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From Zero to Disney in Two Years | Maria Gabriela Tapia Nieto’s Video Game Animation Story

“I want to be part of stories that stay forever in the hearts of millions of people.”


That’s how Class of 2021 Video Game Design & Animation valedictorian Maria Gabriela Tapia Nieto describes her calling to 3D art and animation.


Born into a creative family in Mexico and raised in Colombia, Tapia Nieto knew early on that she was destined for a career in the arts, but it wasn’t until she enrolled at Toronto Film School that she discovered her true path – one that ultimately lead her to the Oscar-winning visual effects studio behind Disney’s hit live-action versions of Cruella, Dumbo, The Lion King and The Jungle Book.


Maria Gabriela Tapia Nieto alongside Disney posters


“It still feels like a dream, to be honest. Working on Disney films is the dream of every animator in this world, so getting here is pretty amazing – especially knowing everything Toronto Film School gave me,” said Tapia Nieto, who was hired as a layout artist at Moving Picture Company (MPC) Film this past summer.


Tapia Nieto recently sat down to reflect on her time at Toronto Film School, her passion for animation, and her plans for the future. Here’s what she had to say:


Please tell us a little bit about yourself.


My name is Maria Gabriela Tapia Nieto, I’m 21 years old, born in Mexico City, Mexico. I was raised in a family where art was always present, so I knew that I wanted to pursue art as a professional career from a young age. After graduating high school, I took some months off to experiment with different fields, from animation to dance and music, to better understand what I wanted to do with my future.


What brought you to Toronto Film School? Where were you in life when you decided to continue your studies with us


When I started looking for the best way to start my career, I knew Canada was one of the countries that supports art development and a great place to create amazing projects in almost every field of the entrainment industry. I applied to multiple colleges; however, Toronto Film School was always the first option. I really liked the multidisciplinary approach, working with the different programs in the same project.


What made you decide to pursue your passion for gaming?  


I really love how video games can create a world that the player feels part of. They create emotional experiences that each person remembers. They give you challenges and help you grow, persevere and reach your goals. I decided to pursue this career because I wanted to create that experience, making things beyond something entertaining. I want to be part of stories that stay forever in the hearts of millions of people.


What is the most important thing you’re taking away from your studies at TFS?


I’ve learned to ask questions, not be shy and ask for advice whenever I need it. It is essential to learn from people who have already experienced the road. By asking questions, you grow faster and more robust. They feed your passion and make you want to keep exploring the possibilities. I got great answers from people at Toronto Film School by asking my teachers, classmates, people from other terms, people from outside school – all because I took the risk of asking questions. I’ll always keep in my memories everyone that was kind and patient in answering my questions and helping me improve every day.


What are your plans after graduation, both immediate and long-term?  


Right now, I want to continue building my career, polishing my skills, and continuing to learn every day to keep growing as an artist and person. In the future, I would like to lead a team of passionate people that love what they are doing and can contribute to a project from a different aspect. Creating meaningful experiences that reach the hearts of millions


If you offered one piece of advice to an incoming student, what would that be?


Listen to each other, work as a team, follow the feedback and always try to improve. Everyone has a different skill set, and that is why it is essential to help each other. People can get to great places with the correct instructions. Also, help struggling people, be resourceful, ask questions and never stop learning.




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