Hornet is thrilled to announce long-serving Hornet animator Natalie Labarre has been elevated to our director roster.
Natalie is someone 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. From an early age, she knew she wanted to tell stories. "Story is definitely the most important part of the process for me,” she says. 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. 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. It was the beginning of a long fruitful relationship. After the internship, she freelanced with Hornet as an animator for three years. A two-year hiatus followed, in which she earned her MFA in Children’s Book Illustration at the 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.
In her words, "What I love about working with Hornet is the access to so many different stories. The more there are, the more different they are, the better."
According to Hornet Managing Director Hana Shimizu, "Natalie’s success story is a reflection of the commitment she has for her craft but also a testament to our studio’s commitment to nurturing talent. Helmed by the efforts of Kristin, our Head of Creative Development, nurturing talent is a key component to how we build implicit trust and an authentic process for the work we produce. It’s exciting to finally share with the world what was our secret for the last few years and we look forward to her continued growth as a director."
Words frequently used to describe Natalie's work are: elegant, evocative, warm, sophisticated, beautiful, illustrative. 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 really love.