A Haida Blockbuster

Proud parents standing outside the Prince Rupert Theatre with the Black Panther movie theatre poster on opening night. (photo provided by Taaw Guuda Ista Jaad | Veronica Williams)

Rhonda Lee McIsaac

“He was born with a pencil in his hand,”said Taaw Guuda Ista Jaad Veronica Williams, of her son Gin K’alang Gayaa Joshua Samuels, who is lead roto animator for Marvel’s highly-anticipated movie, Black Panther. His name means “good artist” and he is well on his way to earning that recognition for his skills.

Gin K’alang Gayaa’s, artistic skills have taken him from Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay George M. Dawson Secondary School, where an unfinished mural on the lunch room wall still exists, to the Vancouver Institute of Media Arts in Vancouver, where he studied for two years. From there, he contracted with DHX Studios Broadcasting & Media Production Company, and then with Bardel Entertainment, and finally over to Method Studios.

A roto-animator animates computer generated props or live action characters to the specifications of the lead animator.

“His dream has always been, to someday work on feature films and look at him now, he achieved his goal,” said Taaw Guuda Ista Jaad beaming with pride.

“As long as I can remember, Josh loved comics. He already knew about Black Panther as he does almost every super hero movie out there,” Taaw Guuda Ista Jaad recalled. He would spend his pay cheques on “Japanese anime DVD’s, ordering from Prince Rupert, that’s how he spent his money as a working teenager. He filled a wooden trunk with these DVD’s,” she said.

Gin K’alang Gayaa went from wearing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Halloween costume, asking for, and receiving TMNT gifts on his birthday and Christmas, to animating them in his adult life.

“It’s still so unbelievable at times,” says Taaw Guuda Ista Jaad of her son’s influences and success. She encourages parents to “always encourage your children to do their best, to have big dreams and to give them every means possible to achieve those dreams, as there is no dream big enough”.

With a supportive home that included his older brother, Douglas White, and their sacrifices along the way, Gin K’alang Gayaa has risen to blockbuster status. The world saw his artistic efforts – and that of his team –  when Wakanda’s hero, Black Panther, opened this past weekend to a record breaking $218M.

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