Disney animator talks Moana, inspirations

Darrin Butters, a veteran Disney animator, spent a day meeting with bloggers and journalists in Phoenix, Ariz., on Friday, Nov. 4, to promote Moana, the new Disney animated movie set to be released this week in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Butters, who was born in Nebraska, was bitten by the performance bug at a young age, starting with puppet shows, magic shows and was active in theater as a kid.

His older brother Jeff was an inspiration growing up, Butters said. But "Jeff was not a performer, [he] was an athlete. I had asthma as a kid, so instead of sports, I veered toward art, puppets and magic," he said in an e-mail. "He loved comics books and drawing."

"As a very young kid, I picked up a pencil too," he said. "[My brother] taught me how to make flip books on the corner of notepads."

Butters, whose work has appeared in popular Disney movies Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia, celebrated his 20th year at the iconic movie studios. In those 20 years, Butters said his favorite part of his career is still seeing his name in the credits. He is inspired by working with other creative people, he said.

If he could be any character he has animated he would be Olaf, “Because he is so happy all the time,” he said, laughing.

For kids who may want a career in animation, Butters’ advice is to “make lots of flip book movies because, that’s how you learn,” he said. “Study the principals of animation and have fun.”

“I feel very lucky and I’m extremely grateful to be where I am,” Butters said. “This is a dream come true and I’m glad I get to share my performances with the world.”

Moana, which stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and newcomer Auli'i Cravalho and features original music from Lin-Manuel Miranda, is now in theaters nationwide and has received high marks for its music and the animation.  

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