Rodrigo Duéñez, Julian Jáuregui and Arturo Jáuregui share a passion for illustration and animation.
The trio had been close friends since high school, when they first started creating animation just for the fun of it. And although they all pursued different studies at University, animation was what they really loved. This desire to animate brought them together to make a career in animation. Adding Francisco Guerrero to the mix completed the team, putting him in charge of backgrounds. All of the team are self-taught animators and cinematographers; this has helped them to develop their own animation style. In 2010, the group turned their talent into a new company called Lapis Lazuli which is based in Mexicali, Baja California. They originally used Flash and started taking small contracts to create animated shorts which they posted on newgrounds.com to get exposure. Their work mostly consisted of parody; this was successful as they managed to attract significant audiences with over 1 million views. That was the turning point.
Lapis Lazuli was ready to start creating their original content. “We aspire to become the Mexican Disney!” exclaimed Rodrigo Duéñez. “We want to bring people’s attention to our area, as all the studios are located in the centre of Mexico,” added Francisco Guerrero. Their strategy is to create a short and submit it to international festivals; that will be the basis of their feature film project.
Their desire to take Mexicali’s cultural expression to the international community, led them to approach Gabriel Trujillo Muñoz, a famous local author with over 130 book titles. They asked him to write a story and he suggested three of his books, all of which consisted of short tales. The team read the books and all picked the same story: A Veces la Oscuridad nos Habla, which led to the creation of La Oscuridad te Habla.
For this project, the small team decided to try Toon Boom Animate and immediately knew that this was the tool they wanted. “We love the animation features, such as the lines and the colour palettes. Compared to Flash, we are much faster and create nicer quality drawings,” explained Arturo Jáuregui.
To undertake this independent production, the team decided to solicit some local companies as sponsors. With sponsors like Urbi Vida Residencial, Kenworth, Instituto de Cultura de Baja California, La Voz de la Frontera and De Hoyos y Avilés Abogados on board, the pre-production started in September 2010 and production in January 2011. This 10 minute short tells the story of a young boy named Esteban and his journey through El Pozo, a small town next to the highway, and the diligent search for the truth kept within its isolation. Arturo Jáuregui acted as lead animator, Francisco Guerrero as background and cleanup artist while Rodrigo Duéñez took care of the sound. The team also got some help from students at Digipen, where Julián Jáuregui is studying animation. This perfect connection gave them access to several students who could assist them as they completed the project.
Opting for frame-by-frame animation style, they all used Toon Boom Animate from beginning to end: “We just draw, starting with rough drawing and then easily cleaning up the lines. We don’t need the symbols anymore and don’t miss them. Moving on to colouring, this is a breeze! The colour palettes make it very efficient to change colours anytime during the process. We enjoy using pegs a lot! The multi-plane camera is easy to manipulate, we don’t have to fake it anymore like in Flash. We also did all our effects within Animate,” said Arturo Jáuregui. Once the project was completed, Rodrigo Duéñez explained how much he appreciated Animate’s export capabilities as a movie file. “I am using Apple’s Logic to add sound effects and music and the file I am getting from Animate is perfect. Before, rendering with Flash was a pain, especially with sound. There were a lot of lags and glitches. Even though I am not using Animate, I am benefitting from it in post-production!”
Whenever they had a technical or user question, they turned to the Animate’s User Forum and received a reply within a day. “This is excellent support from Toon Boom and the community. We also watched Adam Phillips’ videos to learn a few tricks!” concluded Arturo Jáuregui.
Knowing that lapis lazuli is regarded as the stone of friendship and truth, this young and talented team has certainly picked the right name to carry their creativity and get the world’s attention on their original content.