DFWChild / Articles / Family Life / Health / Film and Fatherhood with Jorge Gutierrez

Film and Fatherhood with Jorge Gutierrez

We sat down with Dallas dad and director Jorge Gutierrez to hear about his new 20th Century Fox movie The Book of Life, starring Channing Tatum and Zoe Saldana, and how his role as a parent has influenced his work. Check out why we admire this Mexico City native and his heartfelt family film — in theaters now.   
How do you compare being a director to being a dad?
In a weird way it’s very similar. I’m trying to make sure that the movie grows up healthy and at the same time I want the movie, just like my son, to be ready for the world. So the movie, just like when my wife gave birth, was a long process. Now that the baby is born and the movie is out there, I’ve got to let it go.
Why would you encourage people who celebrate different cultures to come see this movie with their families?
Our producer always says, “In order for it to be universal, you have to be specific.” While the movie takes place in Mexico, it’s pretty much about the whole world — including relationships between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters and the idea of how important families are. While the movie is very specific to Latin culture, all of those ideas are incredibly universal. I think the lessons in the film are for everybody. 
The biggest lesson in the film is this: You should value and accept where you come from and the things that came before you, but you shouldn’t let those things determine who you are. You should make your own decisions and you should truly believe in yourself and that is the greatest thing you can do for those before you.
What was your inspiration for the film?
I’ve always loved animated movies and I’ve always wanted to make one. As a dad, I want my son to be able to see himself up on the movie theater screen and see it as something normal.
Is there a character based on your son or just his culture in general?
He’s literally in the movie. Up there are all the stories of my great-grandparents, my grandparents, my parents and the way I met my wife. It’s all in the movie.
Tell me more about you and your family.
My wife also worked on the movie, she designed all of the female characters in the film. My parents live in Mexico but they come visit all the time and we go there too. I was born and raised in Mexico City. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 17 or 18 and that is where I started to go to college for film and animation. I lived in L.A. for quite awhile and worked in all of the studios over there. I had a hard time getting my movie made there so Reel FX [in Dallas] took a big chance and said, “We believe in you and we believe in the project.” At that point I had never made a movie, so I threw caution to the wind and said, “I’ll go to Texas and I’ll move to Dallas.” A week later we were here. That was almost four years ago.
What is your family’s favorite thing to do in Dallas?
We love going to Klyde Warren Park to have lunch or dinner and our son loves playing in the water. For movies, I really like giant theaters with tons of kids. Either we will go to NorthPark or we’ll go to AMC Mesquite 30 and that reminds me of Mexico. There are so many kids in the theater, so we love going there. As far as restaurants, we really like Smoke. That’s a place we go to all the time. It's Texas barbecue. The flavors of Dallas are just incredible.
What about Mexican food?
There is a taco place called La Banqueta, which means “the sidewalk.” It’s around Deep Ellum. It's a little hole-in-the-wall taco place. That is by far my favorite tacos here.
Tell me about the TEDxKids talk at SMU on October 31.
My plan is to talk about what happened to me as a kid when I decided I wanted to make cartoons and my journey to making the movie. From being 12 years old and falling in love with animation to setting up a path and getting to animation school. It was really hard. While I was in animation school it was actually really, really hard then when I graduated it was even harder. My plan is to tell them, “Hey if I can do it, you guys can do it.”
Tune in at 11am on Oct 31 to watch a livestream of Gutierrez’s talk at SMU and be on the lookout for Gutierrez’s next animated film, set right here in Texas.