The majority of my career in the film industry has been as a special effects artist. The types of films on which I've worked include stop-motion animated films and live-action features. The work I've done has always been very challenging and demanding, but I've always had a lot of fun doing it, and I've always learned a few new things along the way.

My first job was on The Nightmare Before Christmas. To this day, it is my favorite job to have worked on.  I started off as an intern on this show, but shortly after starting I was offered a job and hired on as a mold-room assistant. As part of the mold room, I assisted with these duties: making molds and casting various parts for characters (such as Jack's and Sally's hands), building wire armatures for various characters (like skeleton reindeer), and setting up ball-and-socket armatures for latex foam injection. When it came to setting up the ball-and-socket armatures, I had only just starting out, so I only handled the smaller stuff (secondary characters), but I was always happy to assist in whatever way I could with the bigger stuff, like Oogie Boogie...
This is a photo of my friend Rob Ronning (on the left) and me (on the right) de-molding a florescent green Oogie for one of the glow-in-the-dark sequences.   

The Nightmare Before Christmas is, was, and will always be the show which started it all off for me, and the production will always hold fond memories for me. It was, without a doubt, a very special show, with a special group of people, and I'll never forget it.

After Nightmare, I continued working in the stop-motion circuit for a few more years. I went on to work on a Saturday morning stop-motion cartoon called Bump in the Night. After that, I  returned to Skellington Productions to work on their next stop-motion movie, James and the Gaint Peach. After that, I went on to work on the stop-motion version of Mars Attacks! Unfortunately, that last job didn't last very long because the movie was switched over into being a computer animated film. In any case, working in the stop-motion arena kept me busy for quite a while. The more I worked, the more I learned, both about mold-making and model-making—and that's about the time when I received a call from the Industrial Light and Magic model shop.

The ILM model shop was looking to crew-up for a few jobs that they had in-house, and they called me in for a two week test period.  I passed. And so, those two weeks stretched into 6 years. It was really an amazing job to have, and it was a wonderful group of people to be working with.  I, of course, started as part of the their mold department, but before I knew it, I was doing a whole lot of other things too. Like making spaceships...
This is a picture of me working with my friend, and project supervisor, Rick Anderson (on the right). We're working on a spaceship for the movie: Men In Black. I'm the one drinking the coffee.

I also got to do a lot of set-building, model-building, sculpting, painting, and other detail work.

ILM is also where I received my first film credit as a Model-Chief for the work I did on Galaxy Quest.

While I was at ILM, I kept building up my skill-set until I was finally ready to do what I've always wanted to do: stage support.
This is a shot of me working on stage, as model-support, on Dooku's Box for Star Wars: Episode II.

I've been fortunate enough to have worked on many great feature films, and even more fortunate to have worked with many talented friends and co-workers. The skills which I have built-up on these jobs and the experiences which I've gained through them are things that I will always value. They've helped me build my working relationship with art and film, and now also with my newest working relationship: computer animation.

Just over five years ago, I made the decision to learn about computer animation. Animation is something that I've always wanted to do. In fact, you could say that my passion for animation is what got me involved with the film industry in the first place, so this new path made a lot of sense (well, at least to me anyways). In any case, I started my animation training at a San Francisco based animation studio called Cinematico, Inc. The three guys who run the company are good friends of mine, and they, knowing my background in film and as an fx artist, hired me on to work with them at their studio. While I was there, I worked on many key-frame animated video game cinematics. This is how I started to build my animation skill-set and my 3D computer software knowledge.  It was a great training ground. I'll always be grateful for the support, confidence, and experience that I got at Cinematico.

At the beginning of 2009, all my animation training paid-off. I got my first job working as a character animator on a feature film at Tippett Studio. I worked on the movie Cats and Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, and this was truly a great experience for me. The level of quality which this studio strives for is very high, so that really made for a very challenging stint, but while I was there, I received amazing support and animation direction which was a tremendous boost to my animation skills. My contract with Tippett has since ended, but hopefully the future will bring around another opportunity.

Since my stint at Tippett, I've done some more freelance work as a computer animator, but I've also done some work as a model builder. Oh yes!  I still do special fx model building and mold making too. In truth, I never actually gave up on model/fx work. Since I enjoy both types of work, I take advantage of having the option of switching between the two. Also, this works out very nicely for me, because the truth is, even though I now take on work as a 3D computer animator (which I very much enjoy), there will always be a soft spot in my heart for hand-made stop-motion puppets, scratch-built models, and highly detailed miniature stage-sets that are rigged to explode with pyrotechnic charges. 

~Tony Preciado