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The devil's animator is Colombian

Everything always begins with a drawing for Álvaro Martínez, although this drawing may show up at the least appropriate time.

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"The Lincoln Lawyer"

May 20th, 2022

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Everything always begins with a drawing for Álvaro Martínez, although this drawing may show up at the least appropriate time.

“I was not paying attention in class and I was drawing on my notebook and he just came out… he was on my sheet of paper and there I knew he was the character I had to animate,” said the Philadelphia Arts Institute animation major.

It was a stroke of inspiration… diabolic inspiration. On his paper sheet Marvin sat waiting—Marvin, assistant to ol’ Nick himself. Marvin, the character that gave this 24-year-old Colombian the first place in the 2008 HP/Saytek/Art Institutes Student Animation contest.

“Marvin is the devil’s assistant, and he has a very positive attitude towards what he does,” Martínez explained.

“Marvin knows he’s dead, he jokes about it,” he said. “This animation’s main idea is that no matter what one does, on has to enjoy it.”

And he enjoyed it well enough. It took Martínez seven months to develop his character, his story, his animation.

“It took all that time, first of all, because this was a piece I worked on apart from school,” he said. “I was attending school, doing my homework, and whatever spare time I had I used it to work on this character… I basically worked at night and barely slept.”

Finally Marvin was ready. His is an animation narrating a day’s routine working for the devil, using the narrative technique the TV show “The Office” recently popularized.

“It’s something popular being used right now and I thought that a story with that structure would give me the chance to have my character establishing a connection with the audience,” he said.

“Marvin is not reading a script, he’s not trying to be funny; he’s just performing his daily duties, that’s it,” Martínez said.

And that’s how this little figure develops on the screen, with a certain air reminiscent of his creator.

“Yeah,” he said grinning. “Marvin has my sarcasm.”

But Marvin is also product of Martinez’ inquisitive observations on people and their behavior.

“The only way of giving a character life is by knowing how a certain individual may behave,” he said. “If one doesn’t have any contact with people one doesn’t have any idea of how to do it.”

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Through this work, Martínez would like to think he is following Brad Bird, the animator who directed The Incredibles and Ratatouille, films that set the level he hopes to reach one day.

“This is not difficult, but one ought to have passion because to do this one needs patience,” Martínez said. “One cannot say one’s original, because I look at what’s already been done in the past to start doing what I want to do now.”

Álvaro Martínez knew at a young age that he had a thing for writing. When his brother gave him a comic book the then-10-year-old Colombian started sketching his new life.

Many years later, in Philadelphia, Martínez won an animation contest not because he had a pact with the devil but thanks to his dedication.

“My brother gave me Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns, and that’s the comic book that started it all,” he said. “People always think comics are full of  built-up guys running around in spandex outfits, but Miller’s delve into the human defects. And in a story that is what develops conflict and links the reader with the characters.”

After a decade living in Pennsylvania, this 24-year-old is certain the cultural shock never ends and is found in his pieces, giving them a glint of cultural diversity.

“In a way it is part of my job, because my characters don’t fall into a stereotype because when you see them they may appear as one thing, but when they’re animated they’re totally different. Just like in Marvin’s story, where his own nature contradicts itself,” he said.

Nonetheless, Philadelphia is the place where he has found the niche to develop his talent.

 “I love Philadelphia because it is the city of the arts. Walking through its streets one can see all sorts of characters at every corner. It is also its structure, its museums. If one wants to study art, one comes to Philly,” he said.

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