A Gig Harbor local who left Disney Studios in 2017 never stopped chasing her dreams.
Alexandra (Lexy) Naut, 31, is still beaming from receiving an Emmy award earlier this month for her animation work on the television series “The Boys Presents: Diabolical” on Prime Video.
Naut grew up in Gig Harbor. She attended Discovery Elementary, Goodman Middle School and Charles Wright Academy.
Naut and her husband decided to move back to the Pacific Northwest in the height of the pandemic. They returned in May of 2020, while she was still working on animation projects virtually in California.
Before the pandemic, animation artists were expected to be local to the projects they were on, Naut said.
“Everyone told me that it was impossible to work in a different area than the project,” Naut told The Gateway Wednesday. “But at the beginning of the pandemic, I could finally work from home, when no one was coming into the studio.”
What began with the Nauts thinking they might be able to enjoy being back in Gig Harbor for a few months turned into two years.
“This is a big turning point for the animation industry being flexible to artists’ locations,” Naut said.
Leaving Disney Studios
After graduating college from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2012, she spent five years working in various positions, before landing an opportunity at Disney Studios in Burbank, California in 2017.
Originally Naut wanted to be a pencil test animator, which is an artist who hand-draws animations with a pencil and paper.
Upon graduation she discovered animation going mostly digital, and it was difficult to get a job for pencil test animation. There was a period Naut was a substitute teacher for a little over a year while she and her husband were living in New York. Then she landed a role with Disney.
She spent three years at Disney working in a production assistant role, working with artists and department leads to hit project deadlines.
While she was there she was part of multiple projects, including the movies “Frozen,” “Big Hero 6,” and “Zootopia,” which all received Oscars.
“It was more technical work,” Naut told The Gateway. “I went to art school and wanted to be close to animation. While at Disney, I wasn’t really creating artwork anymore. I was just seeing it happen in front of me.”
She was envious of the artists and wanted to be on the creative side, instead of the administrative one.
“After being inspired by the artists, to the point of which I had a handful of artist friends that were encouraging me to pursue my craft, I decided to pursue a position at DreamWorks,” Naut said.
She got hired at DreamWorks Television as a revisionist in 2017. While in this role she spent time helping storyboard artists on the television show “Trolls.”
“As a revisionist, it was a really great opportunity to learn under storyboard artists at the time, and it was a good transition role,” Naut said.
After a few months, she was promoted and became a full-time storyboard artist.
With story boarding work she would create blueprints for animated movies or television shows, using drawings alone.
“Story boarding is like drawing a comic book except it creates a blueprint for the animation production pipeline.” Nuat said. “I get a script, I read it, then draw a frame-by-frame comic book more or less that makes the shows, exposes where the camera is going to be, how the characters are acting. And I even include backgrounds and a lot of design work in the process.”
You could take all of her drawings by the time she had finished a story boarding sequence and have a good idea of what the scene is going to look like when it’s animated, she said.
“At that point I story boarded up to seven episodes on ‘Trolls’ and it was really great to have ownership over an entire episode,” Naut said.
Naut spent just over a year at DreamWorks and worked closely with Naz Ghodrati-Azadi, her director at the time.
“A lot of my sense of humor came through in those episodes. So it felt very creatively fulfilling,” Naut said.
While finishing up on “Trolls,” Naut discovered she loved the musical content of animation, something that not a lot of storyboard artists specialize in, she said.
She applied to work on a musical television show called “Central Park.”
“Episodes on ‘Central Park’ were 13 or 16 minutes long, but we had about seven minutes of musical content per episode,” Naut said.
Project managers saw how much Naut loved musical content and asked her to become an assistant director specifically for the musical numbers for season one of “Central Park.”
At the end of her “Central Park” project, early in 2020, Naut was contacted to work on an independent feature film.
At this project there were some Disney veterans who were Naut’s mentors and directors at the time.
“There were people I’d worked with while I was a production assistant at Disney,” Naut said. “It was really incredible to go from being the production assistant that was taking notes in the room for them, to becoming their storyboard artist and having them as a mentor, and having them respect my skill.”
‘The Boys Presents: Diabolical’
During 2021, Naut was contacted by Titmouse Animation Studio to work on an animated offshoot of #TheBoys during the pandemic.
Ghodrati-Azadi, who was Naut’s director for “Trolls,” also was the director of “The Boys.”
“We’re just like a dream team,” Naut said. “We love working together. This is the first time I’ve worked on adult prime time animated content.”
On Sept. 3., Naut received the Emmy for Individual Achievement in Animation for Storytelling for season one, episode four: “Boyd in 3D” at the 2022 Creative Arts Emmy Awards.
Naut believes she’s the first woman to ever receive this award.
“I asked the academy if a woman has gotten it for story boarding in the past, and their response to me was: ‘We cannot confirm, but looking through records it looks like you’re the first woman to get it,’” Naut said.
Naut said she draws herself as a crowd character into every television show and movie she works on.
“... ‘Boyd in 3D’ is the only time they’ve let my appearance make it into final picture,” Naut said. “The scene is a close-up featuring myself and my husband, Nelio.”
The entire time Naut was working on the episode that won the Emmy, she worked from the office in her Gig Harbor home.
“If our animation industry is entirely made of digital assets, there’s nothing stopping us from being able to work from wherever we want to,” Naut said.
Naut has a better work life balance here in Gig Harbor, she said.
Sometimes when I’m working and I’ve hit an artist block, I’ll walk outside, step into the forest or get some fresh air, before feeling 100% to resume working,” Naut said.
That’s something she wasn’t able to do in Los Angeles, she said.
What’s next for Naut
Naut’s currently taking a break from animation, but plans to return after completing a personal comic project.
“This personal project is written, drawn and created entirely by myself,” Naut said. “I just wanted a moment to take some creative time for myself.”
She wants to do that work in Gig Harbor.
“There’s not a more beautiful place on earth than waking up in Gig Harbor every single day,” Naut said.
When the time comes for Naut to resume animation projects, she expects to return to corporate jobs in California, working from Gig Harbor.
If she decides to continue on the path of personal projects, she can see herself submitting personal short films to a local film festival.
“Having a creative, successful creative career is more attainable now with the internet than ever before,” Naut said.
She hopes that children who love art find that there’s a viable career path for them regardless of where they start, she said.