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From Chappell Hill to Hollywood, Aggie alum Cheyenne Chapel shares her journey into Pixar's 'Soul'

Posted at 6:17 PM, Jan 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-09 08:12:38-05

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS — Pixar's latest feature film, 'Soul', was streamed around the world on Disney+, Christmas Day.

A larger than 'life' adventure, the 3-D animated feature has ties to a woman whose roots started right here in Central Texas. 25 News had the honor of speaking with Cheyenne Chapel, a Central Texas woman that revealed in our exclusive interview, how modeling cars and designing trees meant more than just laying out objects for the world to see.

"Well... I'm from Brenham, but specifically... if you want to get specific... Chappell Hill, Texas," Chapel, a Texas A&M alumni from the graduate class of 2019 said.

From Chappell Hill, to Pixar's Animation Studios in Emeryville, this Aggie grad has come a long way.

"I think I am where I am meant to be, at the moment. I am happy that I am here," Chapel shared.

Raised in Central Texas, Cheyenne's love for the arts grew as she spent much of her childhood outdoors, out in the country.

In high-school, her work was showcased at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. From there, she wanted to take it one step further, by becoming an Aggie and studying animation at Texas A&M.

"... but actually, I didn't get into animation at first. I actually got into architecture," the Pixar artist added.

Growing up, Cheyenne didn't have much access to a computer or the internet either. However, with the help of the 'VIZ' art program at A&M, she has since launched into a bright career, working alongside some of the very best in the industry.

"If you take 'Soul', which just came out for instance, I had a role in helping to create the digital assets for the film. So anything like trees.. buildings.. the terrain itself," Chapel illustrated.

A member of the Pixar Undergrad Program, Cheyenne initially got rejected... but that didn't stop her from trying again. The second time around, her junior year, proved to be all the difference as she landed that internship with Pixar.

".... and that kind of sparked my first role in the animation industry. After that, I had to return back to A&M to finish my degree. I was set on going back to Pixar, that was my goal. So, after I graduated, I ended up getting the internship again for set modeling and dressing on 'Soul'. Now, I am full-time as a set modeler and dressing technical director," Chapel added.

Creating environments for 'Soul', Pixar's first feature film with a Black lead and predominately Black cast, Cheyenne found herself working on a film she could she herself in.

"That is something, for me, that is so special. Seeing that on the film is really powerful. One of my favorite parts of 'Soul' being out and people seeing it, you know, the parts where you see him living life, or them living his life and seeing his community. Those are things that I truly appreciate, because for me, those are things that I see in my life," Chapel shared.

Cheyenne says she loves seeing people of color living life to their absolute fullest.

If you ask her what could be better than working on the film itself, she will tell you, it's the reaction from the viewers.

"Seeing the reception of it is so fulfilling, even more so than having the chance to work on it. It's making people think about life in different ways," Chapel added.

College Station, just a stop along the way, and Aggieland, a platform for her passion to find its' way, off to a place, where dreams come true.

"I can't trade my education at A&M for anything, it gave me the platform to find what I wanted to do in life," Chapel expressed.

"You can occupy these spaces, you can work at these places. It's not like it's only reserved for a few people. If you put your heart and your soul into it, you can do whatever you want to do," Chapel shared in advice.

Cheyenne graduated from Texas A&M in the summer of 2019, and is currently working on her second film with Pixar's 'Luca', which is set to air in June of 2021.