[TCN exclusive interview] Heri Martínez de Dios discusses new video game and future projects

Lately, I had the privilege to be able to speak with CEO and Founder of Gladius studios, Heri Martínez de Dios. Gladius Studios is a multi-award-winning, Puerto Rico based production company specializing in animation, films, video games, AR/VR and post production.

1. As an Emmy-winning producer and highly sought-after entrepreneur, who inspires Heri Martinez de Dios?

My primary inspiration as an entrepreneur comes from my desire to contribute the best of myself and of my companies with much gratitude to God and for life. I do this for a better quality of life and for the development of creative and technological industries, while generating job opportunities, projects and innovations for our beautiful island of Puerto Rico and from Puerto Rico to the world.

2. You changed the working conditions for Animators in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria. How were you able to bring back to the island the animation work force?

The impact of Hurricane Maria was terrible and a nightmare for all of Puerto Rico. However, there are two paths in life: to stop and keep suffering, or to pick up and continue working, re-constructing, all while moving forward as best you can. We chose to carry on with strength, with desire and enthusiasm while giving forth the best of us. At Gladius Studios, we fearlessly bet on progress and during difficult and uncertain times, we double up our strength. We added more employees, Studio facilities and in all honesty, in addition to Animators, we also added professionals in Programming, Audio, VFX, virtual Production and Post-production who are working on projects and innovations at Gladius Studios.

3. How do you go about selecting the top animators to work at Gladius. What do you see in an animator beyond skill?

When choosing new talent at Gladius Studios, our Selection Committee observes that they have a very complete and varied Demo Reel. That they can make a specific breakdown where they can show that they worked on those projects. That they can demonstrate what they did on that scene or project. In addition, we look at what university their knowledge comes from. If they are from Puerto Rico, or course, Atlantic University in these industries with the best learning laboratories. If they come from the United States, there are very good universities there including Savannah and the Art Academy of San Francisco, among many more. In addition to talent and education, an agreeable personality that is grounded and humble is very important to us. We like to know and have references that indicate that they are a talent that works well as a Team Player that exhibits great behavior and who knows that the final result of each project, innovation or award is an achievement of all and of Team Gladius, not of a single individual. 

4. What games did you play growing up?

I have always been a fan of sport videogames including the NBA and baseball games, as well as retro-games including Galaga, Pac-Man and many more. 

5. What made you name your company Gladius?

We have always liked the motif of being gladiators in life; to fight against adversity and challenges and be able to achieve our goals and victories. In my other Executive role as Executive Vice President of Atlantic University, I suggested that our Institutional mascot be The Gladiator and for our motto to be “We are Gladiators.” Everyone in Puerto Rico loves the Gladiator mascot and our animated TV and cinema commercials are well recognized. When creating Gladius Studios, I wanted to keep that spirit and philosophy of gladiator force, but as it would be proper, with another name, trademark and a different mascot. This is why we chose the name Gladius and as a mascot. We chose a female Gladiator English Bulldog who carries a Gladius sword. It is a different corporate branding, but the family philosophy of fighting fearlessly forward, without any limits or boundaries to conquer remains. Today, this is Gladius Studios.

Studio Mascot

6. What are you the proudest moments/achievements in your career so far?

Every time I have the opportunity to come home and tell my wife and daughter about a new event, achievement, or completed project, and to make them happy is priceless to me.

I have learned over the years to value and thank life every day for every small achievement that may happen at any moment. For example:  It’s fulfilling to hear someone thank me for giving them a job, or to hear that someone is able to create new art or an innovation and gets excited about it. I’m proud of being able to receive a call from a potential new client or partner and hear them express something positive or congratulate us. I value and enjoy it all. I always say that the 360 of a company is important. Any type of advancement or daily progress makes me feel fulfilled and I tell myself at the end of the day that it was a good day. 

7. What would be your advice to people who would like a chance in the industry?

There are people and resources for every type of work in life. Work is honorable. If a person knows that their passion is to draw, animate, to work in film, art, programming or any other of the fields that Gladius serves, these individuals must follow their dreams and passions in what really makes them happy. If you prepare well and do the right thing, these industries are powerful and increasingly important in the United States and the world.  The Film, Video Game, Animation, and Emerging Technologies industries each account for billions in revenue per year.  Therefore, there is opportunity and working on them is great. In Puerto Rico, we are creating opportunities and advancing to retain talent on the Island, and we also export many top-class talents to renowned companies.

8. Could you have imagined when you were younger that you would have achieved all of the things you have?

I always thought that I had a mission and that I wanted to show what we could achieve without limits, but I never imagined we would arrive to where we are at now. Sometimes, I look back and say Wow! Thanks to God and our work teams, we have achieved all these developments.  I also tell myself the work continues and there are many dreams and goals ahead of us. The pipeline of ideas and dreams is still full.

9. The video game Ese Pobre Lechón is coming to the App Store soon, what can you tell us about that?

Yes, our new video game Ese Pobre Lechón (That Poor Pig) is beautiful, fun and folkloric. It was produced in its entirety at Gladius Studios. The video game will be launched on Black Friday as a start to the holiday season in Puerto Rico and the United States. This beautiful and colorful videogame includes many elements that will provide joy and a positive sense of nostalgia to all Latinos throughout the world, including a number of folk elements that will remind Latinx audiences of their countries. In addition, we know that a general audience including families will like it. It will provide entertainment for all.

10. What was the process like making Ese Pobre Lechón (That Poor Pig)?

It was a very creative and dedicated process in art, animation and programming. You won’t believe it, but there, behind the pig and its additional characters, great research and documentation was carried out prior to its production. We filmed and studied the beaches, country sides, fields and areas where the character runs through. Hundreds of arts were produced from each asset or prop that you will see in the game. Absolutely nothing has been purchased from other sources or stock arts. Everything, always, has to be an original from Gladius Studios. That is why our video games takes their time, because we are looking for them to be 100% native and of high quality. We do not publish any project if it is not going to have excellence in art, design, programming and post.

11. What are some future projects you are working on that you can tell us about?

We are working hard on our 3D animated movie, Fantomville. It started as an animated series. After having several episodes ready, we fell in love with the idea of all that content and moved it into an animated movie. Well after publishing, we will still have that episode content which could well become a spinoff. 

Fantomville’s teaser and trailer were Emmy Award-winners. We also finished the trailer for a new animated series in 2D Animation titled Slimies, for children and family audiences. It has started pre-production. Once these projects are advanced, we have another animated film, Hotel Paraiso, in the pipeline. Simultaneous to our projects, we also do projects for private clients, whether they are Producers in need of VFX and Post-production of their films and documentaries, to advertising agencies and companies in general that need general services from Gladius Studios.

Trailer for Fantomville and their new animated series, slimies

A huge thank you to Heri Martínez de Dios for allowing me to speak to him and to Espada PR for helping set the interview up.

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