Justin Rasch


What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is justin rasch – and I am a character Animator in the Games and Film industry at the same time right now…ha!
I have a day job animating in Video Games and also work the Night shift on a Feature stopmotion Animated film at Shadow Machine in Hollywood Ca .

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
hmmmm….I was a Tree climber-cutter as a Youngster. I was a sign painter or wandering artist as a teenager. I had my first son as a teen so I pretty much did anything available to make money. – usually busboy- dishwasher type stuff….any art based work i could get my hands on.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
PARANORMAN – From LAIKA- Hands down -The single most amazing artistic experience of my Life. A DREAM come True !!!!
I was part of an OLD school Miniature , Special FX , animated Film. It was like walking into Willy Wonkas Magic Factory Every single day.  I …… on the very hardest days of the production would part the curtain and walk into my set and feel the breath just escape my chest in pure little kid excitement and awe!!  WOW!! I am surrounded by this incredible ART and I get to the opportunity bring these amazing characters to Life…Goosebumps !!  LAIKA was a DREAM JOB in every way . The Animation Medium I love most is Stopmotion Animation…..so …. as far as studios LAIKA is The Number 1 studio out there. It has a very clear goal of telling awesome story’s at the highest animated quality in this Medium.  It is constantly PUSHING to do more with Puppets than has ever done before. That building so full of talent its sick.  While working on a LAIKA film everyone involved is given the support and opportunity to do the best work of our lives…..in fact…. its expected!!  So…Dailys and weeklies were PURE Jaw dropping awesomeness and a magic show every morning.  Every week or two I wouldl have my NEW BESTEST SHOT EVER!! As an animator that is As good as it gets!!……The film also was sooooo fun to work on…. JOY!! I also recently worked on a Spongebob Christmas special which was incredibly fun to be a part of.  It was a great honor to work on the Iconic character and the guys at Screen Novelties are the coolest  to work with in the BIZ….those guys are a Very special group of artist-animators and they kick arse on everything they are a part of.

How did you become interested in animation?
DON BLUTH Was a MASSIVE influence and Inspiration . I was always an artist and when I saw the {Secret of Nihm} and the {Dragons Lair- Space Ace}- Arcade classics. I was HYPNOTIZED…These awesome characters animating so fantastically. I am still completely inspired by those images and I know it sneeks into my work subconsciously all the time.  I also was very affected by the monster movies and Fantasy Pics from the 80’s as well…….Especially the Stopmotion -FX driven films.  Clash of the Titans – Star Wars- Robocop – Ghostbusters – Nightmare Before Christmas – Dark Crystal -Jason and the Argonaughts.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in Miami Florida and lived all over Florida until I was about 15……after some harsh teenage years and dropping out of high school….I ended up going to Art Institute of Pittsburgh with my best friend for the FX – Industrial design Program.  When I went to colledge I wanted to do special effects for films with a focus in animation.  {stop motion} Once I saw the animation in Jurassic Park I quickly switched to Computers….and ended up with a Degree in CG Animation.  After Graduating in 96 I had a solid reel and all the beans in the world to get in the Film buisness.  I sent out my Reel and portfolio to all my top film studios. I ended up getting calls and interviews with TONS of game company’s but only 2 or 3 Feature or FX houses. The Feature Studios who called
me would always ask if I was local and if I said no they often lost interest. I ended up having to choose between my top 2 places. Klaspy Csupo on the Rug Rats Movie or Konami in Chicago. I really wanted the Rugrats more but the offer at Konami was better in every way so I went with them.  I grew up playing Konami games so It felt like it would be a very exciting place to work .


What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Well…as a CG Games – Animator – I typically come into the office and talk with my POD . This is Typically a designer , Fx artist and me the animator. We discuss what we are working on and then set out on the daily tasks.  Most Games I have worked on I bounce from {Playable characters-Enemy’s -Bosses} to Cinematics throughout a project-  Typical days during cinematics are based on how long a sequence is and if its being directed or not. We usually do not have to have as much day to day contact during cinematic creation. A review once or twice a week is usually enough. When I am doing Playable Character work- { I am on a fighting game right now } You will recieve a document early before you start a character with a basic design and move list. I then get to create an entire PILE of animations that are then implemented by the designer and then we go about tuning the actions over several months-  One character can have up to 200+ moves….which can take a good while to make and Tune.  For my Feature Job – I usually get on set and sneek a peek at what I’ll be working with then its off to the  director to get notes on the scene and what kind of performance they are looking for. After direction I get on set and start playing with the Puppet , Sets , Props , camera .  I Block out my poses physically to see what limitations my puppets have and what poses read the best to my stageing . I take notes on my X sheet and Draw some thumbnails to map out key moments, spacing and accents-offsets.  Then its off to the races…we usually Block a shot {Poses -Timing ON 2’s} – show it to the director – get feedback- then get launched – one frame at a time.

What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I really Enjoy CG Cinematics tremendously. I love inserting Personality into all of my playable characters anywhere I can get an opportunity . The day to day in games at times can feel technical sometimes . So I really enjoy to PURE animation moments.  In Feature – I love creating the Illusion of Mind- heart -Muscle. These puppets thinking and moving in ways that are impossible – Yet its happening….LIFE…SOUL….ALIVE!! It really is Magic to see an inanimate object come to life.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
In Games – I hate the Technical Part…..The Nit Picky get it to WORK in engine stuff. I also Hate the MICRO management of some animations. You have X ammount of frames and thats it. You are not always given the frames to make animations really shine due to gameplay restrictions. In Feature – I think its the Constant PUSH and personal pressure to perform at a HIGH level. – With some shots you are so Mentally and Physically Exhausted by the end. It can be Incredibly Hard to get your energy and focus back up and ready to go all over again. Thats exactly what you have to do though.  Just to explain to my cg brothers . You cant have a bad day at feature level stopmotion animation….Once you have rehearsed -Blocked your shot out. Got updated Direction- there really isnt any turning back. You can’t re adjust a pose …..or tweak an arc….you cant add inbetweens slide your frames around for some spacing adjustments. It is a very vulnerable place to be when animating. you usually have 1 attempt at a shots final performance and sometimes you screw up…..you try somthing that just doesn’t work….or your eye just missed something.  This is a heartbreaking moment because when you realize this you have to CUT back….UGGhh that means you delete the frames you have taken and try to get your puppet back to a spot that you can pop back into a move with out the audience knowing…not always easy. This can be losing a full day of work or worse a FAILED shot…..uggghhhh….. lots of mental anguish. It feels so HIGH stakes….when production needs you to be moving forward but The process is just so Difficult.  The creation of one shot has an entire emotional journey for an animator and its not always a Pleasant one.  Incredibly hard in the creation – Ultra rewarding when its all done!!


What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I use MAYA 99% of the time for cg. I use a Program called Dragonframe for my stopmotion work.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
In games- The hours can be rough sometimes allthough very comfy.  In Feature- The STRESS of performing constantly can be really intense. After finishing a shot on Paranorman you are typically just WIPED. But guess what – your next shot is UP and ready to go. You have to mentally get up and go all over again. It’s like running a marathon…then getting to the finish line with another Marathon waiting for you.  Its also very Hard on the body Physically. Standing all day is very UNcomfy.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
YES!! Honestly ….In games- most animation is not that good. Its always getting better but it is just not there in my opinion yet.
Feature- Ohh my gosh- I was Surrounded by it on PARANORMAN. I could not believe the performances some of the folks there were putting out. WOW……Something thats just too hard to get across to my CG buddies. In stopmotion….. to get the level of acting in Paranorman that is being created in One straight ahead shot…. It is completely MINDBLOWING!! I have the highest respect for those guys.  There is no Massaging for days -weeks -curves and spacing- No working in Layers- its all there in one go….so it sure does help to have it all upstairs before you start. The owner of LAIKA and one of the BEST animators I have ever seen. Travis Knight is TRUE animation greatness. He is able to breathe life into a puppet like nothing I have ever seen. PURE Talent and inspiration. There were other great animators there as well…..but man….I have never seen anything like his work.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Hmmmm- I have always felt very lucky in life even through any obstacle. I had a child as a teenager while being Homeless. I was kicked out of my house as a kid for not following rules and generally not getting along with my parents.  This was a challenge for sure…..but I really never felt it was….I guess the dumb teenager element helped me through it.  After that relationship ended my Life took a Big turn in the right direction….I found animation….a career..Then Met the LOVE of my Life on a Climbing wall. JACKPOT!!!!!!

Any side projects or you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Yes!!! I have been making short films on the side every 2 or 3 years since I graduated Art school.  So….Me and my wife Shel are working on our second film as a TEAM. Since we discovered stopmotion animation we have worked together on every thing …..its been the hugest blessing and my whole  family has been surrounded by physical art work ever since. Most of our filmaking is after hours – infact 99% of the animation work happens when most people are well asleep. Shel keeps my puppets working-painted-and Molded. She does all of the set work – and Props for our films….I animate – design characters and do the sculpting.  We also write our projects together and I usually storyboard while she edits the films.  Our current film is 2.5 years into development and It will
be a solid 3 years when we hit the finish line. We have a blog where we track the progress of the film regularly www.justinrasch.blogspot.com   SYNOPSIS  :After a DogOnaut and an Alien Space Flea shoot each other down in a heated Outer Space Battle, the natural born enemies find themselves marooned together on a desert planet, their ships wrecked and scattered around them. A mutually agreed on line separating two territories quickly becomes an absurdly complicated maze as the two repeatedly alter it to acquire their ship’s missing parts. Comedy, a sandstorm, and an unlikely alliance ensue, as the two adversaries try to navigate the labyrinth, repair their ships, and get back to their home planets.


Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy? As far as Hobbies….I have a TON. Usually if I am not doing Art-Film related work I am moving physically.  I grew up doing alot of BMX , climbing and gymnastic type movement- Freerunning before it was called Freerunnning basically….Most of my weeks consists of at least a couple of nights doing stunts in Our HOME Gymnasium. I am a part time Motion capture Actor – Stunt man. I get to do jobs about Once or twice a year using alot of my animation performance skills as well as my various movement knowledge. I used to Ride BMX professionally in college when no one knew about bikes – pre X games.  I still get out to the sk8 parks on occasion…and I can even get a …..Whooaaa….every now and then from the youngsters .  Movement is a huge part of our family. Me and Shel happen to be a perfect match in that way and we wanted to provide that kind of a play for our 3 kids as they grew up.

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
My advice for any and EVERY new animator is STUDY – PRACTICE – STUDY PRACTICE- Today with the internet and all the free education and community online you can GROW soooooo much faster than in the past.  What took guys from my days years and years to learn and discover now can be learned in a fraction of the time. I am very jealous of whats available to the kids these days….but My path to animation got me here just the same.  Its all about the fundamentals of animation guys – The CRAFT and creativity is EVERYTHING.



Personal Stunt FUN
Ring Thru-
Highbar Flip trans
Sk8 Park
1step wall flip
Tarzan Transfer
2 step wall flip
360 highbar
 My Daughters latest Wresting STUNT
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