"I want to impact as many women as possible. I want to be a reference for women in my area." Bárbara Matsusaki's statement (A.K.A Baboo) may even sound ambitious to some. But, in fact, it’s a reflection of a maturing learning trajectory and its struggles in a universe still very much run by men.
It is also a reflection of the desire to take on projects that provoke social transformation. And actions that have impacted, every day, the life of those who cross her path. Baboo is Motion Graphics Supervisor at Wildlife, one of the amazing people who bring the company's projects to life. More than that, she’s someone who seeks to create a more open, diverse and conducive environment for great new ideas.
The fifth child in six children, Baboo was born in the heart of the city of São Paulo (SP, Brazil), on Paulista Avenue. But her cosmopolitan life was soon replaced by a life in the interior of the state. At the age of four, she moved with her parents and siblings to the municipality of Vargem Grande Paulista, 45 km from the capital. The place where she grew up was four kilometers from the nearest bus stop.
There, Baboo's father, a stylist and former publicist, used his creativity to entertain his young children. Thread spools became dolls and imagination took over the family’s play time. Art was part of everyday life, always in a playful manner. "So much so that everyone ended up majoring in some kind of artistic field. And that comes from a very big influence my father had on us," she recalls.
From her mother, she inherited the reference of a strong woman. "She has always made it very clear to me and to all my sisters (of those six children, there was only one boy) that a woman can do whatever she wants".
"She was the one who went out to sell things and bring the bacon, she was always the one who controlled the finances in the house. She's a very strong woman and I've used her as a reference in my growth process. I believe that much of what I have endured in masculine and toxic environments came from her example."
The girl, who always liked to sculpt (as a child, she says she sculpted all 150 Pokémon!), began to cultivate the desire to work with 3D. She returned to the city of São Paulo and, at the age of 17, found herself in an unpaid internship at a video production company, Digital 21.
She wanted to learn more about 3D, but the production team needed people in the field of motion design. "It turned out to be great, because at the time there was no YouTube, no tutorial, there was almost nothing we could use to learn how to work with animation. After [Adobe After Effects software] had just been released and I learned a lot there from those around me," she explains. Thus, Baboo entered the motion universe: movies, from 2D to 3D, frame-by-frame animation and a break from a very intense routine, typical of advertising.
Baboo's resume also includes work in two other production companies (Laruccia Animation Studios and Piloto Cinema e TV) and a few more projects as a freelancer. And finally, the founding of Studio Ni. First as a collective, then as an animation studio, Ni brought a series of animation works to Baboo's portfolio – which is exactly what she wanted to work with! In the meantime, she faced a challenge that still fills her with pride. She produced the opening and closing of the Brazilian film O Menino e o Mundo (Boy and the World), nominated for an Academy Award® for best animated film in 2016.
Ni brought one more wonderful element to Baboo's life. Better yet, someone: Andréa Barretto, who worked in the studio’s service. In 2015, the two of them and another colleague, Toten Dias, founded Daemon Filmes, a production company focused on animation.
They worked with feature-length projects, music videos, stop motion, and explored new terrain where advertising clients did not venture. One of the works from that time, quite awarded, is one of Baboo's favorites: the video series Children Against Zika (Crianças Contra Zika), made for the Ministry of Health and which she herself directed.
In early 2019, Andréa was diagnosed with breast cancer. When her partner's health got worse, a new job proposal appeared, which seemed to solve some of the issues Baboo was experiencing at the time. "I received the invitation from Wildlife and decided to accept it. It was a way to have enough money to support myself and to allocate all the reserved money that we had at Daemon for Déa’s treatment, without her having to worry about working", she says.
Andréa passed away in October of that same year. "It was very difficult. I didn't know what to do. And all the planning, all the ideas I had for my life, went down the drain," Baboo recalls. For her, the support she received from her colleagues and the leadership at Wildlife was remarkable. It was also a turning point for what I once had seen as a temporary situation. "I decided I wanted to make this my new future. I started to engage in more company activities, my team, in addition to the day-to-day work", she says.
At Wildlife, Baboo became involved with women's projects and, along with other colleagues, created an LGBT initiative. "I began to be more vocal about issues that I think are pertinent and that today are challenges for me," she says. In her trajectory as motion designer, she has had great discomforts with male dominated environments that are not diverse, which, for her, still exist in the market of film production and advertising.
"I'm a lesbian. When I came out to my colleagues, it wasn't a problem, no one was homophobic, but they started looking at me as one of the guys and made degrading comments about women because they thought agreed. It was a very crazy logic," Baboo recalls when talking about her first job almost 15 years ago.
Since then, she has prioritized working in more diverse environments and, by opening Studio Ni, began hiring more women. "Diversity is the way our world is: it is full of different people with different histories. At work, people will always perform much better when they are in a safe environment that recognizes these differences," Baboo explains.
Today, at 31, Baboo says she thinks more about the impacts she wants to cause than about where she's going in her career.
"The more positive impacts I can generate, that's what I want to be, regardless of what position I have, regardless of whether it's within my area. I want to be able to provide this safe environment for as many people as possible."
It's a vision she carries on in management at Wildlife, with a team that, according to Baboo, produces a lot and where everyone helps each other to the same extent. For her, exchanging references with these people – whether it be about which series to binge watch or about ways to avoid biases at work – is the best way to create an environment of acceptance in which everyone feels free and, consequently, more creative.
For those who enjoy beautiful illustrations, Baboo recommends exploring the children's section in bookstores. For her, the wonderful illustrations of these books become references. For those who prefer to spend time in front of the TV, she recommends the type of productions that are “delicately made". Studio Ghibli movies are the preferred recommendation. And, of course, stop motion productions. "The Nightmare Before Christmas is amazing. That's what made me want to start working with anything and everything related to animation," she says.
Take the opportunity to visit Baboo's Instagram profile! There, she posts about her collages, her sculptures and other handiwork.
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