Informational Interview With Terryl Whitlatch

Recently I had the pleasure of taking a field trip to Imagination International. My first impression of this nifty warehouse, was the large mythical blue creature painted upon the  side wall where I parked. As we approached the building, more murals wrapped around each side calling to my attention and pulling me in. However, what I found inside was much more magnificent. To my disbelief, sat before me the creator of the beautiful creature on the side of the building, framed by her very own brilliant creations, and inspirations. Still knowing so little about the adorable woman and her dog behind her desk, I couldn’t stop thinking about her and her work. Leaving Imagination International I promised myself I would go back in that office again someday, somehow. Little did I know a little over a week later I would have the opportunity to sit down one on one with this lovely lady, Terryl Whitlatch in her office.

What was intended to be an hour of interview time, resulted in almost an hour and forty minutes of beautiful stories. If you don’t already know who this highly sought after conceptual artist, professional animal designer, etc. is, then let me tell you some things I find quite interesting about her. Terryl Whitlatch was born in the 60’s, strongly influenced by her parents and their skill sets. She grew up on a ranch where she was surrounded by horses, nature, and animals. In high school Terryl stumbled upon a man who came to talk to her science class from a university. This man became a huge impact on Terryl as an inspiration and a mentor. He helped her decide that she wanted to study Zoology at Sonoma State University, and later pursued her college career at Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

To receive a bachelors in Fine Arts Terryl was required to do a personal art show. After her pieces were hung she received a message from LucasFilms, launching the beginning of her successful career. Her very first project with LucasFilms was Star Wars episode 1. She later worked for LTD, Industrial Light & Magic, LucasArts, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Walt Disney Imagineering, Electronic Arts, Paramount Pictures, Sony, Miramax, PDI, Pixar, and currently Imagination International. She also has several published books, among which she says “The Katurran Odyssey” is her baby. Not only does she share her work visually, she also speaks at art conferences and is an instructor on animal design in both workshops, and online.

After over 25 years in the business Terryl is one of the most successful artists of her kind. She has taken part in the creations of Star wars, Polar Express, Brave, Jumanji 1 & 2, Men In Black, Dragon Heart, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Curious George, Zafari, Beowulf, Brother Bear, and many other works of art. I asked her what her favorite project was, and she mentioned Brother Bear because of the connections she made. I found this especially moving as Brother Bear is my favorite movie, which I was honored to share with her. A few other interesting things about her, were her sense of humor, soft welcoming aura, adorable greyhound, and sense of engagement. She spoke very soft and lightly, and shared with me that she loved the Adam’s family, which in my opinion made a lot of sense. She has a sense dark humor that she finds intriguing, and utilizes in her work. With her greyhound by her side named Sweet Josette, surrounded by her throne of endless art supplies, is this lovely little lady whom I find so captivating.

To finish off with our short time together, I asked her what advice she might have for a young aspiring artist just starting college. She advised to learn from my mistakes, and to be original. I shared with her that in my art class we were learning to follow through with our work even if we made a mistake to learn from it and move on, to which she replied my art teacher is teaching me right. At the end of our interview I even had the opportunity to watch her draw a quick character. Within moments she had an anatomically accurate adorable creature drawn out. This experience by far was one of the highlights of not only this term but of my life.