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Texas A&M visualization graduate continues journey at Disney
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Texas A&M visualization graduate continues journey at Disney

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Taylor Dziuk

Taylor Dziuk, who owns bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas A&M, has taken her visualization degrees to Disney Animation Studios. Her first film with the studio was “Encanto,” released in November, and she is currently working on new projects.

Magical and surreal is how Taylor Dziuk describes seeing her work on the Disney movie “Encanto” on the big screen.

Dziuk, a 2018 Texas A&M graduate who later earned a master’s degree from the university, joined Walt Disney Animation Studios in January. After a few months of training, she joined the team working on Disney’s latest animated film as a lighting apprentice.

“We basically got to use light and shadow and color and kind of help light the film for what you see on the final screen, so it was pretty neat,” she said.

Dziuk said it’s difficult to explain her role, but the lighting team’s biggest job was to use light to help tell the story.

“We’re basically in this 3-D world, and we’re on the computer, and we get to move around virtually,” she said, explaining how lighting works in an animated film. “We’re looking through virtual cameras; we’re moving throughout the scenes, and we’re getting to drop lights and help tell the story through lighting.”

Since the movie was released the week of Thanksgiving, Dziuk said she has celebrated its release with family and friends and heard their feedback and thoughts.

Besides the Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned songs, which she said are in her head, one of the things she enjoys most about the movie is how everyone identifies or connects with a different character or member of the Madrigals.

“For me, that’s so powerful because it speaks to Disney’s ability to make compelling characters or characters that people can connect with,” she said.

While watching the movie, Dziuk said she can see her own journey and the work she and friends put into the film.

“You see all the iterations; all the process that went into it,” she said. “… It’s so hard not to see all the process that went into it when you watch it back, but in a good way.”

A native of Falls City, Texas, Dziuk received a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M’s visualization program in 2018 and then earned a master’s degree in 2020.

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The daughter of Aggie parents, Dziuk said the program presented her with a “best of both worlds” situation, allowing her to fulfill her childhood goal of attending A&M and pursuing a degree that allowed her to use her artistic talents.

“I am one of those people who believes in every part of your path in life is helping you get to a certain place or helping you become who you’re supposed to be, and I look back at A&M so fondly,” she said. “I mean, it’s not been all that long since I left, and, you know, it just was such a huge part of the journey. I know I wouldn’t be here without it. The people who shaped my path while I was there were just incredible.”

She found support from her fellow A&M students and had people believe in her, even when they did not have to.

As a graduate student, she and her classmates participated in the program’s 13-week Summer Industry Course in which they produced short films and heard from Disney artists who visited the students and explained their processes and journey.

“We learned so much that summer, and I think it was like a 13-week course I believe, but when I look back, that had the biggest impact,” she said.

Dziuk says she knew from a young age that she wanted to work for the Walt Disney Company, and as she aged she focused on working as an artist. However, there was no guarantee it would happen.

“I mean, you hope and dream,” she said.

Since she joined Disney Animation Studios during the pandemic, she has been working from home but hopes to be in the studio soon. Despite working remotely, Dziuk has been able to learn from her colleagues and their strengths.

“I think that’s how you become better in any way, shape or form, especially as artists, just looking how others are doing their job and how are they doing such amazing work,” she said. “That’s a big takeaway. Just pushing yourself creatively, and learning how to do that in this world.”

Dziuk was one of six lighting apprentices who worked on “Encanto,” and in November moved up to become a lighting assistant and is currently working on new Disney Animation projects.

“Right now that’s the future,” she said. “… Just trying to increase my skill set, and then learn from those within the department, and trying to just work my way up however I can.”

For those wanting to pursue a similar path, Dziuk encourages people to learn as much as they can from others and to help others along the way.

“I look at all the people who helped me, and I wouldn’t be here without them,” she said. “Your dreams are never as far away as you think they are. They’re closer than you would think.”

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