Alejandro Pacheco, the Tico who succeeds in the animation industry from cold Canada

By Daniel Zueras – Strategy & Business Magazine

Less than a year ago, Alejandro left the heat of Palmarés (Costa Rica) for the cold of Vancouver (Canada), to face an enormous professional challenge. He leaves his house, his country, a tropical climate at another extreme like Canada to fulfill a dream and challenge himself professionally.

At just 24 years old, this young Costa Rican takes part in the creation of one of his favorite animations from when he was just a child: Monsters, from the Pixar factory, through the company he works for, Icon Creative, which he produces for Disney.

Right now he is immersed in the production of ‘Transformers: Earthspark’, the new animated series of the successful Paramount Pictures franchise, co-produced by Entertainment One and Nickelodeon Studios Animation Studios.

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“Improve, work hard and specialize” is his advice for those who want to jump into the first division of digital animation. He specialized in character animation, worked hard, and eventually a Canadian company knocked on his door after seeing his portfolio. After graduating in Digital Animation in Costa Rica (at the Creative University), Pacheco decided that he had to continue training more on his own, “improving my skills myself, my personal portfolio.”

After leaving the U, he focused on what is now his specialty, character animation, with a specific one-year program in that field, “the area that interested me”, after which he worked for a little over a year in an international studio that subcontracts people in Costa Rica. And from there, he made the jump to Icon Creative and a new life in Canada.


The Costa Rican digital animation industry, despite being growing, is still very small, not a point of comparison with Canadian or American studios. Hence, Alejandro quickly responded to the call made to him from Vancouver.

“The emotion is always great. Getting to work on such large projects and I already wanted to come to Canada. It’s cool, it’s entertaining, a nice challenge both in Monsters and in Transformers. Sometimes it’s fine and sometimes it becomes somewhat complicated”, due to the greater pressure that exists in this type of production, says Pacheco.

The change is huge. Going to another country so different from Costa Rica, however, is not costing him too much. Beyond the cold and the cost of living, Pacheco assures that he feels welcome in the country and in the company, with a large Latino community within the same industry. It’s not like he came out thinking about getting into the big leagues. Undoubtedly, being in the productions of ‘Monstersat Work’ (the Pixar -Disney- series derived from the film, which is broadcast by Netflix) or Transformers is having debuted with honors in the first division of world animation. Precisely, Monsters is one of his childhood references. “The Lion King”, “Toy Story” or “Monsters Inc” are the classics that we all like. Working on a series like ‘Monsters at Work’ has been a big step for me. I came from relatively small projects and going to work with childhood characters like Mike Wazowski is like a strong realization hit.

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Animation is something that Alejandro liked since he was a child, but he didn’t think it would be his profession. “Most people, myself included, didn’t know what animation is. There are still a lot of people who ask me what I do and when I explain it to them, they don’t understand it very well”.

Alejandro explains that “I can’t say that it’s a career that interested me since I was little, because I didn’t know that it could be done. It was something I didn’t even know existed.”

When he started studying animation, “I really didn’t have much knowledge about it, I just knew that well, I liked animated movies and I liked drawing.” It was just something that caught his attention and “as I started the race, I realized that I liked it.”


“The more I learned, the more I realized that I had to go to work outside the country because the industry, within Costa Rica, is very small. For about three years I already knew that I wanted to leave the country to look for this job”.

The Costa Rican finds an enormous difference in the intensity of work in one place and another, as well as in the quality, “that is a high contrast.”

National salaries are much lower than Canadians, yes, “when you get here and settle in, you realize that it really wasn’t that much either, life here is very expensive.”

The young Costa Rican talent points out that the industry as such is indeed growing in the country “and as it grows, the quality of entertainers and the quality of studies at universities will increase.”

Little by little, international studios in the sector are entering the country that hire Costa Ricans, who push the quality bar up, since “the bigger a studio, the more budget it has and with it the quality of the projects goes up because there are more time, more people working, bigger clients. This can help the same small studios in the country to begin to grow as well”, by raising the quality of national artists, which generates better competition and more options.

“What I always tell anyone who is interested in the career as such is that there are many areas in the industry, not just animation: there are lighting modeling people, texturing…, there are different departments. If it’s what they like, let them start working, focus on it. In Costa Rica they teach you a bit of everything, but nothing very specific. This is the same as any other career, for example, a doctor who later specializes in what he wants ”.

Pacheco recommends focusing on a specific area, it is not worth knowing a little about everything, but rather “you have to know something and know it well. Find what you like and try to improve in that specific area.”


According to data from the Culture Satellite Account (Central Bank of Costa Rica – Ministry of Culture), the latest official data (as of 2019) registered 84 companies in digital animation and video game activities.

42% of the digital animation and video game sector exports. And 40% obtains its income from exports and the remaining 60% from sales in the local market. (2019; PROCOMER).

The main markets are: United States (79% of companies), Canada (25%), Mexico (13%), among others (2019).

The linked subsectors of the ecosystem are advertising, photography, locution, cinema, television, computing, music, digital marketing, video games and others.

According to the BCCR – Ministry of Culture, its contribution to the economic production of Costa Rica (GDP) is recorded, estimated at 3,727 million colones (2019).

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Alejandro Pacheco, the Tico who succeeds in the animation industry from cold Canada

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