What is your name and your current occupation?
Jonathan Lyons, animator.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
One of my rules in life is always have a cool job. Mine have included lifeguard, New York City bicycle messenger, and U.S. Navy deep sea diver.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’m proud to have worked on all 4 Pirates of the Caribbean movies. But I’m also excited about my recent project at Tippett. “Ted” is directed by Seth Macfarlane, and it’s going to be hysterically funny.
How did you become interested in animation?
As a kid, I loved the Harryhausen movies and drawing comic books. After the Navy, I enrolled in NYU to learn live action film making. After realizing that very few individuals in film get to be creative, I switched to animation, because I could draw. I could just sit down and make a film, and not have to wrangle lots of people and money. Although now, I could probably wrangle some people and money just fine.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Vermont. After NYU, I moved to LA, I showed my student film around. I could animate lip sync, and got some assistant work on commercials at a place called Film Fair. We did a lot of Keebler Elf spots.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
First, the production coordinator has my latte waiting for me. Then the animation supervisor comes around, gives me a back rub and whispers some affirmations in my ear. Then I’m pretty much left alone until the end of the day when the producer calls up and asks if I need any cash. But seriously, in this business, the director tells the supervisor what needs to be changed. Then the supervisor adds more on top of that. You spend the rest of the day trying to make it better.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
When I’m working on a fun shot, and I just like the image on the screen. It’s where I live all day.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Working on films I know I will probably never bother to see. That’s the way it is in the VFX business.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Telling my wife the project has ended and I’m going to be home more.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Yes. In roughly chronological order: Terry Gilliam, Nick Park, Chuck Jones, Mel Blanc, Bill Melendez, Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, Ray Harryhausen, Genndy Tartakovski, Phil Tippett, and just recently, Seth MacFarlane.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
My childhood in general. Fatherless, poor, rural state. Still, I managed to get myself into a private university, and graduate with an award winning film.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I have a pair of short films featuring one character, Floyd the Android. So far it’s been accepted into over twenty festivals, including the Animation Block Party, and international children’s film festivals in Chicago, New York and Taiwan. I also have my blog.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I can make my abdominal muscles roll in a wave motion.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Life is short. Don’t let the anonymous demo reel reviewers effect how you feel about yourself. Be an artist, and create art. What I’m saying is, don’t constantly chase what you think a particular studio wants. Spend more time figuring out what you have to offer. Then you’ll land where you should be.