ReDefine Centre Stage – Interview with Sumira Dhawan

Get ready to give a standing ovation for our new profile series, ReDefine Centre Stage! In this series, we’ll be shining a light on the spectacular individuals who work across our global studios. Every two weeks, a different team member will take the stage to share their experiences, insights and advice. Today we are chatting with Sumira Dhawan, Head of CG, Animation based at our Toronto studio.

1. How did you get your start in Animation? What inspired you to choose Animation as a career?

My interest in animation began at an early age, around 7-8 years old, when I learned that my favourite cartoon characters, Mickey, Minnie and Donald were not real. While as a child, the experience initially caused me distress, it sparked a deep curiosity within me to learn everything about the animation process – from character creation, animation techniques, storytelling and filmmaking.

I became increasingly invested in art and pursued various classes to further my knowledge of the subject. My studies included art history, filmmaking, life drawing and rendering, and my passion for animation continued to grow. Eventually, at the age of 19, I was fortunate enough to secure my first job as an animator on the Disney show, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. This was a defining moment in my career, as I was able to work on the characters that I had admired for so long.

Sixteen years later, my passion for animation is still alive. I feel privileged to work in a field that I love and to contribute to the creation of animated characters that bring joy and entertainment to people worldwide.

2. What’s the best thing about being Head of CG, Animation?

The best thing about being the Head of CG is having the opportunity to lead and oversee the creation of visually stunning and dynamic animated content. You get to work with a talented team of artists and technicians, collaborating with them to develop innovative techniques and technologies to achieve the desired visual style and quality for each project. 

Additionally, as a leader, you have the opportunity to mentor and guide your team, helping them grow and develop their skills, which can be incredibly rewarding. Ultimately, the best thing about being the Head of CG is being able to play a key role in bringing imaginative and captivating stories to life on the big and small screens.

3. Tell us about a career highlight! 

Winning an Emmy for Mike the Knight was a career highlight, validating my and my team’s talent and hard work. It boosted my professional credibility, opened new opportunities, and served as a motivation to continue producing high-quality content. Being a part of a popular children’s television series with a global audience was a source of pride and accomplishment.

4. Advice for anyone wanting to become the Head of CG, Animation?

To become a Head of CG, one needs to have a combination of technical skills, artistic talent, leadership abilities and business acumen. Starting with a degree in animation, computer science or a related field is recommended to develop a solid educational foundation. Gaining hands-on experience in the industry by working as a CG artist in various departments and building a diverse portfolio is crucial. Understanding the business side of the industry, including project management, production, budgeting and marketing is also important. Building a network, staying up-to-date with industry trends and techniques, and continuously learning and improving skills are essential to succeed in this role.

5. What is your favourite movie? 

It is hard to choose just one. I am a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki and Guillermo del Toro’s work. I love My Neighbour Totoro and Pinocchio. There’s also a special place for The Lion King in my heart.

6. What about your dream project? 

I would love to work with Guillermo del Toro one day.

7. What ReDefine studio would you like to work in for a day?

It would be great to visit and work from the Barcelona office.

8. Finally, what are 3 words you would use to describe ReDefine?

Talented, global and versatile.  

ReDefine is definitely a great place to be. I have enjoyed every single day here, the work is truly rewarding. The teams share a great bond and that’s what makes it a great place to work.

Shilpa Bhanushali Head of Production (Animation)

We have top-of-line professionals who are not only creative, but also fun to work with. It has created a lot of possibilities for reinventing workflows.

François Schneider Global Creative Supervisor, North America

The people who form ReDefine have come from varied experiences and all have the potential to develop and deliver world-class projects.

Viral Thakkar Creative Director and VFX Supervisor India