Throughout his early life and as a first generation college student, Angel Ruvalcaba was captivated by comics and movies, and loved to tell stories through his digital art and drawings. Today he is a production assistant at Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, California, a career move that he said could not have happened without Mesa Community College.
Born into a large Latinx family in California’s San Fernando Valley, Angel and his family came to Arizona, which brought not only new opportunities, but culture shock as well. “Suddenly everything that was cramped and small in California was spacious and wide in Arizona,” he explains. Settling in East Mesa, Angel attended Skyline High School, graduating in 2013. “And I did not skip a beat to go straight to MCC.”
As a digital art student, Angel’s classes were artistic ones–painting, digital illustration, photography, and ceramics. “MCC really allowed me to try a little bit of everything,” he adds. “I was not super great at ceramics, but it was a great class!”
Faculty member Kai Y. Kim was Angel’s favorite MCC instructor. “I believe I took three classes with her and she was just so supportive but also very honest with me,” he notes. “I went into college looking to draw the same things I was used to and she challenged me to think outside the box! I just loved all of her classes; they were all so relaxing and open.”
One of his best memories of MCC is its expansive nature. “I loved the spaciousness of the campus,” he says. “I spent a lot of time there thinking and working between classes. Whether I was drawing in my sketchbook on the green field listening to some music, or doing homework in the library, I really got to grow in a comfortable space and beautiful surroundings.”
Angel found it difficult to forge friendships in high school since he always felt different from others.“I always cared what others thought and how I presented myself,” he notes. “But when I came to MCC, I felt like there were so many people focusing on themselves and their passions, and I didn’t have to worry about being myself anymore. I could draw anywhere without judgment. I had friends in college, but I really learned to find myself. I’ll always have MCC to thank for that.”
Angel earned an Associate’s degree in Digital Arts and a Certificate in Digital Illustration in May 2017. He would later earn a Bachelor’s degree in Film Practices from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University in Fall 2019. Just prior to attending ASU, he found that MCC offered a semester working at Disneyland or Disney World. “I knew I had to be a part of that! Once I spent that semester away, I fell right back in love with the Disney of my childhood, and I think the experience helped in the long term as I currently help design attractions for both theme parks. I’ve come full circle!”
He continues with appreciation for his experience: “I am loving my time here at Disney and currently I’m getting to work on some exciting projects! I definitely could see myself continuing to work at this great company for many years and learn as much as I can about filmmaking. Who knows what opportunities lie ahead of me!”
One career highlight was his work as a production assistant on the Academy Award-nominated animated film Encanto. The film is very special to him not only because he played a part in its production, but for personal reasons. “My father just passed away, and I’m so grateful that he got to see his name in Encanto while he was still alive,” Angel notes.
While he, his mom — whom Angel considers his major inspiration — his late father, and his family have been thrilled about his career, to this day, Angel is most proud of graduating from MCC. “I was the first in my family to finish high school and college. Because so many people put so much on the line so that I had the opportunities and education that I have now, everything I do is for them. I’m so thankful for my grandparents, my mother, and all of my family for supporting me.”