What is your name and your current occupation?
My name’s Jeff Liu and I’m an animator at JibJab Media Inc.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I actually started pursuing animation in high school so I haven’t had many jobs before I got into it. I used to teach private Karate lessons for younger kids at the dojo I went to haha.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I really enjoyed working on the opening for the 2011 CalArts Producers’ Show. I came up with the idea to have everyone (who was interested) animate something coming out of a box. We then put everyone’s animation together and it turned out to be really cool! It was also a cool representation of the wide range of styles among the students.
How did you become interested in animation?
I remember seeing Flash at my friend’s house one time when I was in middle school. I thought it was super cool and eventually I got my own copy of it and started learning.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I grew up mostly in the California bay area, near Berkeley. I’m pretty new to the animation business actually. I went to CalArts and graduated from the Character Animation department and shortly afterwards I interned for a summer at JibJab. At the end of the summer, they liked my work and asked me to stay as a full time employee! That was about half a year ago. Time is flying by AHHHHHH.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
The work is very fast paced at the studio, so I jump very quickly from project to project. The projects vary a lot in stye and subject so things never get boring. I like to get up from my desk and act out my animation to figure out timing and movement. I was working on a project about dancing for a while so I would frequently be dancing in the middle of the studio to figure out what I was animating.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Ummmm free bagels and laundry service on Monday? What???
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Not enough dogs. One of the bosses has an awesome pug who waddles around occasionally. But one time we had Bring Your Dog to Work Day a while ago and the studio was full of dogs! It was probably the happiest day of my life.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I use Flash and a Wacom tablet to animate traditionally, and After Effects to do puppet style animation.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I’m still pretty new to it so I’m not sure yet! I certainly can’t complain about getting paid to do something that I like doing.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
There’s some incredible guest lecturers that would come to CalArts. While at school, I had the pleasure of listening to lectures by two of my favorite artists, Michael Giacchino and James Baxter. It’s always inspiring to hear amazing artists explain their work in a way that makes it seem totally normal and understandable, rather than seeming like some unattainable supernatural thing.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
School was a great experience for me, but there were quite a few rough patches throughout the four years. It was my first time dealing with stress in a great variety of unfamiliar situations, and I experienced a few moments of very intense self-doubt. Luckily though, I feel like only because I experienced such frustrations was I able to become the stronger artist and person that I am today. Yay!
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
Yes! After four years of learning the meticulous and incredibly time-consuming process of animation, I am prepared to begin my career as… a musician! Music has always been a huge interest of mine. I composed and performed music for my film projects at CalArts, and just this spring, I was approached by five different animation students to make music for their films. In my free time I’m hoping to begin recording and releasing some albums of songs that I’ve written over the past few years. I’ll be making animated music videos too!
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I’m really good at making fart noises with my armpits. I’m totally serious about this fact.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
To young artists: it’s hard to make good art if you don’t have enough experience to know what type of art you like to make. Create as much as possible, and make things that you enjoy. If you try to be honest with yourself, it should come naturally and it’ll be more enjoyable. I say this having felt very unsure of myself as an artist. I stuck with it though and now I feel like I’m actually starting to figure things out.