From the Drawing Board - Peter Kelly '98



Name your favorite Disney animated movie. Was it Lion King? Cinderella? Beauty and the Beast?

Like many, these movies caught the imagination of Peter Kelly ’98 but they also inspired him to draw. He loved to capture a story in animation and has carried that passion into nearly 15 years at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic.

“I love getting into the performance of the characters,” Kelly said. “I love the challenge of animation. Are my ideas conveying and working in the movie? There is nothing better than watching a movie and saying there is my shot and watch the audience react to it.”

He is a lead animator and has worked on some of the biggest films of the past 15 years, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, and The Avengers. More specifically, he animated Yoda, Davy Jones and The Hulk.

“The audience has one chance to look at something and you need to sell that performance in that one time you’re looking at it,” he said. “If it’s Hulk punching a wall, then that punch needs to feel as forceful and powerful as it possibly can.”

Kelly honed some of those skills while at Saint Mary’s and spent countless hours sitting around campus drawing passersby, trying to tell a story through his sketches.

“I love a drawing where you can see and feel what the characters are doing,” he said. “I would hang out in the quad and draw people talking, or hanging out. If you can create a little drawing where there is a story going on there, you can read that story, that is a really cool thing to have.”

He was a constant presence around the art department and they took notice of his dedication and passion. They even let him take old and unused sketchpads to continue drawing.

Kelly went through about 35 sketchpads during his time at Saint Mary’s.

His education continued after leaving Moraga and it found him at California Institute of the Arts, where he studied character animation. Here is where he created a student film that caught the eye of Lucasfilm and landed him at ILM.

“I created this student film there and Industrial Light & Magic saw and they hired me into the internship program from there, which was great because I learned how to animate on the computer. Back then, it was all drawing.”

Fast forward 15 years and the proudest moment of his work was being part of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and not necessarily the clips he edited but rather the magnitude of the movie.

“It’s neat to be a part of something so big,” Kelly said. “I’ve worked on 25 different movies now but I had so many friends from Saint Mary’s and other places who had emailed me or texted me [after watching Star Wars] and said, ‘Hey, I saw your name in the credits.’”

While he has been part of some of the biggest blockbusters of the past decade, his favorite film to work on was Gore Verbinski’s Rango. Unlike many of the other films, Rango was a fully animated movie and gave Kelly the ability to create a new world.

“It was a really fun, fun project to work on. Every day was like being on vacation for that. I used to go to bed at night so excited to work on the shot the next day.”