by T.J. Sondag, Reporter, WVTV
AURORA – Andrew Chesworth has been selected as Waubonsie Valley High School’s 2021 Distinguished Alumnus. A 2003 graduate, Chesworth worked as an animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2011. There, Chesworth contributed on such films as Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia. He credits Waubonsie with supporting his creativity.
“My freshman year, I had an art teacher who nurtured my love of drawing, media arts and film,” said Chesworth. “She would listen to me and talk to me and just engage with me on my level and help me imagine the future that I could see for myself as an animator, an artist, and a filmmaker.”
In 2017, Chesworth co-founded Taiko Studios, where he co-wrote and co-directed the company’s debut film, One Small Step. The animated short received an Oscar nomination in 2019.
“One Small Step was the story about a young Chinese American girl, who lives with her single father, and every step she takes is a step towards her dream of becoming an astronaut,” said Chesworth. “This film was really special to me, not because I am any of those things that the characters are, but I could relate to somebody who had a supportive parent, and every step I took was a step in the direction of becoming an animator and filmmaker. The moment in our short film when Luna takes a step out of the spacecraft and steps onto the moon and experiences the dream she’s had since childhood for the first time felt like when I got my dream job at Disney Animation and stepped through those doors and got to follow in all the footsteps of the great artists I admired growing up.”
“What I’m working on now is a short film called The Brave Locomotive, which is a musical inspired by 1940s Disney and the music of the Andrew Sisters. Just like One Small Step, it’s a six and a half minute short that packs a lot of narrative into a short amount of time. Visually, it’s very ambitious because it’s trying to capture the flavor of old fashioned Disney animation.”
“I’m also a character design supervisor on a television series at Netflix called My Dad, the Bounty Hunter. The show runner is Everett Downing, who won an Oscar for his short last year called Hair Love.”
Chesworth had advice for current high school students.
“It’s okay to be afraid, and it’s okay to have a little bit of discomfort. That means you’re entering a growth period in your life where you’re at the threshold of what’s familiar to you. During that initial period of fear and discomfort, you’ll suddenly have realizations that you never had before. If you allow those feelings into your life, within the context of the group of supportive people that you feel good being around who represent the kind of life you want to cultivate for yourself, then that’s where you want to be.”
“I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is such an honor to be remembered in this way.”