Peter Smith teaches illustration and character design at the Florida Film Academy in Winter Garden. His comic novella, “The Chronicles of Zelaria,” is set to release in October.
Peter Smith was 17 years old the first time he came to Walt Disney World on a family vacation. Had he been told in that moment that he would be living near the happiest place on Earth creating the art that he loves, he wouldn’t have believed it. After 30 years, his life has come full circle.
“It’s interesting — I came down on vacation, fell in love with Disney itself, and then I end up coming back and living like 10 minutes away from the parks,” Smith said. “Just being able to draw and do art and do it so that I’m making a living doing it, it’s great. It’s definitely an awesome feeling to have everything come full circle.”
Smith, 47, is an illustrator, writer and art instructor at the Florida Film Academy in Winter Garden. A longtime Star Wars fan, he started drawing pictures of C3PO at age 6. At 17, after paying a visit to the Mouse, he realized he wanted to pursue art as a career.
“The characters and just the animation department and the stuff they (Disney) were releasing (were inspiring),” Smith said. “There’s a lot of Disney influence in my style as well. It’s very animated.”
An Ohio native, Smith attended the Columbus College of Art and Design. He interned at Marvel, worked for Disney, worked on some independent comic books, did T-shirt and graphic design and worked as a tattoo artist for about three years. He also spent five years teaching illustration at a university in Ohio for five years.
“I love to teach,” Smith said. “It’s great to be able to pass on what you’ve learned to somebody else.”
Today, in addition to teaching at the Florida Film Academy, Smith owns Crimson Fable Studios. He is in the final stages of releasing his own comic novella, “The Chronicles of Zelaria,” which is on track to release in October. Smith spent three years writing the story, creating the characters and illustrating pages of the comic itself.
“The Chronicles of Zelaria” — described on Smith’s website, crimsonfablestudios.com — is a combination of sci-fi, steampunk and fairytales.
“I got a lot of characters from the Grimm’s Fairy Tales,” Smith said. “There are over 250 characters that I’ve developed. Some are flat-out original characters, and some of them I (got) inspiration from some of the old Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and then I kind of put my own spin on them.”
Smith said his comic is partly inspired by his daughter’s love of Disney princesses — but with a twist.
“Her favorite princess was Aurora, but she also said she liked Wonder Woman,” Smith said. “I explained to her that Wonder Woman was a princess also. … Then I started thinking that a lot of the older Disney films — and even in the Grimm’s Fairy Tales that were really dark — characters like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, they always kind of depended on a guy to come in and save them.”
Smith said the princesses in “The Chronicles of Zelaria” stray away from the damsel-in-distress stereotype.
“They’re a lot more independent — a lot of them are heroic,” he said.