McIntosh alumni Torres goes west to work for Dreamworks


David Torres, a graduate of McIntosh High School and Ringling College of Art and Design, had a taste of Hollywood working on hit films like “Ice Age,” “Robots” and “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who” with Blue Sky Studios

but he feels he is in the major leagues now that he is working with Dreamworks, the studio behind “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda.” Torres made the move to San Francisco in Aug. of 2008 to begin work on the film, “How to Train Your Dragon,” which was released last Friday, as the co-supervising animator on Hiccup, the lead character.

“I helped decide how he would act and perform,” said Torres. “Hiccup is kind of a geeky hero and vulnerable and we bring that out in his posture, keeping him awkward and not as confident at the beginning. As the character progresses and becomes more heroic, a level of complexity has been added.”

Working intimately with a character that spends much of the film front and center unites the animators with the character and his or her story. For Torres, two of his favorite scenes are two of the film’s most powerful moments. The first is a scene where Hiccup befriends the dragon, Toothless, and slowly earns his trust.

“That scene has no dialogue and was just an amazing scene to work on because it is up to just the animators to bring it to life and make the audience believe,” Torres said.

His other favorite scene is the ending when Hiccup gets up to walk after the climactic battle. The scene is very powerful and Torres enjoyed the challenge, especially since Hiccup was the first human character that Torres has animated in his professional career.

“It’s easier to shoot reference video,” Torres said. In the past, he would have to act like the character he was animating to think about movement, which isn’t easy when you are animating an elephant. “But with a human character, if it doesn’t look right, it’s easier to see.”

Another challenge that he faced with this film was animating it for 3D.

“In 2D, you can cheat a little bit, if an arm is in the background of a shot or you want eyes to look in a certain direction,” Torres explained. “With 3D, you can’t cheat, there are two cameras filming and it wouldn’t look right. It has to be based in reality a little bit more.”

That might sound funny when discussing a film about flying, fire-breathing dragons, but all of the animators had to go through “flight school,” while this film was being made. They learned all about how birds fly, how flight works, how wings work and turn and more in the course.

“One thing I think we did very successfully with this movie was the flying sequences,” Torres said. “You can really feel the air holding them up.”

“How to Train Your Dragon” is the number one movie in America and it has garnered a lot of good reviews. Torres and his fellow animators can breathe easy, but there is no rest right now. They are currently working on “MegaMind,” the third film that Dreamworks will release this year. “Shrek the Fourth” comes out in June.

There is always something new to work on and always something new to learn. Torres wouldn’t have it any other way.