Meet the Director of Visual Development: Nicolás Villarreal
How do animated characters seem so alive? They can portray actual emotions and facial expressions that are relatable, even personable. The characters that we all know and love are not just created, but developed by a visual development artist very early on in a film’s creation. It is because of these artists that audiences everywhere are able to fall in love with the characters they see on the big screen and this is exactly why Academy of Art University has created a program that cultivates the specific skill set for visual development artists: the School of Visual Development
, headed by Academy’s own Nicolás Villarreal.
Villarreal embodies the qualities Academy of Art University seeks in its instructors – artistic mastery, passion, drive, knowledge and professionalism. These attributes have led him down a path of great success as a visual development artist. Now he’s passing his expertise on to the world’s future artists as the director of one of the Academy’s newest departments.
Villarreal feels that the School of Visual Development is an essential part to any production pipeline, the blueprint to visual projects and is a crucial part in any animation or live action game. Designing with a goal based on a story, setting the visual style and making sure that the designs are functional and reinforcing the story are key to visual development.
This department gives students the opportunity to understand the concepts of Visual Development while working on collaborative projects and becoming familiar with a real production pipeline. Students will gain industry-like experience while attending the Academy and will graduate with a portfolio that culminates their experience.
“Visual development has been growing substantially and steadily over the last few years. The Academy has one of the best Animation & Visual Effects and Illustration departments and with the new Visual Development program I want to continue building on the fundamentals that the Academy has taught me and incorporate them to this new program,” said Villarreal.
Villarreal knew from childhood that he loved to draw. While completing his BFA in Animation in Argentina, he went with his family on a trip to Disney World in Orlando, FL and had a chance to speak with a Walt Disney animator on a tour. The animator gave Villarreal a list of different universities, which included Academy of Art University, that were well known for animation within the industry. After reviewing the different universities with his family, they agreed that the Academy had the strongest program.
From Argentina to the rigorous Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Villarreal obtained the tools he needed to create his first standout short film,"Pasteurized,"
which was inspired by a trip to The Museum of Sciences in "Le Parc de la Villette" in Paris, France. The animation process took him twenty-seven months and it’s only seven minutes, thirty-three seconds long. “Making sure the Visual Development worked was a crucial part to get the film going,” Villarreal said.
Villarreal thinks that computers, as well as brushes or pencils, are just tools. “I would recommend that students think of their designs as part of a story. If you understand the concepts well enough you will be able to apply them to any medium.”