Several people tried to tell Cathy Chase that her daughter, Daveigh, was a very talented little girl.
Knowing how hard it is for a parent to be objective, Chase wasn't sure whether to believe them.
She doesn't doubt any longer.
Daveigh, 12, spent parts of three years at Disney studios recording the voice of Lilo, the lead character in this summer's film, "Lilo & Stitch." The movie has made $140 million since it was released two months ago and is one of the most successful hand-drawn animated films in recent years.
This fall, her voice will be featured in the film "Spirited Away," an English-language version of a film by Japanese anime master Hayeo Miyazaki. The movie is slated for a September release.
Daveigh will also be seen and heard in the live-action thriller "Ring," which is almost finished and is scheduled to be released in October.
Television viewers will have the chance to see Daveigh this winter in the Fox series "Oliver Beene." The series is expected to run on Sunday nights in January, and Daveigh's is one of only a handful of recurring characters.
All of these opportunities amaze Cathy Chase, who moved to Albany in 1990 with Daveigh, who was then an infant. She remembers all the people who recognized Daveigh's abilities at an early age.
"When she was almost 3 years old, we had a piano tuner come to our house. As he hit the notes, she would repeat them with her voice," Chase said. "He came into the kitchen and said she was very talented and was hitting the notes right on. I didn't know whether to believe him."
While her mother didn't know what to think, Daveigh decided at a very early age that she was interested in performing.
"When I was little, I think 4 years old, I used to watch Barney videos. I wanted to be like them, the kids on the video," Daveigh said.
It took remarkably little time for her to do exactly that. Cathy Chase entered Daveigh in the Little Miss America pageant. Daveigh was 4 when she won the national vocal competition and placed third in dance, Chase said.
Daveigh signed with an agent who specializes in commercials, and at age 7 she was featured in a Campbell Soup advertisement.
"That was my favorite. It was funny," Daveigh said.
At about this time, Daveigh was also performing locally. She sang at the True Value/Jimmy Dean Country Showdown at the Timber Carnival and at the Oregon Jamboree in Sweet Home.
Daveigh got a big break in 1998 when she was cast in a play in St. George, Utah. The play ran for five months and Daveigh had a leading role. This gave her more attention from producers and directors and that fall, she was given the chance to audition for the role of Lilo.
She won the part after Disney first auditioned many adult actors who specialize in children's roles, and then considered about 150 girls for the part.
Daveigh started working on the film in the fall of 1998 and finished in the fall of 2001. The work was intermittent, and Daveigh was able to work on other projects and enjoy some time off.
"They would fly me to Disney World. I would record for 30 minutes and then spend a week at Disney World," Daveigh said.
While in the studio, Daveigh worked with directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders to define Lilo's character.
"They would explain the scene to me and I would put the emotion and personality of the scene in my voice," Daveigh said. "I'd do it and then if they wanted me to change it, I'd change it."
One challenge for her was to sit quietly while recording, no small feat for any child.
"You can't move too much, because you can't make any sounds that the microphone will pick up," she said.
But in other ways, recording a voice is easier than a live-action film. On the set, a day's work is not built around Daveigh's schedule and she can spend up to nine and a half hours, the legal maximum for child actors, working in a single day.
During down times and on her off days, Daveigh does school work with a private tutor. Math is her best subject, but she is doin
g well in all subjects, her mother said.
"Most of the kids we've met are very smart and focused on their school work. They know that if they want to work, they have to get their school work done. On the set, they are very professional," Chase said.
In person, Daveigh is cheerful, polite and very eager to please. She enjoys the perks that go along with her success - such as her invitation to the Teen Choice awards - but she knows that she hasn't done this by herself.
"My mom and my grandma have helped me so much; I wouldn't be where I am today without them," she said.
Diana O'Bryan, Daveigh's second-grade teacher at Oak Elementary School, had a chance to visit with her former student this week.
"She's a regular kid. She is now just what she was then, that's what I love about Daveigh," O'Bryan said. "She comes up to the house and plays with my kids. She's laid back and she's just a kid when she's around."
Like many children, Daveigh has big dreams. She hopes to win an "Annie" award for her work as Lilo and someday she would like to win a Grammy. Most of her success to date has been in acting, but she still enjoys singing and she is working with a professional producer writing songs, Chase said.
The family is saving most of Daveigh's earnings, Chase said, and Daveigh will be able to go to the college of her choice. Right now, she wants to study robotic engineering at MIT.
"I know she's dreaming big, but so far, she's doing everything she wants to do. It's hard to believe," Chase said.