The Oscar voters rolled out the red carpet this year for Disney’s “Coco,” which earned the award for Best Animated Picture for 2018. Perhaps no one was more thrilled to receive the honor than Daniel Arriaga, a graduate of Academy of Art University, who has gone on to become a senior art director for Pixar Animation Studios.

Making “Coco”

“Coco” is a visually stunning animated film that tells a captivating story the young boy, Miguel Rivera, as he leaves his music-shunning family to journey through the Land of the Dead in search of his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer. Arriaga painstakingly created this take on the Mexican folklore surrounding El Dia de los Muertos in a way that would be authentic to his own cultural heritage. Arriaga and his team at Pixar put a lot of hard work and research into the story to give it depth and accuracy. Their efforts did not go unnoticed with Oscar voters.

Daniel Arriaga Gives Back at Academy of Art University

Daniel Arriaga’s alma mater, the Academy of Art University, is the largest private art and design school in the United States which resides right in the heart of San Francisco. The University was established by Richard S. Stephens in 1929 with the goal of transforming aspiring students into professional artists and designers. The University routinely turns out graduates who go on to work for companies like Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Nike, Prada Industrial Light and Magic and many more.

Daniel Arriaga recently came back the Academy of Art University to share spend some time with the aspiring artists, directors, animators, and producers currently studying there. Arriaga relayed his experience in the challenging, yet rewarding, process of transforming “Coco” to the touching, visually rich Oscar-winning story it became. His team of amazingly talented animators and artists were able to bring even the skulls to life. “How do you make that appealing and get character out of that?” He said.

Students who attended Arriaga’s talk were encouraged and inspired to keep working toward their dreams. For them, Arriaga represents someone who was once in their shoes who has made it to the top. There is perhaps nothing that represents success as an artist more than winning an Oscar for a film you produced.

The Academy of Art University had nearly 100 alums with Oscar nods in 2017 and was well represented on Oscar night this year. The work of their graduates was showcased in standout films including Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Boss Baby,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Kong: Skull Island,” “War for the Planet of the Apes,” and “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.”

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