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Meet Rachel Thompson of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products in North Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Thompson.

Rachel, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
When I was a junior in high school, I learned you could have an actual career in art, and that you could go to colleges to study it. Art went from a passionate hobby of mine to a dream job, and to get that job, I went to my dream college, Ringling College of Art and Design, for my degree in Illustration. While I was there, I learned the breadth of professions art applied to; it wasn’t just limited to fine art, I could be an animator, a graphic designer, a concept artist just to name a few. Concept artist was what I really aspired to be, I wanted to bring stories, movies, games to life with awesome visuals. Even before graduation, I began applying to places, but it wasn’t until six months later that I finally found a position for me in that field at Disney Interactive Games. I’ve been working for them for over four years now as a concept artist, but I’ve always got my eyes peeled for the next big opportunity that could come my way in the art industry.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
By the time I graduated, the entertainment art industry was pretty saturated with new artists, and not as many open positions. In college, I thought I knew what I needed to do to get a job, and then I quickly found I was wrong. It took me six months of applying post-graduation before I finally got an offer, which was a paid internship. I was lucky to have saved up enough to come to California from Florida while I was looking, but I had to live with a friend in a very tiny living situation, with a dining room as my bedroom to make it feasible. By the end of those six months, I would have had to move back home and reassess everything. I was very lucky and very grateful for the internship when I did get it, but it lasted a very long year, where I had to go without benefits and not the most padded of paychecks. But I worked hard to prove my worth and it got me the full-time position that I wanted and have now.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I work for Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products, which used to be called Disney Interactive Studios. I’m sure everyone knows about Disney, so I won’t waste my breath there, but I personally work on an External Games team, where we make mostly mobile Disney games. I’m one of four artists on the team, but we have numerous projects going on at a time, and it’s my job to oversee the art for them. This includes character art, environment art, special effects art, and key art for our marketing. I personally specialize in doing pitch art, which also happens to be the most fun part of my job, where I get to concept out ideas for various presentations or pitches of possible game ideas with our partners. It’s those projects that I really get to flex my art muscles and my creativity, and I think I’ve managed to distinguish myself as an artist for the team and company through the work I do for those.

What were you like growing up?
Well, if you asked my younger sister, I was a jerk, but I say that’s sibling bias. Art was one of the things that she and I bonded over the most, actually, and it was what I used to define myself as a kid. I feel like every class has ‘the artist’ and I was that student, my peers all knew me for that skill, and I was usually the one asked to do visuals for any class projects, which I didn’t mind. I was definitely the typical shy child, highly introverted, had a hard time speaking up in class or had panic attacks speaking in front of crowds, and its something that I still struggle with even now. College was where I really broke out of my shell because I was among like-minded people for the first time who shared my interests. I made my closest friends there and learned to have more confidence in who I was and how weird I was. Because I’ve always been very weird (in a good way), it just hadn’t been okay until recently. Coming to Los Angeles helped me in that regard because I didn’t have to feel like the black sheep of a small town anymore, I was now part of the diverse ecosystem of a city. It was definitely a culture shock for me, but now I feel my most comfortable here.

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