The summer he graduated from Connecticut College, art major Tom Gately '91 drove to California with a portfolio of his cartoons and a dream of becoming an animator at Disney.
Two years later -- after a stint as a freelancer and advanced courses at the California Art Institute -- he was working on "The Lion King," released by Disney in 1994.
Since then he helped animate a dozen films for Disney and Pixar, including "Pocahontas," "Cars" and "Toy Story 3."
"I've been making cartoons for almost 20 years, which is ... scary," Gately said during a presentation on campus June 4 as part of Reunion Weekend. "Every movie is like a year in my life," he said. "Each has meaning."
Gately talked with the overflow audience about his life and work and answered questions as he drew Simba from "The Lion King" on an overhead projector. He also screened Pixar's "Day & Night," nominated for a 2010 Oscar.
Gately told the crowd that in College, two of his favorite films were "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast." He'd watch and rewatch them to see how they were created.
When asked about his work style, Gately said he likes animation because it's a team effort. He enjoys working with other artists and finds inspiration in them.
A native of Summit, N.J., Gately was the College's leading lacrosse scorer and its first All-American in that sport. He drew on that experience in helping to develop the lacrosse scene at the opening of "Pocahontas."
Gately was the supervising animator for the "Day & Night," the short he screened for the Reunion audience. The film won an award from the Visual Effects Society on Feb. 1 for Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Short.
View the trailer for Day & Night.