Follow your dreams, persevere, and don’t give up were the themes of my interview with Kira Lehtomaki.
Kira Lehtomaki dreamed as a little girl to be a ‘drawer’ for Disney. That dream came true for her many years later, but not without perseverance and hard work. At a young age Kira watched lots of Disney movies, her favorite being Sleeping Beauty. Watching Sleeping Beauty ignited her dream of working for Disney.
Despite being an animator for Disney, Kira did not major in animation. Instead she majored in computer science. After taking a semester off just so she could draw, Kira graduated with her degree and applied for the young talent program at Disney. She never thought that when she started this program she would make it this far. Now, she doesn’t want to let it go.
Her first job as an animator was working on Rapunzel in the movie ‘Tangled’. She said, “Rapunzel will always stay near and dear to my heart, because it was one of my first animation jobs.” She went on to work on projects such as ‘Big Hero 6’, ‘Frozen’, ‘Wreck it Ralph’ and Disney’s latest film ‘Zootopia’.
Kira was the Animation Supervisor, for ‘Zootopia’ and was in charge of making sure that the 70 animators creating Judy Hopps made her look as real and as consistent as possible. Lehtomaki’s role was to make sure the animation of Judy was consistent throughout the whole movie. This meant that Kira had to make sure Judy looked the same, even coming down to the smile and making sure she looked like a living, breathing character you believe is real. “The smile had to be the same every time Judy smiled, and make sure her smile stayed cute and small,” Kira says.
Working on Judy Hopps made Kira realize, that Judy is a miniature bunny version of herself. Both Judy and Kira live up to ‘Zootopias’ motto, “Anyone can be anything.” In life, Kira followed this motto to accomplish her dream job by working at Disney. “ Persevere, don’t ever give up, and never stop learning that will drive you to do your very best work ”