GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A former Grand Valley State University student is riding high after the film he worked on, “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” won an Oscar.

Jesse Gregg, who worked as a concept artist and set dresser on the film, said he was anxious and excited as he waited to learn whether “Pinocchio” would win Best Animated Feature.

“We were a pretty scrappy, small group and to be up against Pixar-Disney and folks like that, it was a bit nerve-wracking but exciting,” Gregg said.

He said it was a good year for stop motion, with two films in the category using the method.

As a concept artist, his job was to go through the script and storyboards, figure out what needed to get designed and come up with “visual aids to help figure out what it was we wanted in the film and how we wanted the look of this thing to go.”

Gregg graduated from GVSU in 2001 with a degree in illustration. After that, he got a master’s degree in experimental animation at the California Institute of the Arts.

He said he has always been interested in animation and was particularly drawn to the tangible nature of stop motion.

“We actually make the puppets and the sets and all this stuff,” he said. “And the puppets themselves, they need to be moved one little movement at a time for 24 frames just to make one second, and I just found that really enchanting. At the end of the day, you can see this toy come alive.”

He’s now working on his seventh stop motion feature.