By Brandi Troup
From Florida and the University of Miami to California, Dustin Romero brought his artistic talents, ambitions, and dreams with him. And now he is a character layout artist for “The Simpsons.”
A proud alumnus of the University of Miami, Dustin Romero is a character layout artist for the longstanding show “The Simpsons.” Though his path to California hasn’t been linear, working in the realm of art was Romero’s fate.
“I would draw all the time,” he said. “My mother used to joke that I was born with a pencil in my hand.”
Like much of the corporate world, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape of animation and Romero works remotely. He explained that character layout involves staging the characters to match the perspective of the background, drawing them on model, and animating the key acting moments to reflect the voiceover actor’s performance.
His day starts with breakfast—when in the mood, he likes to have eggs over easy and toast with an iced coffee—and checking emails. Prior to beginning his assignments, Romero touches base with the director of the respective Simpsons’ episode to assure they’re on the same page with its concept. Afterward, he begins animating on his tablet. Though detailed in his craft, his workspace is quite simple. There isn’t a fancy art studio setup. He has an ordinary work desk, consisting of his desktop monitor. He mostly draws on his tablet, foregoing the pencil and paper he used as a youth.
“I was very modest about my drawings and my illustrations,” Romero said. His mother, Raquel, influenced his artistic passion. “My mother was an extrovert and she pushed me, not to show off, but to be proud of the work that I did and to advocate for myself.”
This self-empowering concept would serve as the inspiration that would help earn a position with “The Simpsons” many years later.
Romero is the middle child and humbly deems himself “the artistically and creatively inclined one.” His siblings, Crystal and Ross, are in the business industry. He was raised in what he considers “a safe and loving household in Boca Raton.”
When Romero was 6 years old, his mom whipped out the “Beauty and the Beast” VHS tape. The two of them began to draw the cover art of the classic movie. It was the first time that Romero felt drawing was something that he could do. From that point on, he was invested in art. He began purchasing “The Making Of” movies books and taking art classes—both during and outside of school. He even recalled dressing as an artist, wearing a beret, and having a canvas as a prop for one career day.
Illustrating came naturally, he pointed out. When it was time to apply for college, Romero applied to the University of Southern California and the University of Miami. He was accepted at both.
“UM just seemed like the right decision, the practical decision to make,” he said. “It was far enough. I could have my own life in a way, my own experiences, and grow and learn on my own.”
Romero double majored in motion pictures studies and studio art in the School of Communication and College of Arts and Sciences. The friends that he made during his time on campus contributed to his special collegiate experience, he noted.
“It comes down to the people, not just the faculty, but the students,” he said. “To be around other people who love the same thing that you do, it’s exhilarating.”
Once Romero graduated, he knew that he wanted to work in entertainment and moved to California in the fall of 2008. He would spend eight years working in unscripted television and fulfilling freelance gigs. Although he worked hard, Romero knew this wasn’t his passion.
“It’s very important to do what speaks to you and what speaks to your heart, and I felt that was animation,” Romero said.
He set his sights on UCLA to earn his M.F.A. degree in animation workshop, a move that would serve as the catalyst for his wildest dreams. His big break came at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television’s student showcase where Mike Anderson, a director on “The Simpsons,” was in attendance. The program’s chair at the time, Celia Mercer, encouraged Romero to chat with Anderson. Romero walked over to the director and advocated for himself, just as his mom had taught him to do.
He spoke with Anderson about how he always loved “The Simpsons” and that his favorite episode was when the main character, Homer, thought that his son, Bart, was gay. This happened to be an episode that Anderson had directed. Romero gave Anderson his resume. Months later, he received a cold call interview for the show. After a couple more interviews and a take-home test, which is standard practice in animation to make sure you can animate well and match the style of the show, Romero secured the job.
Romero is now in his second season with” The Simpsons,” and he couldn’t have sketched his dream job any better. “I feel incredibly blessed to be working in the Simpsons,” he said. “It’s really a dream come true.”
This article originally appeared at https://news.miami.edu/stories/2023/08/alumnus-sketched-and-fulfilled-his-dream-job.html.