If you haven't seen Book of Life yet, you should do that. It's had a pretty solid box office so far, and has gotten strong reviews from critics. The story follows Manolo, voiced by Diego Luna, as he makes his way through fantasy worlds in order to reconnect with the woman he loves. Taking its cue from the holiday El Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), the film is a pastiche of different cultural traditions, combining Mexican folklore with American pop music. Though some critics have knocked the film's plot for being a tad too complicated, Book of Life has been universally and consistently recognized for its beautiful, fanciful style of animation.
Much of that is thanks to the film's producer, the incomparable Guillermo del Toro, who is no stranger to fantasy stories. Less well known is the name Jorge R. Gutierrez, the writer and director of Book of Life. The film has helped launch Gutierrez to a new level of fame. But if you take a look at a short he made almost 15 years ago, you'll see that he's long had a talent for experimental animation.
Gutierrez got his big break while he was pursuing a master's of fine arts at California Institute of the Arts. For his 2000 thesis film, he created an eight-minute animated short titled Carmelo about a young boy with dreams of becoming a bullfighter. (Bullfighting, by the way, is an important plot point in Book of Life.) The short went on to play at Cannes film fest in 2001, and earned Gutierrez a student Emmy that same year. Since then, Gutierrez has gone on to positions at Nickelodeon and DreamWorks (which originally picked up Book of Life, before Gutierrez took the film to Dallas-based Reel FX Creative Studios).
Watch Carmelo above.