What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Daniel Zettl and I’m currently senior animator at Weta Digital
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
To financially support my animation internship after high school, I worked in the halls of the biggest german provider for postal services and was sorting letters and packages every night for a couple hours. Met some pretty quirky people there 😉
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Very proud to have been a part of James Cameron’s Avatar and currently of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit.
How did you become interested in animation?
I started out with drawing a lot, doing design jobs and lots of graffiti. At some point the still image, or the single drawing wasnʼt enough anymore and I was searching for something that could unlock whatʼs hidden in me. It had to get it out and on that search I
stumbled over 2D animation. For a long time I couldnʼt find access personally and didnʼt know how and where to start. But once you understand what you can actually say with the moving image it becomes an addiction to create.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in Munich, Germany. It was during a design and storyboard internship after high school at a small 2D studio in Munich when I got introduced to animation and started absorbing everything about the software Maya. When the studio got the green light for their first in house animation feature film I was offered a position as junior animator.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
When I have time to animate 🙂 Thinking and planing, studying reference and searching for inspiration to achieve something that either hasn’t been done before or understanding and copying something exceptionally great.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
When projects get so stressful and intense that there’s no time to actually think about what’s the best solution for a shot. When you have to produce and not create.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I mostly work with Maya and Nuke.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
At the moment, making sure I donʼt burn out and balancing work and private life better. This is a constant challenge since I started out in this industry.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I had and have the pleasure to actually work with some of the heavy weights in creature and character animation. Animation legends for Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Avatar, Disney’s Tarzan and Hercules, Pixarʼs Monsters Inc. and Richard Williamsʼ The Thief and the Cobbler. I was always very lucky to be guided by great animation directors who taught and inspired me so much.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Luckily no illnesses or serious health problems have ever crossed me or my family. So one of the things that influenced me a lot in the way my career paned out were probably the rejections from film schools and design colleges when I was very young. This
motivates me to always improve and learn.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
Just recently I had time to work on a few character designs and start developing a rough concept for a story, maybe a childrens book maybe a short film, I donʼt know yet. Besides Wellington offers quite some good surfing conditions, Iʼm totally hooked on that!
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy? When Iʼm really angry my skin turns green, I grow 9 foot tall and smash just everything into pieces. But other than that… 😉
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
You only convince with the quality of your work, nothing else counts. Animate a lot, show it to more experienced animators and talk a lot about it. Love what you do!