Jeff Pratt has had a fascinating (slightly meandering) career. After many years working as a space shuttle engineer for NASA, Jeff swapped the ‘infinite and beyond’ for a graphic design and computer animation path, which he kicked off with none other than Pixar, joining the teams behind ‘Toy Story’ 1 and 2, ‘A Bug’s Life’, ‘Monsters Inc’. and (as modeller/rigger) ‘Finding Nemo’. Then, after gathering bundles of experience as an animation monk he moved on, logically, to become a master and pass on his wisdom. First at Expression College just outside of San Francisco and finally at Escape Studios in the United Kingdom, where he currently works.
What made you leave sunny California and come to England?
My partner at the time was transferred to London. I had lived in San Francisco for 14 years so when a chance to try living in London came up it sounded like a something worth trying out.
Have you ever attempted any traditional 2D animation?
No, I went straight into 3D in Art School.
What would you say to those who believe that 3D animation is like rocket science?
Ha ha ha… Well, I should know what Rocket Science is like having worked at NASA for 8 years. The User interfaces in 3D packages are getting more and more user friendly, so some aspects of 3D animation are actually not very technical at all. Now if you are talking FX then that’s a different story.
Is it possible to be a good 3D character animator without the technical knowledge of rigging?
Yes, if you are able to be working in a larger studio where animators are only doing animation and there are whole modeling and rigging departments to support production.
What has given you the highest sense of accomplishment as an animator?
Sitting in a theatre and watching a film I animated and observing the audience reaction to my work. Having an audience laugh at your shot is a great thrill.
And as a teacher?
Having a student who came into my class not interested in the class leave the class excited about the subject and want to learn more.
How are you finding being a teacher after all those hectic years at Pixar?
It’s a lot of fun working with students who are all excited and have lots of energy and ideas and it is allot less stressful than production and much better hours.
Is there a golden era of animation? Do you think this is it?
There have been a number or Golden Eras in animation. The Disney Classic animation Bambi, Fantasia, etc. Then the second golden age, Little Mermaid through Lion King. And yes I think this is kind of a third Golden time in Animation.
Do you currently have any personal animated projects in progress?
No, I’ve been too busy developing my animation course here at Escape to have time for a personal project these days.
If you were a famous animated character who would you be?
Arthur from The Sword in the Stone. For one it’s my favourite Disney classic animation and second I’m always changing and trying new things.