Los Angeles is the place to build a career for Nathaniel Gonzales ’21, Animation & Game Art

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Monday, June 26th, 2023

When Nathaniel Gonzales graduated in 2021 from Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, it felt like Los Angeles was the place to be: 

It was close to animation studios and conferences, a good location for an Animation & Game Art BFA graduate to set up shop professionally.

“Before moving to LA, I spent a year in Lancaster after graduation,” Gonzales says. “Eventually it was just (classmate and fellow AGA graduate) Will Riley and me who ended up here, but we’ve been here for almost a year now and still working hard.”

Gonzales recently wrapped up work on Lego 2K Drive, a racing game with transforming vehicles, Story mode, single races and Cup Series tournaments. We talked to him about his work and how PCA&D impacted what he does every day for his job and for his personal projects:

What was your role with Lego 2K Drive, and how did you land the gig?

Nathaniel Gonzales: Brain Zoo Studios hired me in the Spring of 2022 to help animate shots for the Nickelodeon Kart Racers 3 trailer remotely. I just happened to apply at the right time and got hired quickly. Once my contract was nearly up for Nickelodeon, I knew that they had other projects they needed animators for. I asked the producer if I could stay and they decided to keep my contract going for the Lego project and (a) WWE project as well. 

For Lego, the animators were asked to pick their shots for the cutscenes and given direction by the animation director and client notes. I worked on one of the video call shots, setting up the shot with the scene assets and then animating the characters from layout to final (this time in (software program) Maya). I animated in (3D design tool) spline then, when approved, would bake the animation down to 2s to get the stop-motion look with CG. I also polished other animators’ shots when they were busy with work on other shots and a deadline was approaching. I have my work from Lego on my website right now. 

Screengrab from Lego 2K Drive, courtesy Nathaniel Gonzales

Screengrab from Lego 2K Drive, courtesy Nathaniel Gonzales.

What’s been a highlight in your work for you so far? 

NG: … I loved doing the “Car Loop Animation”. It was entirely self-directed and I mixed 2D with 3D animation inspired by the animator Toniko Pantoja. I wanted it to be a TikTok/Instagram Reel-style looping animation but, after I started working on it, I felt like maybe the characters could have a story of their own, too. I’m working on a follow-up animation on the side as a personal project. 

What was the reason or reasons you chose to attend PCA&D?

NG: PCA&D was closest to home and also the loans/grants were able to cover most of the tuition. They visited my high school when I was searching for an art school, which got me thinking about going to PCA&D in the first place. 

What was a highlight for you from your years at PCA&D?

NG: I had some amazing professors at PCA&D. To name a few: Natasha Warshawsky (Chair of Animation & Game Art), Nick Ledonne, Jon Di Venti (Assistant Professor, Animation & Game Art/Illustration), Aaron Thompson (Assistant Professor, Fine Art/Foundation), Caitlin Downs (Writing Center Director), Henry Gepfer (Adjunct, Fine Art), David Spolum (Adjunct, Liberal Arts), and many, many more over the years. I enjoyed taking different classes, like History of Cinema, Sci-Fi Horror Lit, and Printmaking. I am an Animation & Game Art (alumnus) so I especially appreciate Natasha. PCA&D’s students are lucky to have her!

What’s something that you learned during your time at PCA&D that you use often?

NG: It really reinforced my appreciation for sketch booking, experimentation, and story writing.

What advice do you have for someone trying to break into your industry?

NG: For animators, you should pick up the book “Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and Thrive.” The advice there is great for anyone trying to break into the animation field in any way. It’s well-structured and has great examples of do’s and don’ts. I have it on the Kindle app on my phone so I can read on the train. 

What’s one art tool you can’t live without?

NG: First, the sketchbook, probably. That or my computer. 

Where can people follow you to see more of your work? 

NG: I post animations, art, and other updates on my Twitter and Instagram; both are @natgonzales321.

My website that I update semi-frequently is https://nathaniel3gonzales.wixsite.com/nathaniel3gonzales

I have a YouTube page where long-form contact will go eventually (LOL): https://www.youtube.com/@natgonzales321