Computer Animator, most recently Co-head of Animation, Frozen 2
Cultural Artists Spotlight: March 11 – March 24, 2020
While attending school at SUNY Geneseo in upstate New York for Fine Arts, auditing night classes at RIT for Animation, I also attended the International Summer School for Animation at Sheridan College. There, I studied two summers of 2D animation and one summer in 3D animation. Then, I waitressed, which taught me many things, one being the importance of collaboration. While doing so in Boston, MA, my friend made me aware of an advertisement that he saw in the NY Times, calling for trainees for Disney’s first digital movie. I applied and was chosen to join the studio as a trainee. When asked if I would like to know the name of the “top secret” project I would be working on, I of course said YES! Wondering about the name of the next fairy tale movie, my dream come true to work on one, what would it be? On the other end of the receiver, I heard the word Dinosaur. In my head I thought, “You mean like, PRINCESS Dinosaurs, right?” Nope. But I learned to love Dinosaur just as I have loved every character that I have worked on over the years.
When starting at the studio as a trainee, you are assigned a mentor and you train for a certain amount of time, until you are ready to be put on a production. After the training period was done, I was promoted to an Assistant Animator. My job as an assistant was to animate the “toes and tails” of the dinosaurs on other people’s scenes. I learned a great deal from being in this position. After being in an assistant position, plus completing some of my own animation tests, I became what was called an Animating Assistant. This meant that I could do scene work on the production. With some time and the opportunity to do practical work on the movie, I was able to attain the position of Animator, on the movie Dinosaur.
Over the years I have worked on many movies, including:
Meet the Robinsons
Tangled (my very first fairy tale!!)
Wreck IT Ralph
Big Hero 6
I have worked on a handful of shorts as well. In fact, I started my supervising career on Prep and Landing “Naughty vs. Nice.” For Frozen, I was chosen to be the Animation Supervisor of the character Anna. I then went on to partner with my friend Wayne Unten as the first female Head of Animation at the studio, on a theatrical short called Frozen Fever. My latest supervisory role was partnering with my friend Tony Smeed as Head of Animation for Frozen 2.
An animator’s job is to figure out the motion and more importantly, the emotion of the characters. Research is very important in the process of animation. It is what makes our movies so believable. There is always time given at the beginning of a movie to really look at the world around us, and study it. As animators, we draw from life and from our own lives. So many of the people around us end up in the films that we work on. For instance, I was looking at my daughters, when I was working on scenes with little Anna and Elsa in Frozen. I also shot scene reference of my husband and me, when I worked on some of the “I See the Light” scenes in Tangled. My dog’s movements were my inspiration for Bolt puppy, and my cat even made an appearance in Big Hero 6! We film ourselves and our surroundings, not to copy them or their movements, because that would be boring. We take little bits and pieces from our experiences and put them into our scenes. When you put these little “truths” into scene work, it breathes life into the characters. In Frozen 2, I drew from the memory of my mom in order to inspire the emotion for a couple of scenes in the song “Show Yourself.” It was the moment when Elsa sees her mother again in the walls of Ahtohallan. I was able to put a little bit of my own mother up on the big screen, which was very powerful for me.
The joy of my job is to bring characters to life that people can relate to. We fall in love with these characters over the course of a movie and we miss them when the project is over. It is not often that you get to revisit them and that was one of the reasons why I was so excited to work on Frozen 2!
How did you first become interested in animation?
It all really started from my HUGE love of Disney. I love all of the fairy tales from the past and present. I wanted to be a princess! The stories Disney tells are full of hope, beautiful artwork and memorable music. This spoke to me and sparked my interest. Twenty-four years later, I’m still obsessed and I like to think that by referencing my own life for my work, I sort of get to be that princess!
How does art enrich a community, and what are some ways people can engage with art in Burbank?
Art can bring many different perspectives to the table. It is diverse and can bring people together.
If people want to become engaged with the arts in Burbank there are many ways to do so. One is with the Burbank Art Association. Burbank Arts for All is also a great way to support the arts in our schools. My daughters have participated in art shows including the Secret Art Show and are very proud of this. Get involved!
If you could share with our community one thing about art, what would it be?
Art is what makes a heart sing. There is nothing like creating something and then having someone else react to it. We go into the review room with our hearts written all over our work. To get a reaction, whether it be a laugh or sometimes a very emotional reaction, is just so powerful. It creates an energy for not only the viewer, but for oneself.
Also, it is so rewarding and humbling to know that sometimes our work here at Disney can change peoples’ lives. I feel so blessed that I have been able to work in this art form and be able to add to the legacy of art that Disney has created. I feel SO lucky!