“Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2”
Lehtomaki will tell you she took a meandering path to Disney, but it was a one-track route. Ever since she watched “Sleeping Beauty” on the big screen at the tender age of 3, she knew what she wanted to be: not a princess, but a “drawer” for Disney, and she hasn’t looked back.
The daughter of science-minded parents, Lehtomaki studied computer science at the University of Washington instead of going to art school, because hand-drawn animation was fading and computer animation was on the rise, and “I wanted to work at Disney in any capacity.” For a time, she also studied French “because I had found out that Disney had a studio in Paris. I thought, ‘I don’t speak French, and if I desperately want to work at Disney, I want to make sure I’m available to work at any studio.'”
With her computer science degree in hand, Lehtomaki immediately sent her resume Disney, and she got a call — from the technical department. “I remember talking to someone on the phone, and at the end he asked me, ‘So, why do you want to work at Disney?’ I said, ‘Because I really want to be an animator,'” she recalls. “There was a long pause, and then he said ‘Oh, OK. I’ll pass your resume on to the art department.’ And then I never heard back.”
Then she heard about Animation Mentor, an online art school started by animators from Pixar and Industrial Light & Magic that connects students directly with animation professionals. After completing that training, she sent Disney her reel and was admitted into Disney’s animation trainee program. Her dream finally came true.
At Disney, Lehtomaki has worked her way up as an animator on such hits as “Tangled,” “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Frozen,” to being supervising animator for the Judy Hopps character on last year’s “Zootopia,” and is now co-head of animation on “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2.”
– Terry Flores