Meet the Artist: Jason Schleifer

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  06 June 2005
Meet the Artist: Jason Schleifer

Jason Schleifer
Character Animator

Jason produced his first animated film for his social studies class in junior high school. It wasn't anything exciting to look at, but the simple fact that he was able to make a clay character walk halfway across the screen before melting into an unrecognizable pile of goop made his heart pound.

Since that time Jason has worked at Alias as a product specialist for the 3D animation software Maya, spent four and a half years at Weta Digital in New Zealand as a character rigger and animator on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, taught two Alias Master Classes about Character Rigging (now available on DVD), co-taught a siggraph course on rigging for animation, is a mentor at, and is currently working as a Character Animator at PDI/Dreamworks where he just finished up on their latest film, Madagascar.
In his copious spare time, Jason enjoys running around with his wife and two dogs, working on his short film, "Jonh and His Dog", and blogging about various topics which buzz around in his head.

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Last edited by Leigh : 06 June 2005 at 05:25 PM.
  06 June 2005
Sup Jason, Very nice works. congrats on all the success.
Thanks for taking the time to take part in something like this. I know I learn from it.

q-1. What education background do you have?
q-2. What are somethings that can get stressful in a 3d modeling, texturing and animation lifestyle of works?
q-3. Can you describe what a good cg artist would be made of from your point of view?
q-4. What great choices did you make to get to were you are today?

Once again thanks.
  06 June 2005
Whoa. Sounds like you really get around, Jason.

Anyway, might as well commence with the onslaught of questions:

1. Were you originally from New Zealand (the profile mentions some studios based in the US)? I know that Weta's policy is to initially look for local applicants, rather than to try and pull people from abroad. So how much of a struggle was it for you to get that job?
A lot of people would consider their dream job to be working at Pixar, but I've always had my eyes on Weta. The projects they handle are amazing, and New Zealand is just beautiful. On the otherhand, when I hear of people that worked at Weta, it always seems like they only worked their for a few years before moving on. Not to pry too much, but is there any particular reason why you left (work beginning to get tedious, perhaps)?

2. Of all of the different aspects to 3d, character rigging is probably what I have the least amount of experience with. So I'm curious, but how long does the typical character rig take for you to construct? Along those same lines, what would you say has been the most difficult or complex rig that you've taken on, if you can think of one? Certainly they all present their own unique challenges.

3. What kind of dogs do you have?
  06 June 2005
Smile Feels Gr8 2 b alive

Hi Jason

Its just a fantastic felling to be able to talk 2 someone with such credits as LOTR- the one the Thnx to CGnetworks first 4 this oppurtunity.

I am from Mumbai - INDIA and just one among the other zillion LOTR fans. I have started 2 learn in this field abt a year now and 'm learning and improving (hopefully) every single day.
Its just very much inspiring 2 b a part of such a platform and it will be 4 ever CG 4 Life. This is just a query if you could share few things from ur work experiences in CG which would help a lot of us to grow further.
Nothing more 4 now.
- Remember, it was all started by a mouse!

webpage url:
  06 June 2005
Hi Jason,

I really admire alot of the work you've done and you can be proud that you've made it to where alot of us want to be. Live it up!

- Did you always want to focus on and move into character animation/rigging or did you delve into other related areas when you were young to find what you really enjoyed most or what you were good at?

- What is the biggest lesson you have learnt from your experience as an animator?

- When animating for film or any big production (e.g. LOTR), do you have alot of creative freedom and room to experiment or are you on very strict deadlines to get things out in time.

- Where do you see yourself in 10 years? (clue: it's very reflective)


Last edited by sphere : 06 June 2005 at 05:58 AM.
  06 June 2005
Mr. Jason Shhh-Life-er!

Hi, I have a lot of questions about animation which are mostly basic stuff so I hope I wouldn't bore you

...On walks,

1. How do you go about creating a unique walk cycle for a given charatcer? a walk that defines a certain personality, What are the questions that you ask yourself before and during animating?

2. Do you think the weight of a character should stay consistent in all walks cycles througout the movie, for instance, if in one scene he is happy, in another he is sad, should the animator make him lighter when happy or heavier when sad?

3. When creating a cycle, do you start with the hips? and work out from there, Layering? or do you make poses for Up, Down, Pass, etc. and then work the walk that way?

...On developing character,

4. How do you get into the characters head? what are the things you study and ask before animating? What is your thought process from the begining to the point where you can exactly visualize the scene in your head?

5. How do you inspire yourself to come up with the most original idea for acting? (because usualy it's really difficult to come up with something thats not cliche)

...On snappy-animation-style,

6. What is the secret to making snappy animation look believable, specialy in areas like weight and balance?

7. Please share with us some of the important things you learned about snappy style while animating Madagascar

...other questions,

8. What would be some piece of advice you could give to a student interested in learning the art of animation?

9. Who's your all-time favorite animated character?...why?

10. What are some of the BIG mistakes that beginners make when learning animation?

11. What was some of the important stuff you learned from animating Gollum?

11 1/2. (just skip this one if you think it's a personal question and you dont feel like answering) Are you happy animating at PDI/Dreamworks? do you ever want to go to Pixar? or Sony or maybe starting your own animation studio?

Thanks A LOT for taking the time and answering questions here, we know how busy you are with work, AnimationMentor and searching for that perfect tablet pc So we really appriciate this.


Last edited by kaveh_michael : 06 June 2005 at 03:45 PM.
  06 June 2005

I have a quick question:

In LOTR, when the witch king dies, how did you get his head to crumple in like that? I was very impressed with that part and would love to hear how it was done.

  06 June 2005

Do You Ever Get Frusterated When You Animate? If So How Many Hairs Did You Pull Out While doing so....just Kiding .....How Did You Get Yours seqeunces To Look So Good And Work In The Movies When You Had A Crazy Deadline?

Last edited by THECLYKE : 06 June 2005 at 06:01 AM.
  06 June 2005
Man....killer resume ... im jeleous...
  06 June 2005
Hey Jason,

- What were some major obstables you had overcome to get where you are now?

- How was New Zealand for you?

- Tell us an amusing CG-related story!
  06 June 2005
Hi Jason,

When I heard you were leaving WETA to go to PDI/DREAMWORKS, I thought you would work on some realistic animations for visual effects ...

As you worked in both production pipeline which kind of job do you prefer? Cartoon or VFX ?

Is a Madagaskar cartoon character as complex as a character like Golum (as a rigging point of view) ?

For somebody searching a job in CG what do you think is most important ? The demoReel or the competences (a huge amount of software and a very expensive diploma in a considered art school :eek ?

What's next now Jason ? Are you staying at PDI/DREAMWORKS or will you travel again around the world ?


  06 June 2005
i just cant wait till you answer Jason ...
  06 June 2005
Greatt!! feels like ur a BIG artist! that gollum really attracts people!!
i think Rumr has some good questions,will read ur answers...
would u show us some exclusive images of ur workshop or models,or anything cool,which hasnt been showned?!
. . .
S c r a t c h-My scratch book
[ Convertion is what which is happening to me... ]
  06 June 2005
Hi Jason,

I'm gona annoy you with some questions that most likely have been asked from you billion times already

1. How did it felt to see LOTR movies first time on big screen? (must have been rewarding )

2. Do you have any ultimate goal/s in your career? ..if so, have you achieved it/them yet? OR are you just riding along with the waves, waiting bigger and better ones?

3. What would be the one beer to rule them all?


- Jari
  06 June 2005
Animation Mentor?

Hey Jason!

1. Just want to see what you experience with has been like so far?

I'm starting in a couple weeks, and I can't wait to get going. Hope to see you around the campus!
If only closed minds came with closed mouths.

Last edited by sNaP : 06 June 2005 at 06:47 AM.
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