Finding Dory Sketch Artist – Paul Abadilla

24 06 2016

dory 3     Last June 13, 2016, the Animation Council of the Philippines Inc. (ACPI) sponsored a talk by Pixar sketch artist – Paul Abadilla  regarding his work at the animated feature Finding Dory. The talk was held at the Makati Diamond Hotel from 4:30 pm to  6:00 pm.

     Paul Abadilla  is the lead sketch artist for Disney Pixar’s latest movie, Finding Dory. He used to stay at Pandacan, then they transferred to Alabang, In Grade School his art won him the first prize for a contest. So he really had a passion for drawing. His family migrated to the US when he was just seven years old. When he was in High School, he applied for an Internship at Pixar, but he was not accepted. So he tried his luck at Disney Animation Pictures, there he got accepted. In college, he took Multimedia Arts Major in Illustration/Animation as his course and tried to apply again as an intern at Pixar, this time he was accepted. The first movie he did as a sketch artist was at Disney’s Brave film. He also had a Prop Design that was used in the movie, Inside Out.









     As a sketch artist, Paul designs the environments for a movie before it is done in 3D. Sketch artists are the ones who do the research, they take data (videos, scientific knowledge, architecture, flora, fauna…) for each location that the movie will take place. For example, the Marine Institute setting was in California, so he had to design the trees for the 3D Artist to model. He designed about 100 Cypress and other trees that are found in California. They also took an underwater camera to shoot video under the surface of the water. He researched how light affects the surroundings and how to floating particles move in water. After this he then paints colorful artwork, using the data he gathered. This are then used as Lighting Keys, for the 3D animators to use. Someone asked him how he designed the environment from the deep ocean, since you can’t go there. He did research, he went to Marine Institutes and talk to experts. The important thing to remember when designing environments, is not how real it looks but to have the audience feel they are in the movie with this characters. Because the environments are not really realistic, it’s a bit cartoony if you look closely, but it works with the characters and you feel you are watching this beautiful caricature of life in the theater.The Marine Institue using SketchUp

Marine Institute Sketch Up

The Marine Institue in 3D

Marine Institute 3D

Lighting Keys 1

Lighting Keys 1

FINDING DORY – Touch Pool Concept Art by Artist Paul Abadilla. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

FINDING DORY – Touch Pool Concept Art by Artist Paul Abadilla. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The Mood of each environment through shapes

Mood of Each Environment Through Shapes

     With all the talks from the people of Pixar we’ve attended, I am always fascinated on how they work. As a sketch artist, we found out that it takes Paul about a week to design a Lighting Key or an Environment. Two days are used for researching, and the next days for drawing it digitally. It took him a year and half sketching all the environments and lighting keys for Finding Dory. They really prepare that long so when they get into production, there are less mistakes. He also enumerated the 3 most important aspects of a Pixar movie.

     1. Story – Each artist pitches a story before being chosen for production. It takes about 4-5 years for each movie at Pixar to be finished.

     2. Character – After Finding Nemo, the director asked the writers, where did Dory come from. If she has short term memory loss, where are her parents, and are they looking for her. So from the character a new story was born.

    3. Environment – as mentioned, the environment reinforces the story and the character to make the audience believe that they are in this world.

       He also talked about the number of Filipinos in Pixar, form artists, storytellers to the chef in their canteen, where adobo and sisig are part of the menu. They call themselves the PIX-NOYS, and they are a lot of them. It gives every Filipino artist to dream of going to Pixar one day.

Article by Alstaire A. Sarthou

Pictures by: Grace A. Dimaranan and Alstaire A. Sarthou




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