Disclosure: This event and trip to LA was an all expense paid journey sponsored by Disney. All thoughts, experiences and Disney character crushes are 100% my own!
As a kid, I LOVED to draw. In fact, one of my favorite childhood toys was a Disney Light Up Drawing Desk. You could insert little instruction “how to draw” pages under your own paper and then turn on the light so that you could basically trace the Disney cartoons. I loved this little desk so much that I actually hunted one down a few years ago on eBay so that I could re-own it. My kids think it’s pretty cool, but not like I did… they are kind of jaded with all of the “new” technology of course, but to me, this light up drawing desk was the bomb.
What you might not know about me is that I actually did grow up to be an artist (ok, well, the verdict on the “grow up” part is still out… ) but yes, I am an artist. I was actually quite active until I had little ones, and of course that slowed down my productivity quite a bit, so now I just sell my work on sites like my cafepress.com shop and I still do a few commission pieces each year. While my art is a far cry from Disney quality (super duper far, yes, duh!) … that artist in me is always dying to come out and play… and this behind the scenes peak at the life of a Disney Story Artist really had my inner artist going crazy.
I so wish I had known exactly what a a Disney Story Artist (that just sounds awesome!) was way back when I was a kid because there is no doubt that it would have been my dream job! Meeting Art Hernandez who IS an actual Disney Story Artist, was a very neat experience. He of course, is a beyond-amazing artist, and I actually not only had the opportunity to speak with him, but we also got to sit down and draw with Art as well (below). As you can see from my sketch, we learned how to draw the character Dusty from PLANES. As I sat there sketching with Art, I kept finding myself thinking “wow. this guy has the.best.job!”
And he does. Art has a super cool job, and he worked really hard to get there.
Here’s a little bit more about ART HERNANDEZ (Story Artist)
Born and raised in and around Los Angeles, Calif., Hernandez developed an interest in art and animation when he was just five years old. By the time he reached high school, he knew that he wanted to work for Disney, and found encouragement in that goal from several supportive teachers. After studying illustration at Antelope Valley College, he encountered Disney animator Ron Dias, who invited him to visit the Studio in 1993. He went on to study at the Animation Guild’s American Animation Institute, where he received some expert instruction in figure drawing and assistant animation from several Disney veterans.
A one-year gig at Turner Animation on “Cats Don’t Dance” led to him being recruited by Disney. His first animation assignment at Walt Disney Animation Studios was as an in-betweener on the “Pomp and Circumstance,” “Firebird Suite” and “Steadfast Tin Soldier” segments of “Fantasia/2000.” This was followed by credits as clean-up animator or assistant animator on such Disney features as “Hercules,” “Tarzan,” “Treasure Planet,” “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” and “Home on the Range,” among others. Additionally, he served a three-month stint as key assistant animator on the Warner Bros. 2003 feature “Looney Tunes: Back in Action.”
In 2004, Hernandez moved to Disneytoon Studios to provide character design (and assist acclaimed animator Andreas Deja) on the home entertainment release of “Bambi 2.” Around this time, he became interested in story and worked in that capacity on “Brother Bear 2” (for which he also did character design) and the first four “Tinker Bell” direct-to-DVD features. For his latest assignment on “Disney’s Planes,” Hernandez studied a vast array of aerial footage from classic films to documentaries. He became a virtual aviation expert and learned to incorporate the actual mechanics of planes into the personalities and actions for the film’s colorful plane characters. In addition to his current role as a head of story at Disneytoon Studios, he is also in the process of directing a new short.
What I found the most impressive about Art’s job, is that he really must know the characters inside and out. He is able to draw Dusty in seconds. He knows everything from the script to the character traits and probably everything in between. He basically lives and breathes these characters until the movie is finished and I imagine that they all become a part of who he is.
I also enjoyed hearing about how Art “pitches” his sketches to the rest of the Disney team. He is basically selling them on his vision for the characters. This process happens over and over again in the development of these films, and I truly think that is why they end up coming out so amazing. You have so many people “pitching” their very best ideas to one another, and the end result is … yup, you guessed it: MAGIC.
And a huge thanks to the folks at Disney for this wonderful and unforgettable experience, something I will never forget!
Can’t get enough Disney? You can read more about my most recent Disney experiences, including how sketches like mine get turned into the Disney movies in my post about the process of Disney Animation here. You can also read my Monsters University Tailgate and Premiere post here and you can also read my Monsters University movie review here.