Natalie Labarre is a director whose elegant animation style and sophisticated storytelling ability both belie her years. As an emerging director, some of what she brings to the table is what you might expect: a fresh voice, a contemporary sensibility. But beyond that, Natalie is an old-soul drilled in the old-school who thrives on blending worlds together: analog with digital, technique with story, original vision with inch-perfect execution.
In many ways, it’s this navigation of the overlaps that both sums up her background and defines her work today.
Natalie was raised in New York City by French parents. She learned French and English at the same time (and actually thought they were one language). She caught the storytelling bug at an early age after growing up on a healthy dose of Belgian comics and being hypnotized by the characters in Miyazaki and Sylvain Chomet films. From there, she knew she wanted to tell stories. So she attended the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York and majored in Animation—a curriculum she found surprisingly analog at the time. “My training was super traditional,” she says. “In 2009, everything was on paper. It was painting, paper, drawing by hand.”
It was in her spare time that she taught herself the more digital aspects of design. Though she never abandoned her roots. “Analog artwork has always been part of my work because that’s where I came from. I still try to integrate it the best I can and continue to push analog textures and painterly qualities into the digital design.”
In Fall 2014, Natalie joined Hornet as an Intern. The rest is history. And her particular history as “Natalie, the Director” is impossible to untwine from that of “Natalie, the Hornet Director.” After the internship, she freelanced as an animator with Hornet for three years. A two-year hiatus followed, in which she earned her MFA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art and published a book titled Incredible Jobs You've (Probably) Never Heard Of. Then Hornet knew it was time to have her back. She joined as a full-time 2D animator in Spring 2018 and never looked back. Her hand-drawn painterly animations maturated into something admired by everyone around her. She graduated to the role of Art Director. And along the way she found time, inspiration, and freedom afforded by Hornet to test her directorial chops with critically acclaimed PSA films like Me Too - Daniela and LLS - Grace.
Words frequently used to describe her work are: elegant, evocative, warm, sophisticated, beautiful, illustrative, painterly. But what none of these words truly captures is her Midas-like touch. Every project Natalie works on seems to turn to gold. For lack of a better term, her work has a viral quality. From original Instagram animations that rack up more views than any other posts on Hornet’s Instagram profile to multiple films that have been shortlisted and screened at major festivals around the world—like Annecy, Ottawa, Manchester, ASIFA East, and shots - The Americas—Natalie has a style that, put simply, people love. Really, really love.