NEWPORT - Nestled in the backwoods of the Northeast Kingdom, far from the hustle and bustle of city life, lives Kevin Harkey. He moved his family from Long Beach, CA to the Green Mountain State 10 years ago.
Harkey has worked on such animated films such as The Lion King, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan and many others.
Much of Harkey’s work has been a storyboard artist. A storyboard artist, explained Harkey, puts the script to visuals.
“It ends up being a blueprint for the movie,” he explained. “Somebody will write the script and we decide what angles, some of the staging and dictate what the acting will be. Then it goes into the assembly line in animation.”
Harkey likes that part of production because those individuals have the most say in the movie. Typically, 10 or so board artists work on a film. It takes about two years to “board a project,” Harkey said.
For inspiration, Harkey gets visual development drawings as well as input from the writers, directors and management.
Harkey has also worked as a development artist, which is “blue screening” the film. Harkey considers this the fun time because anything goes.
“It’s like putting all the ideas into a hat and nobody is saying, ‘No, we’re not going to do that,’” he explained. “It’s also a jumble of ideas.”
It’s the time when the cast is chosen, which can determine what the characters look like.
Some of the ideas for Harkey’s work come from his personal life. The idea for the net in the tree house attack in Tarzan came from a net he had over his pool so his infant daughter wouldn’t fall in.
“It was neat how the idea was something related from something that was at home,” said Harkey.
However, not all his ideas make it into the actual movie, which can be hard at times. “You have to walk away; it’s their product and that’s what they want.”
When it comes to working on animated films, “Shorter is better," says Harkey, who recommends that such films should run no longer than just over an hour.
When he lived in California, Harkey was an employee for Disney, but now he’s considered a freelancer. However, the assignments remain the same. The last film he worked on was "Frozen," which is still in preproduction.
Harkey said Disney picked him up right out of college. Back then, he was in animation and special effects.
“I wanted a job that had a steady paycheck and animation offered that,” said Harkey, on why he submitted some life drawings to Disney.
“Being able to live draw and figure is important.”
Today, many times the model of the character is already made in the computer and people like Harkey move the figure instead of drawing it.
During his down time, Harkey has worked on several books including one named “Why Bother,” which deals with work ethics.