What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Jacques Muller. I am presently senior lecturer (Classical animation) at the School of Interactive Digital Media of Nanyang Polytechnic of Singapore.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Waiter for half a day in a Paris restaurant, with no prior experience (I spilled the drinks over 5 customers when I couldn’t keep my tray balanced)
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Space Jam, Rescuers Down Under, Star Wars, the Illusionist.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am from the Angouleme region in South West of France, one hour north of Bordeaux. I started at the bottom in several Paris studios, as Background artist, Storyboard artist; and then 2D animator.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I can start a day by a class or a lecture, depending. Otherwise my time is divided between grading, counselling students, reviewing their works, revamping modules, sitting in meetings etc.… I pursue my own animated projects on the side.Now that I am lecturing in Classical animation, my job is spent between See answer above (not wanting to be redundant)
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Giving lectures on Classical animation, interacting with motivated students. I love showmanship and sharing about high quality character animation (lectures in amphitheatres with big screen). It is always very gratifying when you feel that your students are receptive to whatever you ty to convey to them. Some of them can be surprisingly good.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Filing reports and all the bookkeeping side of the business in general. I am not a secretary nor an accountant.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
I work with Internet all day long, with Photoshop, Premiere, TVPaint, Word, etc.…
Well, now everything is Digital. This means that everything is more accessible and instantaneous. At least what used to take days, can now take minutes or a few hours. You can converse with other people on any other part of the world instantaneously, which I do every day. This is a very powerful way to communicate and it is free.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
There are now so many options, so many possibilities, but also so much new creations from everywhere that the challenge is to keep track and follow everything; at least everything which enters into your field of interest or activity. It is almost like a gigantic orgy of data and information being downloaded on your head without any interruption.
If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
I know that it will sound like heresy to many, yet I believe that the pendulum today has swung too much in favour of market shares, graphs and business projection figures. Most everything has to fit into specific boxes, be formatted, that sort of thing. This is too much. We are turning into an ant colony. Where are the days when a Walt Disney would say: -“it will take as long as it will, but most of all, we must get it right”. There is absolutely no way that a Fantasia or a Pinocchio could be done today with the current approach. I am getting tired of the tyranny of accountants and bookkeepers. Let’s give back power to the creative people for a change!
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Yes I have: Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, Marc Davis, Chuck Jones, Richard Williams, Don Bluth, Andreas Deja, Glen Keane, Eric Goldberg, James Baxter. I have also encountered Roy Disney Jr, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ray Harryhausen, and Paul Grimault.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I walked for 3 days in Paris, in the cold winter, not realising that I was having a heart attack. I was feeling ill, ignorant of the fact that it doesn’t necessarily have to be extremely painful. Then it took me a full month to recover, to the surprise of the doctors.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I am trying to finish a book about my 40 year career in animation; sharing many anecdotes and mentioning about many great figures of the industry. I also work on several animated projects on the side of various lengths.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I have a talent for losing things. I can be pretty messy in my work organisation. Since I am a visual person, everything needs to be visible on my work surfaces. If I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Try to be as excellent as you can in your craft. Develop a work method. Do not get confused between the essential and the superfluous. Go for what matters first. Don’t get lost in a maze of details. They can be added on later. Animation can be tricky that way, since so much is involved in order to bring the best performance possible. You need to define priorities while remaining realistic about the scope of what you are trying to achieve. I’ve seen so many students trying to do the Ten Commandments and ending up disillusioned after drawing a few dozens of frames. A few thoughts about art and video:
As I am getting old, I realise how important Art is for me. I must say that I can’t live without it. It represents the expression of the soul. Art can take any form, any shape, any angle, and yet surprise you, provoke you, inspire you. There are many forms of Art that I couldn’t care less about. There can be “degenerate Art”, “uplifting Art” all kinds of Art. It is up to anyone to define their own classifications. But in my case I seek Art that brings a certain light; that inspires me by its sheer beauty. It has to move me in a deep and positive sort of way. If it goes in the opposite direction, then I tend to stay away from it. During a short visit in Venice recently, I became totally shaken by the extreme beauty of the place. It left a mark in me. I never thought this could be possible. Video, I am not sure if I understand it right? Video is for me like a river. It is a flow. It captures life differently from Cinema. Because of its frame rate, is almost getting closer to reality. While Cinema for the same reasons feels more like a dream. I recall this experience at a “Showscan projection” (this system was developed by Douglas Trumbull, who made the Effects for “2001 a Space Odyssey”). It was using the 70mm film format at a rate of 60 frames a second. But I left the theatre with disappointment. I was so stunned to notice that it felt more like video than Cinema. It was so fluid that it didn’t give this dreamlike experience that only Cinema delivers. Instead it felt almost too reel.