Salvatore Cavalieri, M.B.A.
NSU H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business & Entrepreneurship
Alumni Add a Dash of Latin Flavor to Animation Projects
Cilantro, a fixture in Mexican salsa and guacamole, has provided inspiration for a trio of imaginative M.B.A. graduates from NSU’s H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship who have opened an animation studio in Boca Raton.
Cilantro Animation Studios is located far from Hollywood’s glitz and glamour. But that matters little to company president Salvatore Cavalieri, a Venezuelan who started Cilantro with a couple of business school classmates three years ago.
With Hispanics firmly implanted as the nation’s fastest-growing minority, Cilantro aims to surf the crest of this important demographic trend by producing 3-D animation content that bridges the Latino and American cultures. Cavalieri contends that ad agencies and networks are missing opportunities to fully engage viewers when they simply rely on lip-synched translations of English-language material.
The studio has developed three original stories suitable for TV that revolve around Latinos trying to overcome adversity while “doing it in a funny way.” For example, Johnny the Roofer shows how an American struggles to live with Latinos of different nationalities in Miami. Storylines explain cultural differences and how the characters interrelate with each other. La Carta is about a Hispanic family living in the United States for many years whose members believe that they have adapted but discover that they really haven’t. Usay, an original story developed for children and parents, challenges racism and presents a message of tolerance. “Walt Disney’s stories were focused on fantasy,” said Cavalieri. “Ours are different because they are based on human experience.” They are intended to appeal to non-Hispanic Americans as well by “sliding our Hispanic culture in softly.”
Cilantro’s animation team is composed of young people called “Cilantrines” who come from Peru, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, and Colombia. Each brings to the table knowledge of different customs, expressions, and cultural sensitivities. As inspiration for their computer artistry, they use their own personal experiences as well as those of family members and friends. The team is working to generate a look so that every time you see a character, you identify it as a Cilantro character.
For a young upstart company like this, success is by no means assured. Cavalieri is making the rounds of trade shows to generate excitement for Cilantro’s creations. He also created an animation services firm called www.FlameReaction.TV exclusively for mobile content creation and production.
“We got in early. Our foot was in the door in year one,” he said.
Whatever the future holds, Cavalieri credits NSU for enabling him and his partners to “build the business on a firm foundation and not a house of cards.” He and native Mexican Francisco “Paco” Sinta, Cilantro vice president, were classmates, earning their M.B.A.s in 2001. Katty Arzola, Cilantro’s vice president for marketing and sales, is Cavalieri’s wife and a 2000 Huizenga School graduate from Peru.
“NSU’s master’s program was taught by professors who had had their own businesses. I was learning about real-life situations from people who have created companies from e ground up,” Cavalieri recalls. He remains involved with NSU, as Cilantro is one of the Huizenga School’s corporate partners.
In five years, Cavalieri would like to see Cilantro as one of the world’s top five animation companies with a feature film in the theaters.
Cavalieri considers himself a “realistic dreamer.” Yet, only time will tell if his dreams for Cilantro will come true.