Thursday, July 27, 2017 - 2:30pm

As a preschooler, Annie Mescall, BFA’13, was enthralled by the animated films of Walt Disney. “I watched The Lion King every single day,” she recalled. Fascinated by the variety of characters and stories that came to life through cartoon drawings, she drew her first comic book at the age of four.

And so began her dream of becoming an animator. As a teenager, Mescall took traditional art classes, but animation programs were rare in the high school curriculum. Then she heard about Mercy’s animation program, launched in 2005 with the opening of the Roy Disney Animation + Drawing Studios, the College’s primary teaching location for the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree.

For Mescall, the key word was “Disney.” She thrilled to the prospect of mastering the skills she had aspired to all her life. She credits Josh Gaetjen, head of Mercy’s computer arts and design program, with “helping me find my direction.” Like many Mercy professors, Gaetjen offered guidance and encouragement, alerting her to scholarship opportunities and later helping Mescall land her dream internship at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

“Without a doubt, that internship brought it all together for me,” Mescall said. With the run of the park, from the Magic Kingdom to Cinderella’s Castle, she could observe and interact with the thousands of children and their families who thronged the theme park every day. She could watch television programs being taped and was even allowed to march in the parades. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she declared.

As sometimes happens with fine arts majors, she had difficulty finding work after graduation and took a job busing tables to make ends meet. “I was really discouraged. It felt like the end of the line,” she recalled. But she never gave up on her dream, and now Mescall, 26, works as an animator for IMS 360 Group. She’s further honing her skills through online classes in 3D animation. “I like the creative freedom,” she said of her job. “I’ve begun doing more with developing characters and telling interesting stories.”

Does that inspiration come from her role model, Walt Disney? Mescall ponders the question. “I read that Disney once said, ‘I hate the limits of my own imagination.’ He always wanted to dream bigger. That’s what I try to do. Keep dreaming bigger,” she said.