Jess Espanola is the First Pinoy to Win an Emmy Award

Jess Espanola, a Filipino American animator, recently won the 2008 Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program by the Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences for his work on “The Simpsons- Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind.”

Jess is the Assistant Director for the said Simpson’s episode which was named Outstanding Animated Program (for programming lest than one hour) during the 60th Annual Creative Arts Emmy Awards.

According to Ricky Lo’s Philippine Star column:

Jess, who graduated with a Fine Arts degree from the University of the Philippines, is the first ever Filipino to receive an Emmy Award. Although some long-time Filipino residents in L.A. are ambivalent about the distinction, saying that someone else — a Filipino-American engineer — set the milestone in the early ’80s, the claim remains unsubstantiated as of this writing.

Meanwhile, Jess is riding on the crest of mainstream accolade, a feat that validates the common knowledge that Filipino animators are among the best in Hollywood.

“That’s correct, a lot of Filipino artists are in the cutting edge of the animation industry. I guess I am lucky that I worked with The Simpsons,” said Jess.

Actually, this is the second time that Jess got involved in an animation project that won an Emmy. He was also an assistant director for Futurama, an animated show that won the Emmy in 2002. Unfortunately, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences did not include the assistant director in the nomination process then.

How does he feel rubbing elbows with the prime movers of the American entertainment industry?

“It was cool. All of us nominees had a party on Aug. 26 at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences where everybody was given the certificate of honor, but the announcement of winners was set a couple of weeks later on Sept. 13 at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles where the formal announcement was done. During that day, all of us from the studio anxiously waited. And when the final reckoning came, the master of ceremonies called out, ‘and the Emmy goes to…The Simpsons!’ I thought I punched the air and hollered yeah! It was a surreal experience for me. The excitement was just so overwhelming at that moment,” Jess told this writer in an exclusive interview.

Jess, who was given permanent US residency status as a “person with exceptional ability,” has an equally compelling life story.

Raised by a single mother in a depressed area in Central Luzon, Jess used his artistic talent to survive when he came face to face with hunger.

“I experienced real hunger when I was a boy. There was no food on the table most of the time. Sometimes I just imagine I already ate. It was a hard life,” said Jess.

Amazingly, despite the great odds, Jess still remained on top of his class, and people started helping him out when they noticed that he was an exceptionally talented kid. He was among the high achieving students in high school who gained scholarships at the University of the Philippines.

When Hanna Barbera put up Fil-Cartoon, Inc., a subsidiary outfit in Pasig, Metro Manila, Jess was hired as a team supervisor and lead animator. Jess’ works were, and still are, considered standards of excellence in Philippine animation.

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