From Addison to Disney: AHS graduate Britney Thoreson navigating the world of animation

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A scene from Addison, Alabama created by Addison High School graduate Britney Thoreson, who is now an animator for Disney (contributed)

ADDISON, Ala. – Britney Thoreson graduated from Addison High School in 2013. Now, she has “followed her dreams to the west coast” and is working as a background animator for The Walt Disney Company’s Disney Television Animation.

Thoreson talked to The Tribune about what she does for Disney.

“I am in charge of designing the environments,” she said. “Usually they are just the line drawings (no color). Once the background designs are approved by an art director, a background painter is in charge of adding the color to those environments. Typically, this role between background designer and background painter is split because there is so much work to do between the two roles, but sometimes, I am able to do both.”

Thoreson continued, “Not many people pay attention to what’s behind the cartoon characters you see on screen. but there is so much more that goes into making an animated cartoon show.  Part of the challenge of my job is to make the world that the characters are walking around in feel believable- like they actually live there.”

The small town girl said it was her lifelong passion to work in animation.

“This is dating all the way back when I was a child, just drawing in a sketchbook while watching cartoons on TV,” she smiled. “It started young and hasn’t stopped since.”

After graduating Addison High School in 2013, Thoreson was accepted to Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida; however, life had other plans.

“Unfortunately, at the time, the money funds I previously had fell through and I ended up attending Cogswell College, which was far from my previous plan,” she said. “I was OK with leaving the comforts of Alabama to go to Florida, but to California? That was hard to do! However, I didn’t want to live life with regrets, so I took a leap of faith and left around January 2014.”

Thoreson described her college experience so far from home, saying, “I didn’t have enough money at the time to fly out and visit the college, so my first day there was the first day I even saw the campus! I was self-taught for a long time, so this was my first set of actual art classes. I was nervous and excited! I graduated top of my class in 2017 and even gave a speech at the graduation ceremony! It was a big honor, and I am incredibly blessed to have made it through the rigorous courses and stressful nights thinking how I was ever going to make it.”

Thoreson said her work as an animator started right out of college. She was contacted by Cartoon Network Studios on her last day at Cogswell, and she worked as a background designer for the 2016 “Ben 10” reboot for two and a half years.

“It is common in the animation industry to go from studio to studio once a contract is done. I have to always be updating my portfolio and networking with various artists and recruiters to see if there is another show I can hop onto. If you are pleasant to work with and you turn in everything on time, your chances of getting on another show are pretty high,” she said. “This led me to Netflix Animation where I worked on their upcoming show ‘Centaurworld,’ which is coming out in 2021. After that gig ended, I was contacted by Matt Braly, who is the creator of the Disney show ‘Amphibia.’ He liked the personal work I was posting on various social media sites and asked if I wanted to work on the show. I immediately responded with a big YES! I was honored that he took the time to reach out to me!”

While she has big plans for the future- “I want to work with every animation studio out here to see how each one works and eventually try my hand at visual development for a feature film!”- Thoreson said she loves the work she does right now. “It’s fast-paced and so satisfying to see all the hard work everyone puts in just to make the audiences at home feel something when they watch these animated shows. I was inspired as a kid and I hope kids today feel the same way.”

On another note, Thoreson said once it is deemed safe enough to travel, she will be returning to Addison to visit family and friends and “get some legit fried chicken.”

See some of Thoreson’s work at www.britneythoresonart.com.

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Heather Mann

heather@cullmantribune.com