U City native Marlon West brings magic to Walt Disney animated movies

Fairy tales, adventure and fictional princesses are brought to life by a team of artists and animators — including University City native Marlon West.

Walt Disney Animation Studios
Marlon West is working on “Iwájú,” left. He began making films with a camera he received for his 12th birthday.

Disney animations have been a part of people’s childhoods for generations. Fairy tales, adventure and fictional princesses are brought to life by a team of artists and animators — including University City native Marlon West.

West has led the charge for visual special effects on some of the most popular Disney movies of this generation, including “Moana,” “Encanto,” and “The Princess and the Frog,” as a visual special effects supervisor for Walt Disney Animation Studios.

West got his start with Disney animation as a trainee on the beloved and award-winning film “The Lion King.” At the time, West had already spent 10 years in the animation industry. He told St. Louis on the Air: “The thing about movies or any film — the worst film that you’ve ever seen [had] people [that] worked really hard on [it]. No one ever kind of takes the day off, or works three or four days a week or six hours a day, on a bad film. They work really hard on everything.”

Growing up, West would call himself a producer because he would create homemade Super 8 films on a camera he got for his 12th birthday. He recalled: “My parents were very working people. They had jobs their entire life. When I was talking about trying to be an animator … they went along with it. They had a lot of faith.”

The faith from West’s parents combined with his own tenacity took him from University City to Burbank. He’s now working on a new project titled “Iwájú” — a collaboration between Disney and Kugali, a Pan-African comic book and entertainment company.

“It’s the first time I’ve worked with folks outside of [Disney Animation] completely. [Kugali are] first-time filmmakers. And you know, and I’m a longtime filmmaker. So it’s also kind of helping teach them the craft of animation.”

To hear more about Marlon West’s time in the House of Mouse and how he would animate a film set in St. Louis, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple PodcastSpotifyGoogle PodcastStitcher

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya NorfleetEmily WoodburyDanny WicentowskiElaine Cha and Alex HeuerAvery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org


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