Ami Thompson

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Art Di­rec­tor

(Dis­ney) Mov­ing up the ranks at Dis­ney An­i­ma­tion — the stu­dio that’s won three of the past five Os­cars for Best An­i­mated Fea­ture — means prov­ing you merit. So, it’s no­table when an an­i­ma­tor gets tapped to be the art di­rec­tor of char­ac­ters on her first fea­ture film as­sign­ment. That’s just what hap­pened to Ami Thompson with her gig on the stu­dio’s 2018 fea­ture Ralph Breaks the In­ter­net: Wreck-It Ralph 2. Work­ing with di­rec­tor Rich Moore, an Os­car win­ner for Zootopia and nom­i­nee for Wreck-It Ralph, has Thompson pinch­ing her­self. “Since it’s my first fea­ture, when Cory Loftis, the pro­duc­tion de­signer, of­fered me the po­si­tion, I couldn’t be­lieve it. It was April 1, so I thought, ‘Is this a prank?’”

Not a sur­pris­ing re­ac­tion, given that Thompson’s only prior Dis­ney credit was as char­ac­ter de­signer on the an­i­mated short In­ner Work­ings. Of course, she’d been men­tored by vet­eran Dis­ney an­i­ma­tor Mark Henn ( Mu­lan, Big Hero 6) dur­ing an in­tern­ship while she at­tended Sheri­dan Col­lege. She also in­terned pre­vi­ously at Stu­dio Ghi­bli, so she had seen an­i­ma­tors work­ing at the high­est level. Still, when she landed the job at Dis­ney three years ago, Thompson ad­mits that she won­dered if she was good enough to make it there. “But I got to work with Mark Henn again, and be sur­rounded by in­spi­ra­tion from him and other an­i­ma­tors.”

Her work con­firmed that she was up to the job. Thompson not only con­trib­uted char­ac­ter de­signs to In­ner Work­ings, but the film fea­tured her hand-drawn an­i­ma­tion as well. “At Sheri­dan, I had learned mostly 2D, but I also learned the ba­sics of CG, since I knew the an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try was mov­ing to CG.” Now her role on Wreck-It Ralph 2 puts Thompson in the thick of 3D, han­dling the beloved ti­tle char­ac­ter and his side­kick Vanel­lope as they ven­ture be­yond the con­fines of ar­cade games onto the in­ter­net.

“Be­fore this film, Ralph was de­signed in a clas­sic ‘big ape’ style in a game world,” notes Thompson. “This time, it’s a new world that is so big, and there are so many ran­dom things. We wanted to re­flect that in the de­signs, and take these beau­ti­ful char­ac­ters to the next level.”

A visit to Thompson’s In­sta­gram page re­veals that she’s a gamer her­self, and clearly a dig­i­tal na­tive. “I do feel re­lated to this movie,” she says. “Not just games, but the in­ter­net. That al­ways comes with me.” Cock­roaches, Go West: A Lucky Luke Ad­ven­ture and Zig & Sharko. But his ca­reer kicked into high gear re­cently when he be­gan di­rect­ing episodes of the stu­dio’s much-her­alded new adap­ta­tion of Mr. Magoo.

Af­ter study­ing at the Max­im­i­lien Vox School of Print­ing and Graphic Arts, and grad­u­at­ing from the Du­perré School of Ap­plied Arts, Git­tard jumped at the chance of cre­at­ing char­ac­ters for Xilam. Be­fore long, he was writ­ing and di­rect­ing the stu­dio’s other new prop­er­ties Rintin­dumb and Mr. Baby. He then cre­ated and di­rected Xilam’s Hu­bert & Takako, a show about a clean-cut pig and his hy­per­ac­tive best friend, a fly.

“I first be­came in­ter­ested in an­i­ma­tion when I saw Akira at the An­necy fes­ti­val back when I was a stu­dent at art school,” Git­tard tell us. “My first big break was when I was hired to de­sign char­ac­ters for Xilam’s Space Goofs.”

Git­tard says work­ing with an iconic char­ac­ter like Mr. Magoo has been both chal­leng­ing and ful­fill­ing. “Magoo is the ideal char­ac­ter for which to cre­ate ab­surd mis­un­der­stand­ings and crazy visual gags. De­fy­ing the laws of physics and logic is al­ways a big plea­sure for a car­toon­ist. The key is to rein­vent and mod­ern­ize the char­ac­ters, while keep­ing the fan­tasy of the char­ac­ters alive.”

Not­ing that his an­i­ma­tion idol is SpongeBob SquarePants cre­ator Stephen Hil­len­burg, Git­tard says he loves the spirit of team­work that film and TV an­i­ma­tion en­cour­ages. “I also think that it’s most im­por­tant to dare to do the im­pos­si­ble to suc­ceed in art. The best ad­vice is to prac­tice your de­sign in the aca­demic style. Once you get it, try to find your own per­son­al­ity and don’t hes­i­tate to get off the beaten tracks. Al­ways re­mem­ber that a car­toon­ist is a per­former!”

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