“My training at DMA taught me the different mediums of storytelling. As an artist, this gives you so much freedom. DMA taught me strategies and how to problem solve.”

DMA alumnus Mariana Galindo is living the dream, as a DreamWorks animation artist. She’s a busy lady: One of the films she worked on, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, released in March 2014 and another, How to Train Your Dragon 2, opened in June 2014. We asked her about the career path she took to reach her dream job…

Name: Mariana Galindo
Hometown: San Mateo, California
Occupation: Character Effects Artist
Company: DreamWorks Studios
Film Credits: Shrek the Third (2007)
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)
Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)
Shrek Forever After (2010)
Megamind (2010)
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
Rise of the Guardians (2012)
Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

You’ve got a job that most animation fans would envy. What exactly do you do?
“As a Character Effects Artist, the job is a mix of creating and simulating clothing and hair for characters, as well as setting up and animating secondary motion for props and character contact.

After the Character Animators bring a character to life with their acting, a Character Effects Artist will come in and make that character interact correctly with the world directly around them. For example, if the character is flying around, we make sure that their clothing and hair are showing that type of motion. If a character is swinging on a crystal chandelier, we will make that crystal clang around.”

So which DreamWorks films have you worked on?
“I worked on Shrek the Third during an internship at DreamWorks Animation. Once I joined the Character Effects team more officially, I worked on Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Monsters vs. Aliens, Shrek Forever After, Megamind, part of the “How to Train Your Dragon” series and Rise of the Guardians.”

That’s quite a list. Can you select a favorite out of that bunch?
“It’s hard to call out a favorite because as an artist you’re always growing and learning and working with such talented people. Working on each film leaves you with different memories and stories—like seeing my first film credit on Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa or remembering how giddy I felt to walk through the front door of the DreamWorks building for the first time.”

One of Mariana’s most recent projects, the hit movie Mr. Peabody & Sherman, brought back a classic TV cartoon duo from the 1960s. Mr. Peabody is an amazing genius. He’s the one on the right. (MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN ©2014 DreamWorks Animation, L.L.C.) Mariana’s latest film, How to Train Your Dragon 2, released in June 2014.

Did you always know you wanted to work in animation and filmmaking?
“I had always been interested in art and film, but I had never considered animation as a career possibility until I was a sophomore in high school. One of my favorite TV programs at the time was called, TechNow! It featured new and interesting things happening with the tech companies in Silicon Valley. In one episode, the show did a behind the scenes featurette on Pixar, about the making of Toy Story. I saw people there at Pixar, riding around on scooters and playing on swing sets. It all felt so magical to me. Imagine what it would be like to be an adult and play like that! I just knew I wanted to work in that kind of environment.”

Let’s fast-forward a few years. You had earned a B.A. degree in Studio Art and had already worked two internships at DreamWorks. Then you attended Digital Media Academy. What led you to DMA?
“When I attended DMA, I had just graduated from Santa Clara University and I had two internships with DreamWorks under my belt. And though I did get started in a little bit of modeling in Maya and some animation, the Bachelor’s program I went through focused more on traditional art. And after my internships with DreamWorks, I thought it was important for my career to have more experience with the whole animation, film and storytelling process.

And what skills did you learn while at DMA?
“I received hands-on training in all those areas: live-action filming, 3D animation, 2D compositing, motion graphics and film editing.”

What specifically did DMA training do for you?
“My training at DMA taught me the different mediums of storytelling. As an artist, this gives you so much freedom. DMA taught me strategies and how to problem solve.”

If a young person wanted to follow in your career path, what are the steps they should start taking?
“I’d say that it’s never too early to start. Work on your drawing and fine-art skills, write stories, make short films. It’s a really great time right now with the state of the Internet and technology. Everything is so accessible and people are so easily connected. You can make videos on your phone, post clips on YouTube and show your drawings to people all over the world. And there are lots of books and programs now—like DMA—that can teach you how to use these professional tools.”

Mariana in her DreamWorks office, being visited by husband Patrick Jensen, who works for Lucasfilm as a Senior Lighting Concept Designer. His impressive resume includes Ratatouille, Shrek the Third, Over the Hedge, Monsters vs. Aliens, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Shrek Forever After and Megamind.

And what would you tell a parent who’s considering sending their kid to DMA camp this summer?
“I think it’s really neat to expose kids to this awesome mix of art, technology and science. It really feels like it’s something that is missed during the school year.”

Last question: What’s Shrek really like on the movie set between takes? Is he a cool guy?
“(Laughs) He’s a good ogre. Really down to earth…as in, he loves the mud. Get it?”

Mariana’s success as a DreamWorks artist proves what can happen when creative young people receive the right tech training—like she got at DMA.

Are you a budding animator who wants to learn how to make your own animated film? As Mariana points out, it’s never too early to begin turning your dream job into a reality. Start by making this summer count, by attending the best tech camp in the world, Digital Media Academy.