When Animating Disney Movies Isn’t Your Only Fairytale Ending

Many little girls grow up hoping to become a princess, but junior Jamie Wunning entered Bradley wanting to draw them for Disney. A lifelong passion for art and films led her to pursue an animation degree. She thought she was preparing for a Hollywood career.

Less than three years later, she's a web designer and the art director of a community magazine she helped launch. It turns out drawing princesses isn't the only career path for an animation major.

Wunning became heavily involved in the Peoria art scene through her internship with Big Picture Initiative. Founded in 2018, the nonprofit believes public art is vital for a thriving community. They showcase local creative talent and encourage children's involvement in the arts. Working for a small organization allowed Wunning to expand her skill set quickly.

“My internship has been so diverse in the things I've done and people I have been able to work with," she said. "It really has helped me gain hands-on experience in a wide range of activities and figure out what I’d like to do.”

After realizing she enjoys using animation skills to make web content, Wunning added a user experience design (UX) minor. She recently completed a total redesign of Big Picture's website and runs their social media accounts. She also discovered a passion for teaching thanks to the organization's focus on the community's youth.

When Big Picture canceled its annual street fair due to the pandemic, the Dunlap, Ill., native helped make and send out 1,000 art kits for underprivileged children in Peoria. She’s had the opportunity to teach a few after-school classes at local high schools. Her most significant role now includes working with young people on the digital magazine Giving Voice.

“Around the end of August, [Big Picture] told me they’re doing a magazine and decided to have me be their art director,” she shared. “I had never made a magazine before, and I was super stoked to do it. They had a lot of trust in me and my creative abilities.”

The first issue of Giving Voice, a monthly magazine written and created by Peoria-area students from middle school through college, went live in October. Because of its digital format, Wunning and the creative team can stretch the limits of content. They accept submissions of any art form — articles, drawings, podcasts, vlogs, even music or dance — allowing students to showcase their work for the community.

“It’s really cool to see them work on projects at a younger level where they can start thinking about art as a career,” she said. “There weren’t a lot of opportunities where I could do this when I was in high school.”

Wunning ultimately hopes to work in animation or UX for small businesses or nonprofits, eventually becoming a teacher to pass those skills to younger generations. While making Disney movies is no longer her goal, the experience gained from her internship is leading to her very own happily ever after.

“Working with like-minded, creative, amazing people who are also striving to bring more light to the community is so much fun and so rewarding. It makes me very excited and hopeful about the future.”

- Wendy Vinglinsky