After making his mark in Hollywood, Anthony Christov has the ambition to discover young talent in Bulgaria

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Bulgarians involved in the creation of box office hits in Hollywood are still few and far between. One of them is Anthony Christov who has worked on some of the most popular animated films of our time. As artistic director of the world famous animation studios Pixar for 18 years, Christov has given rein to his imagination and invented some of the most popular animation characters – all sea dwellers in “Finding Nemo”, the characters from the franchise “Cars” that children around the world love so much, the robot in WALL-E etc.

But before the magic world of animation, Anthony’s was a life full of adventure. In 1981 he decided to defect without any clear idea where he would go or what he would do. He did it, as he now says, out of “hooligan motives”. He crossed the border with Yugoslavia, spent time in a refugee camp and ended up in Austria. Six months later he left for the US where for many years he worked at hotels and fast food restaurants, and in small advertising studios. His talent was noticed and he seized the opportunity of working as contributor for Disney studios. One of his first jobs there was to streamline and clean up some of the drawings. He then started work for Pixar, at the time a small and unknown company – 18 years ago it had around 200 people working for it, now it has 1,400.

“I had no idea I could make a living from drawing in the States, but in time, as I found my bearings I realized it was possible. In any profession, especially in high-level positions, people rely on contacts and knowing the right people. You have to have people who know you, who know your talent. And it is very important to assure them that you can be relied on, that you are easy to work with, a team player.”

Drawing the characters is one of the most important things about the process of creating a given animation. It is interesting to know what drives the animator to give a certain character a designated role:

“The most important thing of all is the story you are telling, and it is the story that dictates what the characters will be like,” says Anthony Christov. “The things we do in life, our actions is what the world sees as our character. Who we are, what we do in any given situation etc. That is why the character is born of the situation.”

As to inspiration, it can be born of absolutely anything you have been through, seen or felt, adds Christov.

Following this story of talent and hard work that took him to the world’s most celebrated animation studios, we ask Anthony whether he has ever considered setting up a studio of his own. And the answer may well surprise you:

“No that is not something I am interested in. Times have changed, as have I. I have reached an age when I feel the need to leave something behind me, something that is different. If that is something you want to do you ought to do it early in life. That is why I have never considered creating a studio of my own, or films.”

After almost two decades of working with the world’s best in animation, Anthony is back living in Bulgaria, because he says he never thought he would stay in the States forever. His return journey to the country of his birth took him several years. In 2010 he set up and lectured at a digital arts training centre in Rome. Now he is laying the foundations of a digital-visual arts academy in Sofia, and he has the ambition of finding talented young people whom he can motivate to remain in the country. Besides skills in a number of new professions in industries of the future, the training will aim to promote team work, because, in Anthony Christov’s words, Bulgarians tend to be excessively individualistic. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but to have a successful industry and to evolve we need to be organized to the maximum and open to working together, he says.

Photos: private library


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