me and gave me a number and a name of another studio to call. I wish I could remember her face and name now. She was an angel to me because she directed me to one of the best animation studios in Brazil at that time and the place where I really learned and developed my skills. It was called Briquet Films. The owner, Luis Briquet, was the one who really gave me my start in the animation industry. I started there as an inbetweener and stay there for almost 4 years. I became an animator there and even though I left for a while to work at a couple of other studios I would always go back. I was also already working as a freelancer drawing comics for another studio and was getting stories published in a couple of comic books by another famous artist.
I left Briquet’s studio and Brazil for Ireland in 1990. I chose Ireland because Don Bluth had a studio there at the time. I wanted to work for Bluth since I saw The Secret of Nimh. I got there with my portfolio, knocked on the door and asked to see him and show my work. Don was intrigued with this situation and after looking at my portfolio he hired me on the spot as an animator. I was amazed because I thought I would start as an inbetweener or cleanup artist.
Don really believed I could be an animator right away and gave me my first job in Feature animation.
So, my schooling happened at work at Briquet Films in Sao Paulo and Bluth studios in Ireland so I thank these 2 men for giving me the chances that I needed. I had never attended art classes and animation schools were never heard of there at the time.
Also, I had to learn by myself and by working on the senior animator’s scenes when I could inbetween for them. In Brazil they never took the time to sit down and show me a few tips. They were afraid of new artists learning and eventually becoming good and taking their jobs. To give you an idea, there was even a meeting among them to talk about me and how no one should teach me anything because I was learning and getting better and would eventually be taking their jobs. Isn’t that crazy? We had to learn by ourselves, observing what the animators did, doing tests and studying animation frame by frame. But one thing I learned: You can not stop people from learning if they want to.