Alexandra (Poston) Naut is doing what many people only dream about: The 26-year-old Gig Harbor native is making her living as an artist.
Naut just finished a three-year stint working at Walt Disney Studio in Burbank, California and just accepted a position with DreamWorks Animation.
“I always wanted to pursue art in some way,” she said. “I always wanted to work at Disney ... I really liked the beauty and animation that Disney provided.”
Hired as a production assistant shortly after the release of 2013’s “Frozen,” Naut was already part of the team when the animation took home two Oscars in 2014. The energy following the Oscar win was infections to the Disney team, Naut said, and would not be the last time a film she helped create would bring home the award.
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Naut worked as a production assistant for 2014’s “Big Hero 6” — which won the 2015 Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film — and also worked with the team on last year’s blockbuster “Zootopia,” which also won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film earlier this year.
‘Big Hero 6’ was the first personal Oscar that I’d taken part in. ‘Zootopia’ was my favorite movie because the message is so important. I felt like I was participating in something so relevant.
Alexandra (Poston) Naut
“‘Big Hero 6’ was the first personal Oscar that I’d taken part in,” Naut said. “‘Zootopia’ was my favorite movie because the message is so important. I felt like I was participating in something so relevant.”
Naut attended Goodman Middle School and then Charles Wright Academy in Tacoma, returning to Gig Harbor High School to attend the Running Start program at Tacoma Community College.
“Running Start was such an important step for me,” she explained. “It gave me a leap ahead for college.”
She graduated in 2012 with a BFA in animation from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.
As a production assistant, Naut had the opportunity to work with every department at Walt Disney Studio, helping maintain morale, provide assignments to animators, document meetings and provide reviews for directors.
When people think of Disney they think that every single person is an animator. We wouldn’t get a lot done if we were all animators. There’s a lot of hidden roles and production assistant is one of them.
“When people think of Disney they think that every single person is an animator. We wouldn’t get a lot done if we were all animators,” she explained. “There’s a lot of hidden roles and production assistant is one of them.”
Accepting the position at DreamWorks Animation allowed Naut a return to art: her new role is as a storyboard artist.
“Storyboarding is the first visual storytelling step in animated filmmaking after the script,” she said. “Storyboarding sets up the emotions and mood and the cinematography of a film. It’s the first time we take a look at what the film is really going to look like before we get into the expensive process ... It’s one of the few drawing based career paths left in animation.”
She added that her time at SCAD was helpful in teaching her the whole process of animation and providing her with contacts, but also noted that many of the skills she needs for her current role were learned before college and were things she taught herself.
You work on these films for so long that you forget that people are actually going to watch them. Everyone thinks that you need to be a doctor or nurse to have a successful career or income … I think when people think artist they think starving artist. (But) I think creative jobs are becoming more valued.
“I feel like kids have a lot more resources available to them,” she said. “Don’t wait for an assignment to do things. No one can give you a step by step list of how to be successful.”
Her advice for those looking for a career in the arts is to learn and practice those skills as much as possible, explaining that she started making her own comic books in middle school and taught herself how to animate in high school.
Moving forward in her career has included the hard decision to leave Walt Disney Studios, a dream job she’s worked toward for years. Having been part of the team that created such widely popular animations has been a surreal experience for her and she noted that she’s always excited to hear when they become favorites.
“You work on these films for so long that you forget that people are actually going to watch them,” she said with a laugh. “Everyone thinks that you need to be a doctor or nurse to have a successful career or income … I think when people think artist they think starving artist. (But) I think creative jobs are becoming more valued.”