For most of us, winning an Oscar is a dream. For Hillsborough High School graduate and Somerset Valley YMCA Swim Team alumnus Kelsey Hurley, it’s a reality. Kelsey watched the Oscars air live at Walt Disney Animation studios in a room filled with 600 of the people she calls coworkers and friends. It was then that her studio discovered the big news: They had won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film for Frozen. “The whole studio blew up when we found out we won,” Kelsey recalled.
The Walt Disney Animation Studios may be miles and miles away from Hillsborough, but Kelsey will tell you that her road to success began in the lanes of the Somerset Valley YMCA pools.
“Kelsey is by far one of the best examples of what our program is all about. She saw a great deal of success in the pool and then took that skill set into life," said Matt Donovan, Somerset Valley YMCA head swim coach. "The sky is certainly not the limit for her. She has already proven to me that she does not believe in limits.”
Kelsey began working for Disney Animation as an intern during her undergraduate career at George Washington University. Disney hired Kelsey directly out of school, and since graduation, Kelsey has worked on two Oscar-nominated films: Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen.
Kelsey spends her days at Disney creating tools that the artists use to bring their vision to life. She also helps problem-solve animation issues as they arise. In the computer animation industry, this means resolving many funny mishaps. Kelsey explained, “We were working on [Wreck-It] Ralph, and there was a time when the characters are supposed to sit on a monorail. The characters would get on the monorail, and the monorail would take off without them, leaving them on the tracks. It was my job to figure out why this was.”
Kelsey had no small role in the making of Frozen. In fact, she was in charge of the effects for the iconic scene in which Elsa builds an ice castle and sings the Oscar-winning song “Let It Go.”
When asked what it was like to work on Frozen, Kelsey had to say, “Every day I go to work, and I work with friends. It doesn't even feel like work. I loved everything about it.”
Winning an Oscar certainly doesn't come easy, but Kelsey credits what she learned from her four years on the Somerset Valley YMCA Swim Team for helping her succeed. Kelsey said that swimming for the Somerset Valley YMCA Swim Team impressed upon her the importance of teamwork and taught her to be patient and grateful. She also credits Matt Donovan, her mentor and the YMCA head swim coach, for her success. Kelsey said of Matt, “He was a great mentor and pushed me really hard. He taught me I have to do things I don’t necessarily want to do, and that that’s okay.”
The Somerset Valley YMCA community cheers Kelsey on in her future endeavors and waits with anticipation to see the next magical creation she’ll bring to the screen with her endless talent.