Vernon James C. Manlapaz on his fantastical and truly believable animations

12 April 2019

Vernon James C. Manlapaz is making work like no one else out there. Using 3D animation in his own unique way, the LA-based artist creates short magical videos which have garnered 150,000 followers on Instagram due to their mind-boggling reality. A giant clown fish swims across a lake as people on boats paddle by. Enormous fantastical hamburgers swivel on an axis above tables of a restaurant. Incredibly realistic, with lifelike shadows in all the right places, Vernon’s witty videos immerse us into a fantasy world, where life appears much more exciting filled with floating objects like oversized mutant cookies.

Born and raised in Manila, Vernon remembers the first time he felt the awe of animation. “When I was four years old”, he tells It’s Nice That, “I remember my dad took me to the very first movie theatre experience. We saw The Lion King and I distinctly remember feeling amazed by the animation, the effects and pretty much all of the story.” At that moment, his eyes were opened to the possibilities of animation. He asserts: “I truly believe that that film was one of the driving factors as why I wanted to tell stories and express myself though moving image.”

As a child, Vernon would draw a lot of cartoons and anime. In 1995 he saw Toy Story and was “blown away” by what a computer can achieve, “that it was not just for playing games and typing words, but also for building believable worlds”. So after studying 3D animation at university, Vernon won a scholarship to The Vancouver Film School in Canada where he took a six-month intensive in digital character animation.

“This experience really opened my eyes to how to make a believable animations”, says Vernon. He developed his skill in creating hyper-realistic animations, closely studying character-driven actions in order to narrate an authentic story while pushing the technology with tight deadlines in mind. This experience has culminated in Vernon making his instagram videos which he’s been uploading since late 2015.

“After I moved to LA, I found some free time after work so I decided to make some explorations using my iPhone and integrating 3D graphics into it”, Vernon says on starting the project. “The goal was to learn and push my knowledge in camera tracking, shader setup, animation and visual effects” but at the same time, Vernon’s ultimate objective is to create believable videos that “bring joy, positivity and relatability to people who see it”; which continues to inspire Vernon daily to carry on making content for us all to enjoy.

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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