As GIF artists who create content for social media, it's a constant struggle us to tell a story that spans only a few seconds. But watching 28-year-old stop motion animator Lina Ortega's eye-candy clips, we couldn't help but feel she's found the perfect recipe for concocting whimsical creations that are as hypnotizing as they are entertaining.
Dipped in bright colors and sprinkled with playful energy, the Barcelona-based Puerto Rican animator's imaginative stop motion work has attracted an extensive roster of big brands, including Amazon, Nutella, Pepsi, and Taco Bell.
So what's the secret to her talent and success? We reached out to Lina to learn more about her creative process, how she started her business and her exciting plans for the future.
We know that a lot of animators often have creative childhoods. Can you describe yours to us? Did you like to create worlds and tell stories using toys?
Since I was very little my favorite activities were clay and coloring. It sounds very simple, but that’s really what I spent most of my time doing! I would create worlds with clay, or a nice house using cardboard and lots of markers.
In retrospect, I think I was very lucky to be put into scenarios in which I was only given the starting point (clay or colored pencils). I could then choose where I wanted to go or who I wanted to be.
How did you discover stop motion animation?
Stop motion was always part of my life without realizing it (in a lot of my favorite movies, like Chicken Run and James & the Giant Peach). I started experimenting with it in college. I can’t remember why I decided to do it, but I know I always felt ‘in the zone’ while animating.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue stop motion animation?
A friend of mine invited me to a screening of The Little Prince movie. When I saw the stop motion animation scenes I felt a unique feeling of excitement, awe, and realization.
It sounds exaggerated, but it was like an epiphany for me. 2 days later I was shooting stop motion videos with a real career plan in mind.
Did you work for an agency first, or did you start as a freelance right away?
I used to work for a digital studio in LA as an executive assistant. They were very supportive of my stop motion interest and I did a few videos for them. I then took over one of their Youtube channels, making content from my garage. This is what really allowed me to have more time and freedom, which then turned into freelancing.
Has it been difficult for you to manage a business as a creative person? Or have you always been blessed with the entrepreneurial spirit?
It is definitely difficult to play all the roles when you’re the creator, especially at the beginning. Thankfully, when you do something too many times, you inevitably get better at it. The best thing is to understand that, in the end, clients and creators are partners, and we all want the best possible outcome.
Now, tell us a bit about your first client. What was the product, and what was the animation you did for them?
It was a toy store and they found me through Instagram. The product was a wooden dissection puzzle that had many combinations to create different shapes.
In the video, the toy traveled through different worlds on top of a desk, while transforming into different shapes. Even with all the flicker and beginner skills, it’s still one of my favorite videos.
There's an extensive list of brands that work with you these days. But what was the first one that made you realize, "Whoa, I've made it!"? Can you tell us more about that project?
The brand was ‘Tres Monjitas’, a milk brand from Puerto Rico. They hired me to animate a part of their TV commercial in stop motion.
My parents were able to see my work on the big screen, even in theaters! And I got to do important work for a brand that had been part of my life since I was a little kid. It was an adrenaline rush from beginning to end.
What did you think happened that made big brands finally notice you?
I was in the right place, at the right time. There weren’t that many stop motion animators focusing on branded content when I started. Additionally, I was posting a lot of work on social media, consistently. Brands undoubtedly notice.
How long did it take you until you started getting clients consistently?
The moment I decided to take stop motion seriously and dedicate all my time to it, I started getting consistent clients. Not because it was magic, but because I put all my energy and resources into it. I signed up to all the freelancer platforms, joined groups, posted consistently on social media and… said yes to everything (which I believe is important for beginners).
How do you usually start your shoot? Do you have any rituals?
For professional shoots, I like to put together a shot list that includes props and camera angles. This helps me get organized and minimizes the chances of making mistakes.
You have super fun product GIFs. How do you usually get ideas for your concepts?
I really wish I had a secret formula for this. It can be very hard sometimes, but generally I look at objects in a different way, I picture them coming to life and just doing things that they are not supposed to.
This, of course, helps a lot when trying to brainstorm. Nowadays, it can be very easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of content that already exists. So, instead of trying to come up with a groundbreaking idea, I attempt to play. More often than not, having fun brings better outcomes in the overall process.
We see that you like to evolve with the trends. Tell us your experience making GIF stickers! Did any of them go viral?
Gif stickers are so fun!! I especially like them because everyone can use them. Anderson Paak used one of them for mother’s day in his IG story. And then one day I found another one on the main search page.
Watching how my work is used and shared by people is definitely one of the best feelings! Anyone can find them on IG stories by typing “linastopmotion” on the search bar.
Any exciting projects in the near future?
Yes! Right now I’m developing a stop motion NFT collection alongside a great team. We created a clay character that follows an adventure story. Pugu, the character, is lost in the metaverse and can be seen enjoying different scenarios.
It’s very exciting because we have been building a cool community and are creating the animations along with them and their feedback. It’s a very interactive experience and I’m having lots of fun with it.
Since NFT is such a new platform, can you explain how it all works from a stop motion artist's perspective? Do you animate your ideas, or do you need to do anything extra?
I became interested in this a few months ago and finally got together with a cool team to make it happen. This is a very important thing for me as an artist because I can focus on what I do best.
Honestly, when we started I thought it would be a short project, like a month. But as time has gone by, I have learned a lot and have come to understand that the community aspect is very important. As of now, we have been developing the character and testing content to really understand what people want to see.
That being said, it is not just about making a video and selling it. It’s about telling a full story, gathering feedback, and growing along with the community.
Now, we all know stop motion takes a long time to produce. The way I’m approaching this with the NFTs is to plan every single move ahead so that a good amount of the process can be automated in post-production. It’s definitely tricky, but just like most projects (being so unique), I’ll figure it out as I go!
Now for our last question: With your impressive client list, do you still have a dream client? And what do you want to do for them?
I would love to work on a music video with a well-known artist and, ideally, in collaboration with other creators. I dream of a big set along with a team that wants to push the boundaries, experiment, and have fun!
Do you like Lina's work? You can check out more of her work using the links below!