04/01/22 • News & Happenings

The Lightbulb Moment

With Carlos Mateus

Back to Spotlight

Carlos Mateus, Senior Animator

Each month, we ask a different artist to share their greatest moments of inspiration. This month, it’s the turn of Carlos Mateus. 

Carlos grew up in Brazil, at a time when animation opportunities were few and far between. He had little access to formal training, but after learning the basics of the craft from some friends in the industry he secured his first role working on an animated feature.

His story contains moments of pure inspiration, and is one of ambition, self-realisation and growth.

Here it is…

Growing up in Brazil, I believed that animation was something that only existed in other countries. I had never heard of anything animation-related happening within Brazil. There were no animation schools around, and no opportunities to attend any workshops either. Really the only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to work with drawings somehow 

The Triplets of Belleville

The first time I realised that was when I watched The Triplets of Belleville. I remember sitting there, watching the extras, and thinking that this is what I wanted to do. Yet, it was something that was so distant from my reality that I didn’t really believe it was even possibleI just knew it was what I wanted.

Outside of animation, I really loved the play Tangos e Tragedias, which featured a comical musical duo created by the musicians and actors Hique Gomez and Nico Nicolaiewsky

‘Till Sbornia Do Us Part

When I heard that they were going to be developing an animated movie, I got very excited – not only would there be an animated movie in production close by where I lived, but the movie was going to be based on my favourite act. It would have the name ‘Till Sbornia Do Us Part. I guess you could call this my second ‘lightbulb moment’ – and it was this that led to me learning the very basics of animation.

The movie was being produced by the Otto Desenhos animation studio in Brazil. The studio was seeking local talent to work on the production, and as part of this began running animation classes. When some of my friends decided to join the classes, they taught me some of the basics of what they had learned. I used what I learned from them to apply for my very first animation job – to work on Adventures on the Red Plane.

I ended up getting the job and when I did my first pencil test for the movie, seeing my drawings come to life felt amazing – I wanted to do more and more and test more and more.

After I had been working on the film for some time, I overheard a conversation in the kitchen between the animation director and a senior animator. The conversation was about me. The director said to the animator “I don`t understand what is happening to that boy! I see the drawings he does for fun, and there is movement and everything looks alive. But when I give him a scene to animate, everything gets stiff and boring!” This taught me a valuable lesson – I needed to relax and have fun with animation. I was taking things too seriously and in doing so my work was losing its magic.

Working on Adventures on the Red Plane was quite a wonderful time for me, and every day I was learning something new. Pretty much everybody in the studio had a copy of The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams, so I bought a copy too. After a while, my friends noticed I was still making some basic mistakes. They asked me if I had read the book, reminding me that “the book will not help you if you don’t read it!”

During the holidays, I went on a camping trip with my parents, and decided to take the book along with me, since I figured there wouldn’t be much else to do. I ended up reading the book three times in a row and spent all my time either reading or sketching. I couldn’t wait for the holidays to end so that I could go back to work and put all I’d learned into practice.

After that, I became much more confident. My animation skills were getting better. Every time I learned a new concept, I wanted to apply it straight away. In every shot I tried to apply something new that I’d learned.

This is my story I guess…and the story of the lightbulb moments I had.

If you are interested in Tangos e Tragédias, you can find a recording of the act on YouTube here (in Portuguese).

And you can watch the trailer for Till Sbornia do us Part here.

For learning all about animation, read The Animator’s Survival Kit, but treat it as a book – not just as a manual that you consult every now and then. Read it from beginning to end and be transported back to a time when Richard Williams was learning animation too.”



Carlos Mateus is a senior animator with Lighthouse Studios. You can view his work here 


Back to Spotlight