Simon Varela was born in El Salvador, but had to run away from his country by the civil war at age 15. He studied at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, California and began working at Frank Films, a small video production company, where he ventured into the world of animation. At the same time he began to collaborate as a Freelancer on projects for Fox (Ice Age), Warner Bros. (Scooby Doo), and Dreamworks.
He was hired by Pixar in the area of Visual Development in Finding Nemo (the film director explicitly mentions his work in the book The Art of Finding Nemo ). He later collaborated with Pixar on Wall-E , and between the two films, he was one of the visual development artists in the acclaimed Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.
Simon is also a prominent speaker, and a convinced promoter of freelancing as a way for artists. As a Freelancer, he has collaborated in more recent years with Sony Pictures Animation (Open Season), Disney Feature Animation Studios (Tangled), Aardman Animation (Arthur's Christmas), Dreamworks Animation (The Croods), among others. He also has collaborated with the production design of Jorge Gutiérrez’s Book of Life, and more recent in Animals Crackers. Currently, he is doing the Production design of Koati: The Movie.