A Pixar director returns to UST campus
I am sharing my introductory remarks on Ronnie del Carmen that I delivered when the University of Santo Tomas (UST) College of Fine Arts and Design (CFAD) honored him in a morning program last Aug. 10 at the school’s historic campus.
Fr. Edgardo Alaurin, regent; Romeo Castro and Adrienne Zacarias, acting dean and secretary of CFAD, respectively, awarded the first Filipino co-director of a Pixar film (“Inside Out”) with a certificate recognizing him as an outstanding alumnus.
It was a triumphant and emotional day for Ronnie, who was welcomed at the school’s landmark, Arch of the Centuries, by UST’s office of alumni relations, led by Fides Ma. Lourdes Carlos and Maria Cherry Tanodra, and students. I was very happy for Ronnie, who I’ve always thought deserved such an honor since I first met and interviewed him at Pixar’s studios in Northern California.
The 1985CFAD grad was in Manila with fellow “Inside Out” director Pete Docter as part of a promotional swing in Southeast Asia. He came with his wife, Tess, and their daughter, Gerin. As he walked on the old campus, from the arch to the famous main building and the CFAD building where excited students cheered him, Ronnie was visibly moved by the welcoming embrace of the university which he almost did not get to attend due to financial hardship.
The following is my speech introducing Ronnie in the ceremony held at the college’s audio-visual room:
Early this year, as the end credits of “Inside Out” rolled in an advance screening in Las Vegas, I have to admit that I was misty-eyed. I was moved to see the name, Ronaldo del Carmen, as co-director. My Filipino and Thomasian heart swelled with pride because with “Inside Out,” the filmmaker, who is more popularly known as Ronnie, became the first Filipino to co-direct a Pixar film. I can’t stress enough that that is an extraordinary accomplishment.
“Inside Out” is considered one of the best films of 2015 so far. It had the honor of being screened in the Cannes Film Festival last May. Speaking of Cannes, Ronnie was the story supervisor of “Up,” the Oscar and Golden Globe winner which had the honor of being the first animated film to open that prestigious film festival in France.
Ronnie’s other credits at Pixar, which is the world’s preeminent animation studio, include “Wall-E,” “Ratatouille” and “Finding Nemo.”
The Cavite native has won many awards and nominations. He wrote and directed “Dug’s Special Mission” and illustrated several books and comics.
But what’s remarkable and inspiring about Ronnie is how he got to be where he is now.
Due to a financial setback that hit his family hard, Ronnie had to start working right after graduating from high school. All of Ronnie’s friends went to college but he had to work instead.
Ronnie’s family lost everything when one of his father’s business partners ran off with their funds. They lost their house and were left with virtually no money. They ended up living with an aunt and her family in Parañaque.
Ronnie’s younger siblings had to live with another aunt in Cavite. The work that Ronnie got did not last and when he did find another job, it was not a regular one. Sometimes, Ronnie did not even have money to buy a simple lunch.
A few years later, Ronnie’s father left for the United States on a long shot to get work. Finally, Ronnie was able to enroll at the UST College of Fine Arts a year after his high school classmates were already graduating in college. Ronnie was four or five years older than the rest of the freshman class.
Ronnie is very grateful that his father, upon settling in the US, was able to send money to the family. Ronnie was able to study at UST where he met Tess, who would become his wife. Incidentally, like Ronnie, one of the reasons I am grateful to UST is that I also met my wife, Janet, on campus.
Right after that first screening of “Inside Out” in Vegas, Janet and I interviewed Ronnie. His answer to one of our questions remains ingrained in my mind because it’s very inspiring. I hope it will inspire all of you too, especially the students present here today.
Advice to younger self
We asked Ronnie this question, “If you were to give advice to your younger self, what would you tell him?”
Here was Ronnie’s answer: “I would tell my younger self not to be disheartened by the challenges of life. We were very poor for a long time. There was a lot of bad luck that happened. But I wish I could tell him, tell me a story. Don’t stop drawing or writing just because nobody tells your story. Just tell your stories to your brothers. We tried to make each other laugh. Which we did. All of my brothers (Louie and Rick, also UST alumni, are successful artists in the US) work in animation, too.
“Sometimes you get sad about your fate. I don’t have control of the luck my family had. But I have control over my continuing to learn my work. Even if you don’t have anything to eat for lunch. Even if it feels that tomorrow is not going to be an improvement of today.
“You have to stick to what you love to do. And make sure that it is not just a noble cause but do what you believe in.”
With those words, I present to you, a Filipino and a Thomasian we should all be proud of, Ronnie del Carmen.
(E-mail the columnist at [email protected]. Follow him at https://twitter.com/nepalesruben.)