Former Peorian working on Seasame Street
Laura Nattam, a character animator, considers her work a dream job.
When the 2009 season of Sesame Street rolls around this fall, celebrating its 40th anniversary,
Nattam, a former Dunlap schools student, will see her name in the credits for animation. While the job is a dream, it comes with a price. For Nattum, a newlywed, it means living and working in New Jersey while her husband lives and works in Chicago.
Teacher and student
Years ago, when Nattam — maiden name Skowronski — was a student at Wilder-Waite School, she looked forward to art class with Susan Fluegel.
Nattam said Fluegel was an inspiration.
“I always loved art. Mrs. Fluegel was such a great art teacher. She was always real encouraging to me,” Nattam said.
Nattam did not know it at the time, but Fluegel also looked forward to teaching more when Nattam was in class.
“She was one of my most memorable art students. She was always excited about every project, every challenge,” Fluegel said.
“She always had a fresh approach. She was such a joy to have in class.”
When Nattam graduated to Pioneer Junior High, she discovered computers.
“Animation melded art and technology. It was for me,” Nattam said.
She went on to pursue study in animation at Purdue and Animation Mentor.com.
After graduating from art school, Nattam began her job search. Offers came in, so Nattam could be selective.
She chose a job offer from Speakeasy FX in New Jersey. All she knew was she would be working on a children’s TV show.
It was only after accepting the job Nattam learned she would be involved with creating animation for the iconic educational TV series, Sesame Street.
“As a character animator, I work with what you could call a digital puppet. We make the puppet move, talk and show emotion. It has a lot to do with acting,” Nattam said.
“We give it personality. It’s like being an actor in a digital world.”
Nattam said it is very detailed and creative work.
“What I like about this work is there’s a lot of freedom,” she said. “It takes a lot of diligence.”
Nattam said landing a job working on Sesame Street was fulfilling on a couple of levels.
There is the personal side.
“As a kid, I grew up with Sesame Street. I always watched the show. I had the stuffed animals, the books, the plates,” she said.
Nattam said it is also professionally satisfying.
“It adds a level of excitement. They are trying to do new and exciting things for Sesame Street. We’re creating 13 mini, eight-minute episodes that will be incorporated into the shows,” Nattam said.
She said getting such a big break on her first job is great, and, she said, she hopes will open more doors.
In any event, Nattam’s work will increase the viewership of Sesame Street this fall by at least one.
Fluegel said she does not currently watch Sesame street.
“This fall, however, you can bet I will be watching,” Fluegel said.
“I loved teaching. Students like Laura made it that much better. I am so excited for her.”