Thanksgiving Day, 1995. Opening day of Pixar’s Toy Story, the first fully computer animated feature film. A little 7 year old red headed gal sits between her parents and little brother, unaware that in just a minute, a toy would come to life- let me repeat, an INANIMATE object would be ANIMATED!
This wasn’t my first run in with Animation, but it is the moment that I promised myself that I would be an Animator.
My entire journey so far has sprung from the first major life declaring goal set by a 7 year old me.
This wasn’t my first run in with Animation. They are the earliest memories I have. My parents would work a lot, so when my little brother and I would get off the bus after school, we’d go over to our Grandma’s house. She lived right across our gravel parking lot, but we’d usually just run over there first so we wouldn’t miss Looney Tunes. I absolutely love Michigan J. Frog. I’m convinced he was the beginning of my love affair with the crooner era and Dean Martin.
I used to pretend I was Princess Camille from Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, acting it out WHILE I watched it (I also did this as Princess Leia while watching Star Wars, btw). When I got to the scene where she was frozen in ice, even though she was suspended above the ground (as I had no way of doing this) I would lie on the couch in her pose waiting for the end of the scene to happen. I usually fell asleep. Even to this day, I feel ashamed to admit that I’m really a Princess who was dislocated from her Kingdom. I don’t really want to make my parents feel bad… because even though they’re not my real parents, they’re still AMAZING parents.
On the long drives to the nearest big city, we’d often listen to Disney soundtracks on tape, doing sing-a-longs and the voice game, where we would imitate character’s voices and have to guess them. One of the most vivid memories is riding in the backseat with my friend while my father drove his white convertible with the top down singing “Can’t Wait To Be King” from The Lion King soundtrack on a little green cassette tape over and over and over again. When driving at night, I would lie in the floor board of our backseat looking up at the stars and see Mufasa in the stars. Naturally, we’d have conversations. I even named the only pure bred cat I ever had (as we normally take in strays or adopt), Nala.
My pony was named Twinkle, after the song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (as I was in Kindergarten) but also because I loved Rainbow Brite and her little helper was named Twink. I also had a hand in on the decision to name one of our mares, Casper (see pic of horse!), as my brother and I loved that ghost! On car trips, in the back of the hatchback, I would pretend I was Starlite and be saving people from Murky by biting their hair and throwing them on my back- these roles were either imaginary or played by my barbie dolls. In the bathtub, I would pretend I was a mermaid, specifically Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Sometimes, I would pretend I was a whale and would eat my barbies and bath water like Monstro ate Pinocchio and Geppetto. I would also sometimes pretend I was Free Willy and trapped so I would flail around (not animation related, but bath time related). The carpet floors surrounding the tub were often soaked.
Sure, kids do this with their ravenous imaginations but I took it a step farther. After seeing Toy Story, I went home to write the sequel. It was called Toy Love in which everyone had girlfriends and boyfriends! Woody was with Bo Peep, FINALLY! I don’t recall the story line but I remember illustrating it on printer paper my mom folded in half for me. It would embarrass the shit out of me if I read it today I’m sure and I hope we never find it- and none of my old writing, for that matter. Let’s just forget any of it happened… BUT, these characters, all of these animated characters, speak to me. That’s why Disney is classic. That’s why Children and Adults, the same, can enjoy all of these movies. I want to be a part of that magic. Even though I could never catch my toys coming alive when I left a room and quickly re-enter, I could create stories and I could breathe life into words, into drawings, into anything I want- and subconsciously I’ve done that with my life.
In my memory, Nightmare Before Christmas also came out in 1995 but in just checking to make sure that is right, I am wrong. It came out in 1993. So really, I was 5 years old when the idea of Animation began but not to the extent that it was solidified when seeing Toy Story. The reason I bring up Nightmare is because of it’s style. Tim Burton can’t do anything without you visually seeing it is his. He has this thumb print. When I saw this, I knew how important it was to do what suits you. And although, like most things, when so young, you don’t know how to implement YOU into everything. I’m just NOW getting the hang of it.
At the end of the day, I have found these two films to sum up what I want to do and be apart of. These memories are the why. I want to breathe life into characters, stories, and let my imagination run free.