Andreas Deja is an animator and the genius behind some of your favourite Disney villains. Born 1957, in Gdansk, Poland, he and his family moved to Dinslaken, Germany, in 1958. When he was eleven years old he watched Disney’s Jungle Book for the first time. Its impact was instant and everlasting, right after seeing the movie, Deja was inspired to become an animator. Around the age of fourteen he began to attend life drawing classes and frequently go to the zoo to study the animals and their movement. Following a short stint in the army, he spent three years studying graphic design at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, Germany.
Deja began a correspondence with one of the Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” Eric Larson. Larson was heading up the Disney training program and during a visit to Germany, the two met. Larson was impressed with Deja’s portfolio and accepted him onto the training program. In 1980, Deja moved to Los Angeles and started training at the Disney studio.
From the beginning, Deja sought as much mentorship from the people that inspired him as a child. Out of the Nine Old Men, most were retired, but Deja was determined. Slowly over the course of a few years, he managed to meet up with seven out of nine of the famous animators. All with the intention to one day publish a book of their advice and guidance.
Whilst at the Disney training program, Deja’s portfolio began to make an impression, earning unanimous praise. Word spread to Joe Hale, a senior animator and one of the writers on the upcoming feature film The Black Cauldron. Hale saw Daja’s drawings and asked him to work on the film’s pre-production. Deja would subsequently work on the feature until the end.
Deja moved on to other great projects such as animating the Queen in the Great Mouse Detective (1986), Roger Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), King Triton from The Little Mermaid (1989), adult Hercules from Hercules (1997), and Lilo from Lilo & Stitch (2002). Let us not forget all the eccentric villains he has animated, Gaston from Beauty and the Beast (1991), Jafar from Aladdin (1992), Scar from The Lion King (1994), and Alameda Slim from Home on the Range (2004).
In 2006, the Animation industry showed their recognition and appreciation for over two decades of hard work by being awarding Andreas Deja the Winsor McCay Award for outstanding contribution to the art of animation. In 2015, he was named a Disney Legend by the Walt Disney Company.
This year also saw the culmination of his regular visit to his idols and mentors in the form of the book, The Nine Old Men: Lessons, Techniques, and Inspiration from Disney’s Great Animators. An insightful look behind-the-scenes of Disney that shares the foundation of timeless characters.
Though there is not yet an official list, Deja has often been referred to as one of Disney’s “Nine New Men”, along with animators Glen Keane, and James Baxter. Deja is currently working on an animated film called Mushka, which is planned to be release in 2016.
In 2011, Andreas Deja began Deja View a blog showcasing his own work, his inspirations, as well the work of the early Disney animators. He also shares his views on a range of animation subject. Quite simply, it is a treasure trove of information and beautiful images and an absolute must for anyone interested in Disney or animation.