There’s nothing quite like winning an Emmy during a global pandemic.
Though Anthony Molina, a St. Francis High School graduate and area resident, feels honored and is thankful to his colleagues, family and, of course, the academy, tweeting out his acceptance speech instead of gracing a stage to warm applause was, well, a little weird, he joked.
“It was a pretty surreal moment to top off what has been a crazy, strange year,” said Molina, who, after much pacing at his home office during the online ceremony, realized he had won outstanding editor for an animated program, which was also the first time in Emmy history the category existed. “It is kind of funny to say that my very first Emmy was through a tweet.”
Molina, who has worked at Disney for a decade, won at the 47th Daytime Emmy Awards for an episode from “Disney Mickey Mouse” — a series that incorporates vintage animation and humor into contemporary settings — called “Carried Away,” which featured the final recording by the late Russi Taylor, who voiced Minnie Mouse for 30 years.
Editing the episode was a bittersweet honor, said Molina, since the story revolves around Minnie singing a love song to Mickey Mouse as they romantically paddle a boat. With her eyes closed, Minnie pours her heart out to Mickey over a ukulele in a languid setting that quickly gives way to a high-speed adventure as Mickey frantically steers to save them from a series of nail-biting perils, including waterfall precipices, piranhas and a wood chipper.
The long song is especially poignant, Molina said, because Taylor was married to Wayne Allwine, who gave voice to Wayne Allwine for more than three decades. The two fell in love while speaking the iconic cartoon figures’ lines. Russi Taylor passed away a year ago.
“The episode is really a love song, one that Minnie sings to Mickey about how they will always end up together,” Molina said, noting that he gave Taylor a shoutout in his acceptance tweet, saying, “This one’s for Russi!”
He will always remember her last recording, he said, adding the entire team came together once more for a wrap. Over the years, he noted, the animation team has come to feel like a family. But Taylor will always live on in Minnie Mouse: “She sounds exactly the same as Minnie in person. She truly is Minnie Mouse when you’re talking to her.”
Molina also has garnered the honor of being the first Emmy winner in animation editing, which for many years wasn’t recognized as the art it is and is a job that is “kind of nebulous to explain,” he noted.
The editor, however, brings all of the storyboard drawings and dialogue recordings into editing software, and then sets the timing and pace of each drawing, makes decisions about the story’s rhythm and creates the pace of the scenes. The editor also brings in sound effects and music to give tone and emotion.
In addition to winning the Emmy, Molina was nominated for an Annie Award this year, one of the highest honors in the animation field. He was also chosen to help design the Walt Disney World attraction “Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway” (based on the “Carried Away” episode), which opened in Orlando, Florida, this year and is slated for a separate debut at Disneyland.
Despite having achieved such success at just 32, Molina never intended to become an editor. Attending St. Francis, Molina dove into the theater program and was active in the film and media classes. While at Cal State Northridge, he majored in screenwriting, imagining himself as more of a story creator. But at one of his first jobs after graduation he was asked if he’d be willing to do some editing.
“It turned out I loved it. I actually find that editing a story is writing from the ground up … writing definitely helped me, knowing story development,” he said. “And having a love for the movies helps a lot too; you have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of movies.”
While at CSUN, Molina met his future wife, Denise Watson, a La Cañada High School graduate and LCF native. The couple share a 3-year-old boy, Ian. Working at Disney while parenting a toddler gives him special insight, he admitted.
“He loves ‘Mickey Mouse Clubhouse’ and ‘Blue’s Clues.’ I can see the humor he enjoys and when I work I definitely think of what he might think is funny; it’s almost like I’ve been creating shows for my future child for the past decade,” Molina laughed.
Working in animation during the COVID-19 era has caused multiple layers of ripples, he noted. On one hand, he and his Disney colleagues are working more than ever, with more animated projects slated than ever before: “Animation is really in its heyday right now. There are so many more avenues for people to enjoy animation and, of course, people are streaming like crazy through Disney and Disney Plus.”
Molina and his team work exclusively from home, which is going great, he noted, especially with all the new editing and production technology, and he ultimately wonders if he will ever venture back to the studio in Burbank to work in person.
In the meantime, amid the stress of living through the pandemic and social distancing, the possibility of falling ill or catching the virus, and now a divisive election on the horizon, Molina noted how happy he is to immerse himself in his work.
“It’s kind of nice to work in cartoons and pretend like I live in a little imaginary world once in a while.”