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Fil-Am animator Bobby Pontillas gets his 1st Oscar nom with short film ‘One Small Step’

Los Angeles — “All dreams begin with a single step,” said Bobby Pontillas, a Fil-Am animator who received an Oscar nomination for his seven-minute short, "One Small Step."  

“I woke up at 5 o’clock in the morning to watch the Oscar nomination announcements. When they read ‘One Small Step’ for Animated Short Film, I screamed so loud I probably woke up all of my neighbors!” exclaimed Bobby.


Courtesy of Bobby Pontillas
Courtesy of Bobby Pontillas

“One Small Step” will be competing against “Animal Behaviour,” “Bao,” “Late Afternoon,” and “Weekends” in the Best Animated Short Film category of the 91st Oscar Awards on February 24 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

In an exclusive email interview, Bobby revealed that he is “originally from Bremerton, Washington, and am now living in Glendale, California. I've worked in the animation industry for companies like Disney (‘Frozen,’ ‘Zootopia’, ‘Moana’), Blue Sky (‘Rio’), and ArenaNet. Currently, I am an art director at Taiko Studios. I was a co-director and art director for our first short film, ‘One Small Step’.”

Sharing the limelight with him for “One Small Step” is his friend and colleague at Taiko Studios, Andrew Chesworth.

Andrew, who is also a former Disney animator having worked in films like "Moana," "Zootophia, "Big Hero 6," and "Wreck-It-Ralph," is the writer and co-director of the film. He is also the head-of-story for "One Small Step," Bobby says, adding, "He currently oversees project development at Taiko Studios."

The two met when they were both employed at Disney as animators, working on films like ‘Frozen’, ‘Zootopia’ and ‘Moana’. 


Stills from 'One Small Step,' courtesy of Bobby Pontillas
Stills from 'One Small Step,' courtesy of Bobby Pontillas

“One Small Step” tells the story of “Luna, a young girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut. Her father, a humble shoe cobbler, supports her dreams in every way he knows how. The film was a production by our teams in Los Angeles, California and Wuhan, China, taking a little over a year to complete.”

Asked what his inspiration was when he did the film, Bobby revealed, “The film is a love letter to anyone chasing that impossible dream, and the people who support you along the way. All of us have been fortunate enough to have strong support systems that encouraged us to be artists.

"For myself, my mother, Corazon Pontillas, was my biggest cheerleader when I was trying to become an animator. She sacrificed so much for me and I wanted to pay tribute to that love.”

As for the challenges he encountered, Bobby disclosed, “We are a small team, so we had to be inventive in the ways we produced the film. An example would be the art direction. It was very much a stylistic choice to make it feel like a 'moving illustration', but it also helped with how fast we were able to produce the final image and complete the film quickly. When you're scrappy and hungry, you tend to find unconventional ways to solve problems.”


Stills from 'One Small Step,' courtesy of Bobby Pontillas
Stills from 'One Small Step,' courtesy of Bobby Pontillas

Bobby talked of his Filipino roots. “My family is from Nabua, Camarines Sur. My mother moved from the Philippines, joined the U.S. Navy, and came to the United States when she was young. So I'm a second generation Filipino-American. When I was growing up, I would go back to the Philippines often and visit my family. I am always inspired by how they live there. Family and community is such a huge part of their lives. I am an only child to a single mother, and going back always reminds me of how we really have to look after and support each other. My hope is that this film is a reflection of that.”

Bobby admitted that it has been five years since he has been back to the Philippines. “But I am looking forward to visiting really soon!”

Asked what he misses the most in the Philippines, Bobby says it's his family first and foremost. “I miss seeing my little cousins getting older, and it always seems like they're growing up so fast! I also know there is a thriving animation community there so I would love to be more in touch with the artists working there. A friend and colleague of mine, Armand Serrano, does wonderful things for the artist community there and I plan to join him in those endeavors.”

Bobby said he understands Tagalog “but does not speak it conversationally.”

His favorite Filipino food? “My favorite Filipino food is a tie between pork sisig, lumpia, and pancit!”

Bobby disclosed he has “several lovely cousins in California. My mother lives in Seattle, Washington. I am not married but I have a wonderful girlfriend here in Los Angeles.”


Stills from 'One Small Step,' courtesy of Bobby Pontillas
Stills from 'One Small Step,' courtesy of Bobby Pontillas

On Oscar night, Bobby wants to bring the people who worked on the film. “But we have to see exactly how many tickets we are allowed. We are placing priority on the amazing team that worked on the film.”

His future projects? “Right now we are developing our own exciting projects for several platforms, but aren't ready to announce anything just yet,” he replied.

Asked about the new Taiko Studios which is composed of a group of Disney alums, Bobby said, “Two years ago, my friend Shaofu Zhang founded Taiko Studios along with a few of his close colleagues from Disney. With studios in both Los Angeles and Wuhan, our goal is to bridge East and West through heartfelt storytelling.”

Lastly, we asked Bobby if he knew that he was competing against another Filipino animator in the same category: “Weekends” is by Filipino-Canadian animator Trevor Jimenez.

“Yes I was aware!” Bobby exclaimed. “Trevor is a mind-blowing talent and I absolutely love ‘Weekends.’ It's an honest, beautiful and personal story.

I haven't yet had the chance to meet him in person but I can't wait to hang out with Trevor in the events leading up to the awards.”

Whoever wins on February 24, we are just simply proud of these Filipino talents! — LA, GMA News