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Walt Disney Animation director Don Hall has Glenwood roots

Don Hall traded the open fields of Iowa farmlands for the bright lights in California. He's a director for Disney's newest film "Raya and the Last Dragon."
Posted at 6:19 PM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 19:19:22-04

GLENWOOD, Ia. (KMTV) — To understand animator Don Hall and his storied career at Disney, you'll have to understand his roots in Glenwood, Iowa.

"I was always encouraged by both my mom and my dad to pursue this, there was never a conversation trying to dissuade me from following this dream," Hall said.

Janet Hall is Don's mother, who vividly remembers the little boy who just loved to draw.

"If he was sitting at the table, he was drawing, sketching, he just, went through tons of paper," Hall said.

Janet said her son always wanted to work for Disney. She nurtured his dream by bringing home tons of paper from her workplace.

"My mom, because she works at a bank, always had access to a lot of paper, when they went through different types of ledgers or receipts or something like that, they had a bunch left over and she would bring it home so I constantly had a supply of paper," Don said.

Don got his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa and dreamed of going to the California Institute of the Arts, but he still faced a fair share of rejection.

"They said he needed to do more, draw more and do more, don't quit but work on it, so he did and he sent it again and they rejected him," Janet said. "So the third time they accepted him and he was so happy."

Don says he found his "tribe" in California. Soon after, he started working at Disney. His parents honor their son's accomplishments by hanging posters of all the movies he's had a hand in such as Tarzan, Chicken Little, The Emperor's New Groove and the Oscar-winning Big Hero 6.

Don's parents are proud, but it's for reasons other than the glitz and glamour of his day job.

"We're proud that he stayed humble and he hasn't forgot where he came from," Janet said.

For Don, Glenwood will always stay firm in his heart.

"It's just kind of a special feeling, it's just a part of you, you can't really leave it, you're just reminded of it when you come back," he said.

Hall's latest film is streaming on Disney Plus and is in theaters. Hall said the studio produced the majority of the film from home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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