In 1976, my parents took my brother and I to Walt Disney World, only 5 years after the park in Florida had opened. It was not only the first trip to Disney but also the first ever to the United States. It was also the United States bicentennial anniversary that year, and the park went all out to celebrate it. This experience left me exposed to a bigger world than I could ever imagine. It also left me with the dream and inspiration that I could actually do what I really wanted to when I grew up and became a man. Living in another country, it never crossed my mind that I could live in the United States, less to work for The Walt Disney Company. But like everything in life is one step at a time, it all happened slowly but surely, I never stopped believing in the dream.
As a child, I knew I was different than other kids around me. I liked everything that had to do with the arts, and I actually excelled at it in school. My parents were quite good at drawing and painting so they naturally inspired me but it was not until I was at university studying computer science that I realized that I wanted to follow art and design as my career. I was failing in almost every class because I really didn't care to learn anything about computers. I was more interested in drawing the trees I saw outside the classroom window. Let's say this was my Aha! moment. In order to find artistic things to do, I signed up at the university theatre club and that opened doors for exposing my work to others. I was only in my 20's and already printing post cards from my pointillism ink artworks for sale at a chain of supermarkets, which helped advertise my talent to collectors of Panamanian artwork. In my last years in Panama, I continued to create more work in ink and pencil during the day, while taking the hobby of theatre in the evenings to distract me from the reality of my life. I was able to work in several productions at the Theatre Guild of Ancon and the Teatro En Circulo, that included Hello Dolly, Nunsense, Biloxi Blues, The Nerd, and West Side Story.
But something felt innately wrong inside of me, I was very unhappy with the outlook of my life in a country that didn't encourage people with a talent for the arts.
A new chapter of my life began in 1989, when I moved to the United States. At that time, I was just struggling to survive on my own but one thing was certain, I needed to focus my life in what I really loved, art and design. In 1994, after taking a good look at my life and where I was headed, I decided to move to Orlando to follow my dream to one day work in the art field at none other, the Disney Company. I researched hiring opportunities at Disney before moving to the area but it was a gamble moving without a job. I landed a job at Disney in October of that year. I came to find out very quickly that I didn't know as much as I thought about Disney. The Disney Resort complex in Orlando is incredibly large and overwhelming! After a year and a half of working at the Disney Reservation Center and becoming an expert in everything Disney, I transitioned to the world of art as an animation artist. At that time, the animation studio was updating the animation tour at the then called Disney-MGM Studios. They were looking for animation artists to present in a loosely scripted show that would be highlighted by a resident artist from the animation studio. This step in the right direction, opened doors to connect with a lot of people in animation, and thanks to it, I was able to get a permanent job as an animation ink and paint artist where I worked for 5 years. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget. From there, my years at Disney have been a blur, but all filled with excitement. My artistic career has evolved through the years. I later transitioned to the graphic design field that I have come to deeply fall in love with. Today I work for the marketing department of the Disney sponsored credit union as a Design and Brand Manager, doing everything from art direction of concepts to full creative design direction and production, print management and distribution on top of my branding responsibilities. Our work environment has grown so much that we're in a position to hire freelancers to help in breaking out large scope projects.
On November 20, 2014, I celebrated my 20 years with the company and when I look back at all the years of service, I see a person that never gave up on his dream. While it is difficult to express how absolutely and emotionally difficult it was to get to where I am today, I can say that even in the moments when I doubted myself, I never gave up on the dream.