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RCC grad's dreams coming true in Hollywood

Jennifer Harlow

For as far back as Jennifer Harlow can remember, she’s always been sketching fanciful characters and dreaming of becoming a professional cartoonist. Now her hard work and perseverance are paying major dividends.

The 25-year-old Rogue Community College grad works as an animator for DreamWorks Animation. She was a part of the studio’s team creating The Croods, a new film about a quirky family of cavemen.

“It doesn’t feel like a job, but getting paid to do it is really cool,” Harlos said. “Every workday involves some fun aspect. I feel so lucky.”

After graduating from South Medford High School, Harlow enrolled at Rogue to build up a foundation of artistic skills. Her mother, Joyce Graham, is a longtime RCC Business Technology instructor.

“I knew RCC had the drawing classes I would need for my art career,” Harlow recalled. “At Rogue I was encouraged to pursue my dreams. (RCC art instructor) Carl Seyboldt taught me perspective and the technical aspects of drawing people,” she continued. “My drafting abilities improved leaps and bounds.”

Other key classes for Harlow included watercolors and computer graphics.

Harlow refused to get discouraged after not gaining admission to California Institute of the Arts the first time she applied. Instead she enrolled at Southern Oregon University and kept adding new skills to her portfolio.

“I took it as a learning experience. I kept my goal in mind and came back stronger the next time,” she said. Her second application to CalArts proved successful.

“I wouldn’t have gotten in without those RCC drawing classes,” she noted. “They provided the building blocks.” While attending CalArts she earned a bachelor’s degree in animation. One of her projects, Bothered Bot, is available for viewing on YouTube.

Harlow was among the 25-30 animators working on “Croods,” where a three-second shot could take a week or two to create. Her scenes include a walking whale and a giant tiger puppet. To capture the whale’s essence just right, she observed how Jell-O and rhinos move.

“DreamWorks is a positive, supportive place. Everyone is very proud of the work they do,” she said. Lately she’s been taking “flight school,” studying how birds fly in preparation for a sequel to “How to Train Your Dragon.” Also in her future: working on “Peabody and Sherman.”

“This is something I’d wanted so long,” Harlow said. “I’ve always drawn–cartooning is never far out of my head.”

Have a story idea for the website? Please E-mail Rand Hill