Jonathan Lyons

Over the years I have looked at quite a few animation demo reels. From back when VHS tapes were the only media, to clicking hyperlinks. To me, every demo reel is like an unopened gift.  There is always the possibility there will be something wonderful there. You might discover a huge talent!

Demo reels run the gamut from dreadful, to intimidatingly good.  A reel of polished professional work is great to review, but those people don’t need my advice.  The people looking for tips are students and recent grads are who want to break into the business.  After looking at many graduate demo reels, I become accustomed to seeing the standard animation assignments.  Dialog pieces, body mechanics work, creature animation, game cycles.  All are helpful in judging the skill of the artist.  If the quality is there, I will say, sure, that person can do the work.  But some demo reels go one big step further.

They make me laugh.  Or at least smile.

When I think of demo reels that stood out to me, there are two that come to mind.  Many years ago, at the now defunct Duck Soup Studios, I saw a demo reel from a new animator.  He had animated a simple little alien and composited it onto live action footage of himself.  I can still picture the character.  He seemed to be picking a fight with him.  He had an attitude, and the two definitely related to each other.  It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it made me smile.  When you entertain someone, you have connected with them.  I was curious about the person who made it.  We interviewed him and gave him one of his first jobs. That was Chad Shattuck, and he went on to be a supervising animator at major studios.

A couple of years ago, I got a demo reel with a few scenes from a short film the student had made.  The scenes were very good, and made me want to see the rest of the film.  I could tell it was visual comedy, and I wanted to see where it would go.  After we hired him, I pestered him to see the completed work.  That was Academy of Art graduate Hans Tsai, and his short film is called Knob.  Here it is on YouTube.

When a student can make me laugh, I know they put something extra into the work.  They didn’t just do the assignment.  They got creative and took it further.  As an artist, I want to work with creative people.

Make sure a good portion of your demo reel shows the kind of work you want to do. If you want to work on funny animated films, then that’s the kind of work you should show. Work with your classmates and teachers, and ask them for honest reactions. You should be able to recognize a sincere laugh from a polite one.  It’s not easy, but it will pay off in the long run.



Jonathan Lyons is the author of Comedy for Animators, published by CRC Press and available on Amazon.  Intended for animators, story artists, writers and students, Comedy for Animators is a book written to introduce you to the remarkable art of physical comedy. If you want to make funny cartoons, it’s critical to understand this unique history of characters and stories. Jonathan is also a professional animator with 30 years of experience in the industry. He has worked on commercials, video games and feature films such as Pirates of the Caribbean, and Seth MacFarlane’s Ted.



Call to all folks on Animation Jobs!

We at CRAFT ( truly believe in the power of sharing the creative process. So much inspiration, knowledge and material are often left on a hard drive after a project finishes, when it could instead inspire the next beautiful indie productions.

This mindset has driven us to design an online platform where each month you can access new, exclusive behind the scene material from top quality indie productions in animation and gaming.
Our latest initiative to empower creators is the development of “How We Crafted”, an innovative art book where creators share their experience in making a project. Some of the indie productions included in the book are Song the Sea, Loving Vincent, Seven Minutes in the Warsaw Ghetto, and The Breadwinner.

We conceived this book for fans, students, and professionals to learn and be inspired. And now we would like to share it with you too!

Content-wise, How We Crafted features interviews with international animation directors, producers, supervisors, and illustrators. We asked them on specific aspects of the production, ranging from art direction to concept art and character development. Then we broke the content down into practical steps and enriched with relevant artwork for you to enjoy.

All the creators we reached out to were very excited to share their knowledge throughout the community! To give you an idea, some of the creators giving insights on their work are Tomm Moore, Paul Young, Pernille Ørum, Jean-Charles Mbotti Malolo, Johan Oettinger, Léo Regeárd (LEYHO), Mikkel Mainz, and Benjamin Agersted & Patrick Steptoe.


Design-wise, two words kept creeping up on us, as we developed the idea: High-quality and Applicable. We had the ambition to merge the aesthetic and the in-depth experience of our favourite art-of books with the flexibility of a high-end magazine.

Hence, a book of 176 pages consisting of 13 chapters, one per project. The larger-than-a4 format gives room to the artwork and stories to breathe and will look stunning on every workstation or coffee table 🙂 All artwork pieces are high resolution and printed on quality uncoated paper.

To turn the book into reality, we ran a campaign on Kickstarter (take a look here for more details which was funded only after 6 days from launch thanks to our backers’ affection.

The campaign was really successful and enabled us to include 1 extra project to the 12 already in the collection: the in-development animated feature by Cartoon Saloon, The Wolfwalkers. Hurray!

“What is it in for me, then?”, we hear you whisper.

We are still in the process of fully developing the book, whose first copy will be shipped in early June 2018, with a selling price of $35.

However, the first 15 of you to get in touch with us will have the opportunity to pre-order the book NOW and get 10% DISCOUNT.

How it works:
Shoot us an email at [email protected] with your details;
Get your hands on the How We Crafted book – we will ship it to you once we are done;
Enjoy flipping through the artwork and let yourself be inspired at your desk or on the go by How We Crafted!

Get your hands on the first issue of How We Crafted, the new art book, edited by CRAFT, where 13 indie creators in animation, illustration, and gaming share their process.