That movie changed my life, to say the least. After watching that film, I had this sudden realisation that what I had seen was something I wanted to be a part of. At the time, it seemed almost impossible. I was living in Germany and my family seldom left our home country, much the less thought about moving to another continent, but nonetheless I got this idea in my mind that I must go to America and pursue a career in animation. No one took my ambitions seriously but the challenge only spurred me to learn more about the art form and work towards my dream.
I can answer that from an artist’s point of view. As an artist, you must keep your eyes open all of the time; it’s who you are. It is through the observation of your surroundings, both subconsciously and consciously, that you can refine your ability to communicate with your audience through your work. I imagine that for someone other than an artist, observation is also a key in learning how to understand non-verbal language.
I agree that drawing has the power to change lives. Personally as an animator, my goal is to communicate something to an audience. They should be able to easily understand how the character feels which in turn allows them to relate to a character. Several years ago, I attended the International Family Film Festival, where I received an award, and after the presentation there was a reception. During the reception, a young girl shyly approached me and said, “thank you for drawing my childhood.” She boiled this down to such a simple phrase, something I will never forget. She reminded me how the power of what I do as an animator can have the ability to impact someone’s life.
I think it is the same in the way that learning how to draw is learning a vocabulary of things – it gives you a basis of the type of knowledge that you need in order to interpret your work. When it comes to drawing, almost no one is born great; you have go through a learning process. It may take hundreds or thousands of bad drawings before you feel you can really draw well. Life drawing is essential for to an artist’s education, especially an animator, because you need to understand the human figure and how it moves. For example, even a film like Zootopia will require animators to use and understand human anatomy.
When I begin working on a character, I always strive to create a character that the audience hasn’t seen before. During my work on The Lion King, I tried to avoid referencing Shere Kahn from The Jungle Book, even though these characters shared a lot of similarities. Instead, I focused on Jeremy Irons (voice of Scar), watching his films and studying how he moves and acts. I also frequented the zoo where I observed the lions and how they moved and interacted with one another. When creating a character, you must determine who they are and the best way to portray them. For villains, it’s crucial to make them interesting – it’s not enough for them to merely beat up on the good guys. In the case of Scar, he genuinely enjoyed messing with others, whereas a character like Jafar had an insatiable hunger for power. My exhibition Deja View: The Art of Andreas Deja on view at The Walt Disney Family Museum until October was a unique opportunity for me to display some of the early sketches of these villains and show a small piece of my thought process to the public.
When there are many people involved, you need to be a team player. Working in teams isn’t necessarily for everyone and there are plenty of artists that prefer working on their own, but I personally never had issues working with a large team. During my time at Disney, I enjoyed being able to bounce ideas off the other members of my team. One example I recall occurred when we were working on The Princess and The Frog. I was animating a comedic scene featuring Mama Odie’s snake Juju, and at the time, I wasn’t feeling particularly humorous. So, I went to my colleague Eric Goldberg, who is known for his funny animation, and asked him to assist me with that particular scene. If you have a positive collaborative approach, working as a team can only improve your work.
Stay tuned for part 2 of our interview with Andreas which will be published next week!
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