SEATTLE - To many watching Disney’s "Sleeping Beauty" was a happy part of their childhood. But for a young Kira Lehtomaki of Edmonds, seeing the movie as a kid changed her life.
"I declared at that moment that I wanted to be a drawer for Disney," Lehtomaki said. "And when I went to high school and we were started to look into applying to colleges and stuff and I was like, 'You know, I need to study animation,' my mom was like, 'Wait you were serious? I thought that was like your little kid, [as in] oh, I want to do this when I grow up.' And I was like, 'No, this has been my life goal.'"
When she did go looking for a college, she didn't have to go too far.
"Pixar had a website and they had a list of recommended school and they had two lists, artistic and technique, and the University of Washington was at the top of the list for technical schools," she said.
After college, Disney asked her to be a part of their animation training program. And she's been working on movies for the company ever since.
“Bolt, Tangled, Wreck it Ralph, Frozen," she said. "I did a few shorts like Paper Man, Tangled Ever After. I worked on the Prep and Landing series."
Most recently, Lehtomaki has been working as a supervising animator on the new Disney movie, Zootopia.
"Specifically on Zootopia I was in charge of Judy Hopps, who's the bunny," she said.
Zootopia co-director Rich Moore said animation is what Lehtomaki was meant to do.
"She is a natural," Moore said. "You meet animators sometimes and you see that's what they were born to do, and ah, it almost seems like it comes easy to them. And she is definitely like one of those artist that she was born to do this."
Lehtomaki still can't believe her dream as a child actually came true.
"It's been like a whirlwind dream fairy tale," Lehtomaki said. I feel like I gave everybody some Kool-Aid and they all drank it and now things are working out really well."
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