Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design
Year of graduation: 1996
Globetrotter: How work in films led Kyle Jefferson around the world
Kyle Jefferson’s animation career has taken him all over the planet to pursue his art. Normally based out of Los Angeles, California, he’s found himself packing for places like the Gold Coast of Australia to work on the superhero flick Thor, and India for a year spent on Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. In 2017, he’s heading to Xian, China, as part of the team behind Wish Dragon, a film that reveals a contemporary Chinese twist on the age-old story of how a wish can change a life in a moment.
As the head of layout on the project by Base FX, a visual effects studio based in Beijing, Jefferson is responsible for cinematography, liaising between the storyboard artists and animators, and working with the head of story, the director and the editor to bring the story sketches into a 3D movie. During the nine months he plans to spend in Xian, he’ll also train the layout crew and camera operators working on the film to ensure its overall look is the same for audiences in Beijing or Toronto. Jefferson says it’s common for animation studios to work with partners abroad when producing a film. But Wish Dragon is different because the entire movie is being made for both Chinese and North American audiences.
“It’s two movies being made at the same time,” he explains. “One will be for the English Speaking market. The other is for the Chinese market specifically – it will be re-animated as well for the Chinese dialogue – Chinese phonemes will be animated for the characters.”
Jefferson says it can be hard to work on a project across time zones, so he’s looking forward to being in China and working with his colleagues to share the knowledge he’s accumulated over his 20-year career. He spent 17 years working at DreamWorks on projects including Prince of Egypt, Road to El Dorado and Shrek, before he went into the live-action film world, working at Marvel on projects like Thor and Spider-Man Homecoming, which is set for release in 2017. No matter what kinds of projects he works on, he likes to jump between animation and layout to keep his skills fresh.
“So often, everybody specializes – ‘I’m a lighter or I’m an animator or I’m a storyboard artist.’ The truth is, you’re an artist and artists usually have a wide range,” he says. “Insects specialize, human beings adapt. I feel like the more you adapt, the more you’re going to stay employed and the more robust your career is going to be.”
He says Sheridan gave him those malleable skills and the very practical know-how needed to start his career. Plus, the school’s renowned reputation for animation helped him stand out from the competition – he landed his job at DreamWorks at the end of his third year.
“It’s a really robust tool set that you learn (at) Sheridan ... I felt like I was a lot more equipped to draw or paint or sculpt or use the computer or edit,” he says. “I felt like I got a more well-rounded education, so when I did have to jump from department-to-department, nothing was too new. I’d already touched upon it at Sheridan.”