Just in time for Comic-Con, Paradise Hills native Bobby Alcid Rubio shares the uncut story of how he went from sixth grade doodler to Pixar story artist. He’s worked on Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4, and now makes his directorial debut with Float. It’s Pixar’s first film featuring Filipino American characters, produced as part of their SparkShorts animated film program, which gives women and people of color more leadership roles in the industry.
Float tells the story of a father figuring out how to raise a son who has an ability no other neighborhood kids have. How’d you come up with the premise and how’d you present it to SparkShorts?
The short is based on my relationship with my son. It started as a story I just wanted to get out of me. About a year ago, I thought, "I’m just going to do it." I storyboarded it, then someone at Pixar suggested I pitch it to Lindsey Collins [Pixar’s VP of development]. I did, and she said it was a perfect candidate for SparkShorts. I was ecstatic.
When did your love for illustration begin?
As a kid. My mom bought me comic books from the Navy Exchange. It became really big in sixth grade. I created my first character: The Charger, named after the San Diego Chargers. My teacher, Mr. Edwards, saw it and encouraged me. So every Friday, I’d draw a comic strip and put it up in class for everyone to see.
Did you ever see yourself reflected in your favorite comics?
Being Filipino? No. But I made The Charger Filipino. His real name is Robert Rubio, based off my father.
Was Comic-Con a part of your childhood?
It was definitely an integral part of my summers growing up in San Diego. I was a teen when I finally got the courage to put together a portfolio. As an artist, it was amazing to meet people who did what I wanted to do for a living and to get their advice on how to improve my artwork. I actually got my first gig from Comic-Con in the early ’90s, a story called "Scraps" for a comic called Dark Horse Presents. Eventually I moved into animation.
What led you to Pixar?
After a Comic-Con weekend promoting my comics Alcatraz High and 4 Gun Conclusion, I was having a celebratory drink at the Omni when my buddy Scott Morse, who works for Pixar, came up to me and told me Pixar was looking for someone for Ratatouille, so I applied. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it. A couple of years later Scott called, saying Pixar had spots on two new projects: One about a robot and one about an old man and a boy scout. I was like, "I want to get on the robot one." But I got the old man movie, which of course turned out to be Up and my first Pixar credit.
Pixar artists are notorious for hiding Easter eggs in their films. Did you hide some in Float?
Oh yeah. There are plenty of San Diego Easter eggs in it, including a shout-out to Paradise Hills.
Why is it important to represent where you’re from and also your identity in your work?
I find myself in an interesting position. Pixar has a worldwide reach, and I get to showcase my artwork. I’m more than willing to talk to the majority about the underrepresented, whether it’s being Filipino American or being a special-needs family, if it helps remind others like me that we aren’t alone. I hope kids in Paradise Hills are inspired to be proud of where they’re from. I want my children to grow up knowing characters can look like them so that they don’t feel like the outsider, so they too can believe they can be something. That they can be a hero.