Finding Paul Abadilla

By Peter Caravalho


In his early life, Paul Abadilla was a muralist. “When I was a kid, my mom would freak out when I drew on the walls of our apartment. I’d be that kid.”

Abadilla, ’08 Animation/Illustration, came to the United States when he was seven. “Assimilating into American culture was huge,” he says. “I learned English in the Philippines but applying it here every day was a challenge. Watching TV and cartoons took care of that.”

Leave it to American-style animation to bring out his natural talent for illustration and storytelling.

As a sketch artist at Pixar, Abadilla helps to create “blueprints” for sets or characters like those in the upcoming film, Finding Dory. His research, illustrations and paintings help the animators down the line with creating, say, the lighting for Dory’s underwater world or the riotous colors and textures of anemones, coral and sea life. (Is it a coincidence that Dory is blue and gold?)

Wrangling pixels into breathtaking visuals takes teamwork. Abadilla owes his sense of collaboration to his former classmates in Shrunkenheadman, SJSU’s animation and illustration club.

Working as a sketch artist at Pixar’s Emeryville campus, Abadilla has built an impressive resume that reads like a who’s who of family-friendly films: Brave, Monsters University, Toy Story of Terror, Sanjay’s Super Team and Finding Dory (Photos: © Pixar. All Rights Reserved).

“There was such camaraderie between the students. Whenever I or my peers needed feedback, everyone was there to give it,” he says. “We emulated the studio environment at a college level, so when it came to transitioning into the professional environment I felt like I had already done that at school.”

Abadilla appreciates Pixar’s belief that strong stories rely on representing different points of view like the lead characters in Brave or Sanjay’s Super Team.

“Working on Sanjay’s Super Team got me thinking: What experiences can I share with a larger audience? This might sound existential, but I feel like everyone searches for the meaning of life. The shared experience of stories helps us to understand ourselves.”


Editor’s Note: We apologize for publishing an incorrect major for Paul Abadilla in our print edition and Washington Square blog. It has been corrected.


Jody Ulate

Jody Ulate, '05 MA English, is editor of the Washington Square blog and printed alumni magazine.

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1 Response

  1. SJSU Alum says:

    Cool, but as an ’08 myself, Dory wasn’t just created recently. She was around from Finding Nemo, a 2003 film, back when I was in high school which means the characters were probably created well before… She was already blue and gold then.

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