One Royal Oak native takes the lead on animating the latest Disney film

Amy Smeed has worked on some of your favorite Disney movies

Boss Lady - Disney animator Amy Smeed on Live in the D
Boss Lady - Disney animator Amy Smeed on Live in the D

This weekend, animator Amy Smeed will be celebrating the release of her latest film, Raya and the Last Dragon. The film is the latest in a long line for the Royal Oak native, who has already worked on projects like Moana, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and Tangled. This time she is back in the role of Head Animator something she first did on the movie Moana.

Smeed said she always loved art and painting growing up, and after going to fine arts school, found a passion for animation and character design.

After leaving school, Smeed hoped to strengthen her demo reel enough to give her a head start in the industry. “I thought if I could just get my foot in the door at Disney, then I could learn from all the incredibly talented artists at the studio,” she said.

She said she has been working on Raya and the Last Dragon for around two years now, and said that the pandemic has made it a very unique experience. For the first time, the majority of the film was made with the animators working from home. When production halted last March, the animators had only completed around 5 shots.

Smeed said that despite the difficulty of working from home, the studio worked closely with all the different departments to make the film. Character designers, modeling departments, and rigging departments all worked together to get movement controls ready for production.

She says her biggest advice to women wanting to get into the field is to believe in yourself and have confidence in your abilities.

“I was very afraid of taking risks, especially in a position like a head of animation,” she said, saying she was concerned she could disappoint the directors of her department. She encourages girls to believe they can take those risks, because doing so helped her learn and grow as an artist.

For the full interview, watch the video above.