We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Patty Peraza, the first female Effects Animator at Disney Feature Animation Studio. She is known for her work on Fox and the Hound, Tron, Epcot, Mickey's Christmas Carol, Meet the World for Tokyo Disneyland, Beauty and the Beast, Fantasia 2000, and many more. She also did work for Warner Bros. Hyperion, as well as commercials.
"My dad would rarely go out to the movies, but he always took the family to see the Disney movies. The one that had the biggest impact on me was one we had arrived to a little late so the only seats left were in the very front row. It was Bambi, such a gorgeous film! Sitting there as a young child looking at the beautiful artwork just a few feet in front of me was probably what inspired me the most."
Patty used to draw all the time when she was young, and knew that she wanted to be an artist since elementary school. Though her parents did not want her to move away from Maryland, she always had their full support. She had received a full scholarship from the Disney family for the Disney Animation Program at CalArts in the 1970's. The program was intense, so Patty had to stay very focused to keep her scholarship. Her hard work did not go unnoticed by the head of the program, Jack Hannah. He even encourage her to take breaks from time to time and suggested she go out with Mike Peraza, one of the teachers assistant in the program, who eventually became her husband!
Patty was the first female to be hired directly out of the CalArts Disney Animation Program to work at the Walt Disney Studios. She was also the first female to be hired into the Effects department, and when she was promoted to Effects Animator she was the only female animator in both the effects and character animation departments.
"Almost every women would go into the Ink & Paint Department. It was just the way it was set up because the studio was founded back in the 1920's, and so that the guys were doing the animation artwork and the women were painting. It really was a mastery to ink those cells and get the lines exactly, I'm amazed at what they could do. I loved the plausible impossible, and you can do anything with animation, so that was more fun for me"
Patty's husband Mike had also been hired at Walt Disney Studios out of the program at CalArts as an Art Director, he worked on concept art, visual development, and the style of the film. He is best known for the Little Mermaid, but also designed and developed Gummi Bears, DuckTales, Goof Troop, Talespin and Darkwing Duck in addition to being an imagineer for the new Fantasyland Land and Shanghai Resort.
After Patty's daughters, Kim and Kristin, were born it was important for her to spend time at home. Luckily enough freelancing from home was an option with Disney TV and Direct to Video, which gave her the chance to be with her kids and still do what she loved doing. She was at Disney Studios from 1979-1987 and then returned to Disney features when Don Hahn asked her to be the project lead for Beauty and the Beast.
"Right now I'm a master artist for the Arts of the Parks, so I do artwork for the galleries at the parks. When they asked me to do it, I went down and looked at the Disney galleries with all these beautiful paintings, I thought 'how am I going to stand out?'. I thought 'Well, I was an effects animator so I'll incorporate effects'. They wouldn't let me have real fire on my paintings, and I thought nobody is going to buy the splash at Disney Parks, they all want the characters! So I decided for my "effect" it would be the medium itself. They had paper sculptures, but they didn't have anything in cloth, so I decided I would make something out of cloth!"
You can find Patty's beautifully designed cloth art pieces at most Disney stores all over the world. Patty and her husband Mike, who also sels prints, will be doing a signing at the opening weekend of the Food and Wine Festival at Disney California Adventure on March 3 & 4, 2018!