What is your name and current occupation?
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I never had a crazy job … wait that should be a smiley face actually
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’m happy to have been a part of the Madagascar franchise, I’ve been given great opportunities on that show and currently got a chance to be character lead for King Julien! it’s a little surreal, seeing that it wasn’t that long ago I was sitting on my couch watching the first Madagascar movie, stuffing my face with Doritos and wishing I can work on something like that. So I have to pinch myself every now and then. At the moment I’m working on the second installment of Dragons and couldn’t be happier. The first one resonated with me so much, so I’m excited to be a part of the Dragons family now!
How did you become interested in animation?
When I saw this:
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m originally from Lebanon (anyone who can spot it on a map gets extra points…nobody does). It’s a small country, beautiful and full of history and culture. Only problem is, the closest thing to animation at the time was graphic design. The program takes around 4 years to complete (that was way too many years for something I didn’t even wanna do). I was into movies and loved animation, so I researched a bunch of animation schools in Canada and the US, and ended up leaving my home sweet home to study 3d animation and VFX at Vancouver Film School.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
7:00am Alarm goes off Keep hitting Snooze till 8:00 Freak out and jump out of bed, be angry at myself for not getting up sooner Listen to audio books in my car (usually not relating to animation, so that my head is clear when I get to work)Get to work at 9am, check my emails, calendars, and notes from the day before. The rest of the day is spent animating and going to meetings which range from rig meetings to dailies with the director, to sequence breakdowns and brainstorm sessions. Around 7pm, it’s time to go home! I then spend around 2 hours a night studying film (writing, directing, tutorials and books) as I would love to direct features one day!
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I LOVE anything that has to do with character and story! I enjoy going to brainstorm sessions where a bunch of animators meet up and throw ideas around, and see what sticks. Some ideas are about the character’s performance, others are about his arc or even plot ideas. Pitching ideas to the directors is also fun and something I enjoy alot.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Dealing with anything that is not really work related but needs to get done; from filling in boring forms to technical issues with my computer, and such… mainly because you don’t learn from it or grow. Same with traffic; NOTHING comes from it, you learn more from getting a flat tire and putting on a spare one yourself, than sitting in traffic.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
At the moment I work with proprietary software that dreamworks developed. It’s geared specifically towards animation, which is great. This means I don’t have to deal with extra menus that have nothing to do with my job… seeing that I’m pretty obsessive compulsive, to me it’s a big deal that things be streamlined and organized, organized,organized,organized,organized
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Understanding what makes an audience tick. To me it’s the most difficult thing to learn and the most rewarding. What makes someone laugh? cry? get chills? It’s an ongoing study that will never end but thats’ why I love it. Trends come and go, what’s “cool” today can be “cheesy” or “lame” tomorrow. Things change and so does your audience, you must evolve and keep up with them to understand how they react to things.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’ve had the chance to meet alot of great animators over the years. Seeing that I live in the bay area, it’s inevitable that you bump into animation greats. There’s alot of animators who’s names you never hear of, but they’re just as amazing.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Leaving my country and pursuing my dream. Sounds magical… but it’s a TOUGH decision to make. At the time, it was scary. Not knowing if it was a step in the right direction, or what awaits for me on the other side was nerve-racking. But I’m glad I did it
Any side projects or you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Yes! Recently, one of my co-workers and I started a vimeo channel called Side Films. Where we direct small shorts. This project has been a huge learning experience and has helped us learn more about the filmmaking process and storytelling in general. Shameless advertising in 3..2..1…
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
DJing and producing music (dance/electro music) Playing the guitar and drums! Finger breakdancing!!!
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Yes! It’s important to learn from everyone and everything. Don’t get hung up on how one specific animator does things. Everyone is different and there’s something valuable to learn from every artist you come across. It’s also important to keep in mind that your ideas and acting choices are the most important part of your animation. Polishing makes your shot look great… but it’s not what makes you laugh and it’s not what makes you cry… that comes from character performance.