My first 100 days at Wildlife: The adaptation and motherhood challenges in the face of the pandemic
May 08, 2021 11 MIN READ
3D animator in Marketing Art, Jannaina Bonacelli, talks about having pursued her childhood dream and the challenges of motherhood in remote work.
Hello, my name is Jannaina, and I have been working in the animation business for more than 15 years. Still, even today, when I say I’m an animator, some people think that I put on an animal costume and entertain children’s parties.
Having pursued a childhood dream to work with exactly what I love – 3D animation – is probably my greatest professional achievement. It is a story of almost two decades that, this year, has started a new chapter with renewed passion, thanks to Wildlife.
But let me tell you the story from the beginning. I was born in São Paulo and moved to Caraguatatuba, on the coast, when I was about nine. My parents opened a guesthouse for my grandparents to manage, but fate made my mom and dad leave their jobs and take over this business. For this reason, I lived in a beach town until I was 17 when I returned to São Paulo to go to FAAP’s Visual Arts School.
I have always been a fan of Disney animated feature films, so I chose the Visual Arts program because I hoped I would work with animation one day and, who knows, at Disney. But my college days were not easy. I tried to direct my work towards animation and cartooning, but my professors didn’t exactly see those areas of work as Art. Then, one of my classmates, who was friends with the owner of an animated commercial video production company, offered to put us in contact to help me get an internship there. That conversation evolved, and I ended up joining the company, where I built my career over the past 16 years.
A CAREER IS BORN
I was very raw when I started, and I learned everything I know at that production company. I had made a few animations as part of a class called “Multimedia” in college, but it had been an experience where my professor said, “Go to the library, get a book and…” – he could have added “good luck!”. I made my first short film (Nem Pouco, Nem Muito), which was selected for the 2004 Anima Mundi Festival under the “Animation in Course” category. But I didn’t know what “peg”, “keyframes”, “interval”, and “X- sheet” were; I just used the straight-ahead method (where the animator draws the character’s poses in sequence), which was hard work. I think the production company staff liked me because that showed how much I loved animation.
At this production company, working through the night and on weekends was not a problem, as I was happy to work with what I had always dreamed of. But then the traditional 2D animation started to disappear, so I started working with Flash (a 2D digital animation software platform). At that time, Jason Tadeu also worked at the production company, and he helped me a lot. I learned a lot from him, and we both worked as Flash animators. After that, I started doing video composition in After Effects.
Then one day, we had a project to make the commercial videos for Cartoon Toonix. The project involved turning all the channel characters into art toy figures (big-headed and square-shaped characters), and I was told to learn how to do it and produce the 3D texture map of all characters. I loved this new challenge. There were more than 100 characters, and during one year, drawing and painting were brought back to my daily life, which eventually made me move into a new area. At the same time, I started to study 3D animation because my passion is to bring characters to life, and 3D was the future. Then, towards the end of 2014, the production company where I worked had an open position in the 3D department, so I made my way back to my origins.
Things were going well, but in 2018 I became a mother, which made me realize how things are different for women. I took maternity leave and, when I came back, I felt a completely different atmosphere in the company. It gradually made me more and more unhappy, mainly because I no longer saw the possibility of growth within that company.
Then the pandemic hit, and I started to go crazy working from home and taking care of a 14-month-old baby. That’s when, at the age of 37, I returned to the beach town of Caraguatatuba, where I could have the support of my mother and grandmother to take care of my baby boy. I came here to Caraguatatuba, planning to stay for no longer than 20 days, but I ended up staying for 8 months. The quality of life that my son had here – with open spaces, outdoor areas, in contact with nature – couldn’t compare with the life we had in São Paulo.
During the week, before I start to work, I walk with my son to have some quality time together and to enjoy this privilege of living near the beach.
He is very attached to me and requires a lot of attention. Sometimes he stays next to me watching TV, but there are times when he just wants me to play with him. I feel sorry for saying no to him all the time. I can work better after he sleeps.
Meanwhile, the production company, which was not doing very well because of the pandemic, gave me some vacation time, and I was afraid of being fired. I was very worried at that time, until one day, before a weekend, they called and told me to return to work on Monday. However, the day before, I had received a call from Wildlife, and they offered me a job in animation. It gave me butterflies in my stomach, and I kept asking myself, “Should I change jobs in the middle of a pandemic?”
I started researching the company because I had already heard of many colleagues, about ten people, who had started working there, and all of them approved of the experience. And the more I found out about Wildlife, the more I wanted to take that job. I suddenly felt like leaving the comfort zone and trying something new. So I was super excited and went to the interviews. They made me an offer, and I accepted it; all of this happened within only 15 days.
When you work in a company for 16 years, you imagine that there will come a time when you will leave, but I never thought it would happen this way when working from home and living by the beach. I wondered how I would interact, be in contact with, and become connected to my new team without ever having seen them in person.
THE FAMOUS FIRST 100 DAYS IN THE COMPANY
It was a challenging three months at first because I was used to working with another company’s workflow and the programs used there for a long time. This whole process is different at Wildlife. For example, I had never seen Shotgun, a software platform that manages the projects and brings together the visual effects (VFX), animation, and game teams.
I wanted to ask for help, but at the same time, I was very embarrassed because I didn’t know the people and I didn’t want to bother them. However, everybody always made themselves available and, whenever I asked for help, I was very well supported. Everyone has been very helpful to me, and today I feel totally at home.
When Wildlife came into my life, I thought I would need to go back to São Paulo, as I would have to spend more time online for work, but my parents helped me by installing the Internet at home. Having the whole family around helping me out and spending more time with my son… All of this is nice, but I must confess that I can’t wait for everything to go back to normal and for my son to go back to school, spend less time watching TV, and have contact with other children again because it makes a difference. I also want to be at my home, with my husband, to go out and see other people.
The job change, of course, also required adjustments. I used to have more flexible hours. While at Wildlife, I follow the standard working hours from 10 am to 7 pm, because there are more interaction events, such as meetings and kickoffs. The way I start a project, and a scene has also changed. The cameras were already set up in the past, and I just had to worry about animating the elements on the scene. But it has been nice to learn how to animate cameras as well. On top of that, there are dynamics and goals to streamline productivity due to a large number of produced videos. With all that, I have grown a lot in these more than 100 days.
THE ADVANTAGES OF WORKING AT WILDLIFE
I’m not just an animator here. I also contribute with ideas and suggestions for improvements in each scene. This makes me feel more part of the company instead of just delivering a scene without knowing the general context of the film.
This is clearly linked with the company’s values, especially commitment. When we have this kind of open, collaborative work environment, we become a more solid team, committed to improving and evolving as a whole.
At Wildlife, I never felt any discrimination or pressure for being a mother. Sometimes, my manager even tells me to relax a little, to take some time off to stay with my son if necessary. But I just can’t; it’s part of me to honor my commitments and not be unfair to the rest of the team. I live an inner battle to better balance my dedication to work and to my son. I have time to turn off the computer and just take care of him, but I can’t stop thinking about my job. That’s why I can’t wait to go back to the office because it makes it easier to separate work and family time.
At some point, I even questioned whether what we do at Wildlife (Cinematic) was necessary. As an animator, I want to make the best animation possible, and that gets in conflict with the culture of consistently exceeding productivity goals. I even imagined that this industry could disappear, but then I started to understand that Wildlife values both things. And today, we are designing solutions that maintain quality and speed by creating support, such as animation libraries.
If I was feeling stuck a little over a year ago, here today, I feel motivated to grow as I watch others growing in the company. Besides, the fact that we are encouraged to develop a career plan has made me go back to having the love and passion for work that were asleep within me.
At Wildlife, you work for pleasure because you want to grow, or even because your team has a goal; we want to help our coworkers make it happen. Here, everyone is part of everything; everyone knows whether the video we delivered was good or not and what the other teams are producing. All of this motivates me to do my best for the company.
Before joining Wildlife, when Zooba was launched, I was in love with the game’s aesthetics and its characters. I thought, “Wow, it must be cool to animate these characters!”. In addition, I strongly believe that this may be the game that will mark generations because it appeals to people of all ages – people relate to the characters in a way that it is always possible to keep renewing the game.
Thinking big, I imagined Zooba becoming a series, a feature film, and maybe even having action figures, toys, and branded products for sale. In the last Hackathon, which was my second, I suggested that we did what would be an episode of a miniseries. The people agreed, and I was very glad that the people I admire were on board with my idea. So when we delivered the Zooba Mini Gags within only four days, I was very proud!
At home, when the video was ready, and I played it, my son stopped what he was doing to pay attention to it. He asked to see it again and again; he must have watched it 20 times in a row. It is wonderful to see your child – the person you love the most – admire your work. Not everyone has this privilege. Today, the same high school classmates who doubted that I could work with cartoons praise me and acknowledge my career. Not only did I manage to get a degree with that focus, but I was also one of the few that managed to work with what I wanted.