Wheat Ridge alum in Tinseltown

Hometown artist bringing a Disney dragon to movie life

Bob Wooley
bwooley@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/24/21

Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, a tale about dragon magic, a world torn apart and the redeeming power of trust, comes to Disney+ March 5. And when the final credits roll, folks from Wheat Ridge …

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Wheat Ridge alum in Tinseltown

Hometown artist bringing a Disney dragon to movie life

Posted

Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, a tale about dragon magic, a world torn apart and the redeeming power of trust, comes to Disney+ March 5. And when the final credits roll, folks from Wheat Ridge and Arvada will see a name that just might be familiar.

With a Hollywood career in visual effects and animation spanning more than three decades, Michael Talarico, who only officially relocated to California a couple of years ago, has spent a big part of his life right here in our neck of the woods. 

A graduate of Wheat Ridge High School, Talarico spent two years at CSU before transferring to UCLA with his sights set on film school. He ended up studying animation instead, and soon he was working in various areas of the business as a model maker, cameraman and visual effects artist. 

Over the years, Talarico has racked up an impressive list of credits, working on movies like Sleepless in Seattle and The James Bond classic Die Another Day.

But recently, animated blockbusters like Frozen, Moana, Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet are where he’s focused most of his energy. Talarico works in the layout department, which he describes as being somewhat like an animated film’s cinematography department. 

As someone who’s been a part of the evolution of animated films, Talarico is far from jaded. His face lights up over a Zoom chat as he talks about the onscreen magic that makes these films come to life.

“It always amazes me, it’s the absolute cutting edge of CG animation, and the talent at the studio, they just raise the bar every single movie,” he says. 

After years in California, his family came back to Colorado in 2007 and he was able to keep his visual effects career moving along. But when Disney came knocking, things got hectic.

“Here’s the interesting thing about me and Colorado,” he says. “When I was asked to come to Disney Animation, I was living in Arvada. My wife and kids were there. So, I came to work at Disney at the beginning of 2013. By then, my daughters were in middle school and starting high school, and we didn’t want to take them out of that. So, I found a small studio apartment near the Disney studio in Burbank, and every two weeks I would fly home, get something to eat, say hi to the the family, spend a quick weekend and then fly back Sunday afternoon to be ready to go to work in my office at Disney on Monday morning.”

He said that routine went on for six years. It allowed his daughters to finish high school and move on to CSU and UNC, respectively. 

Now, with one daughter still in college here, and strong family ties to the state, Talarico says Colorado is still near and dear and but for the pandemic, he’d have visited many more times in the last year than he’s been able to.

So, if you know him, take a look at his latest work when it hits the airwaves in a couple of weeks. And if you don’t, but want to be inspired by the work of a hometown boy doing his part to create modern-day Hollywood classics, Raya and the Last Dragon might be one to watch.

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