Hi I'm Jeff Jonas.... son of Homer Jonas Jr.
My Dad was a great artist and worked for Walt Disney. You will see his hand in such classics as Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, 101 Dalmatians, as well as other famous shows like Paul Bunyan... not too many folks know he did sketches that inspired some of the "It's a Small World" ride at Disneyland. Later he worked at Hanna Barbera, and worked on Space Ghost to name but one of many shows he was famous for.
I grew up in an artistic house, an nice suburban San Fernando Valley neighborhood, once voted the most average street in Los Angeles by the LA Times.
The Saturday Morning cartoon business was up and down work, layoffs, disgruntled employees, seasonal work. My Dad could be bitter about it. He did not want me to be an artist. I worked at Hanna Barbera in the summers when I was in college. At college I studied history so I could get a "real" job, and not be an unhappy artist like my Dad. Mostly I studied history because I wanted to figure out why kids like me were getting their heads blown off in Vietnam.. I guess when I got my head blown off I felt I would at least not ask "why"... like they do in the movies. In many ways I was the "Anti-Artist" growing up.
My dad died of a heart attack when he was 51.. the cartoon industry and smoking killed him. It was a great loss for the world, because everybody lost a great talent.
Because the Vietnam War and simultaneous "Great Society" programs bankrupted our economy, I left college (without being drafted and getting my head blown off) with little job prospects.
I diddled around until I got work for a hobby magazine company named Challenge Publications in Canoga Park California. It was there I started applying some art talents and landed a position as a magazine layout artist. My Dad was pleased by this as he felt that publications were steady work, even if it was "Art".
When my Dad passed away suddenly I decided to move back to San Diego where I had gone to school. There I was able to work for the military. The Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, you name it somebody would win a contract and I would work either on the Miramar air base or within a hop and skip of it. Later I was able to team up with Greg and Steve High at Perspective Instructional Communications. The brilliant High brothers elevated my talents and allowed me to gain confidence to start applying myself to drawing again. Eventually we lucked out and won the Army's prestigious PS Magazine contract, a maintenance comic book that was initially created by the fantastic comic artist Will Eisner.
Under Steve High's tutelage I was able to become the assistant penciled on the book, which like most Military art was technical stuff, like deuce and a half engine parts. My skills are only where they are because of Steve's great patience. Steve went on to work at Leland/Midway and SCEA. PS Magazine is where I first worked with another future fantastic game artist, Tom Moon.
Eventually I got out of the Military business as computers started to take off. I quickly took to the Macintosh, and for 1987 I was some kind of computer 'whiz kid'. This allowed me to work on presentation graphics, and ultimately to Jostens Learning Company where I produced Macromedia presentations.
This combination of computer and graphic skills led me to be recruited by Steve High at Leland/Tradewest Corp (once Cinematronics, and later Midway San Diego). There we collaborated on "Super Off Road The Baja" for the Super Nintendo. I left the project before it was completed, so I was dropped from the manual credits, but I am on the game screen credits. This was an enlightening foray into the world of pixels and characters, and the love-hate relationships between artist and programmers.
This led me to work for BlueSky software, a company started by some disgruntled ex-Lelanders. BlueSky had it down. We made Genesis platform games. Sports and entertainment titles. The Genesis was a pip of a piece of hardware... character counts and pixel layering, four palettes of 16 colors, parallax layered scrolling, sprites and alpha .... everything cooked down to a minimum, squeezed onto a variable sized cartridge.
I started doing small animations on Jurassic Park for the Sega Genesis. Doug Tennapel was the animation boss on Jurassic Park, he went on to bigger and better things with that worm dude thang. I did the compys that did the face hugger stuff, and interface icons..
Next we all put together Ren and Stimpy, Stimpy's invention. This was kind of a rush on a small cartridge for Nickelodeon. Tom Moon made some bizarre backgrounds for that game. I made the "Neighborhood", and the "Aviary" zones. Mark Lorenzen was "The man" on Ren and Stimpy, he's moved on to EA. Joe Shoopack and Rick Randolph worked on it too.
The next project was a Sega production of Shadowrun... I did a few levels. I can recall the lodge houses and totems needed re-arranging.. that's mostly what work I did there.
After that we started another Tony Vann production "Desert Demolition Starring Road Runner and Wile E.Coyote." This was a project to resurrect the title that another studio had slipped up on. Mark Lorenzen and I came up with an idea to allow large panels to scroll by at great speed to allow fast chases. This 'super-tile' idea worked, but it confounded everybody on the project, programmers and artists. I was selected to be 'Art Lead' on this project, so I tried to make this technology work. Unfortunately our support by 'designers' was a bit lacking, or we could have made a boffo game. In the end the levels were stitched together and it made for mild entertainment for the younger crowd. The highlight of this game was Marty Davis' great animations. Joe Shoopack and Tom Moon contributed great things Desert Demolition as well as Rick Schmitz and Amber Long and Drew Krevi. I think this game would have been great if we had devoted more cart space to it, and some more designer work. As it is myself and the other artists mostly developed all the design elements. Nevertheless the game was well received, and is fun.
After this I took a rest and just worked up backgrounds on Mark Lorenzen and Rich Karpp's Vectorman 'spoof' game. I did the oceans and the ice level and the Aurora Borealis efx, as well as some of the 'puzzle' art. Brandon MacDonald came in and cleaned up the oceans for release. Vectorman was significant in that it was the first time I touched a 3D program (LightWave) on the PC. I rendered out the icons in the spinning whirlwind.. my first 3D art :)
After that I worked on some failed releases. DataEast wanted a baseball game for the Playstation. I had to build stadiums in 3D. This was quite a challenge for the Playstation. We got it done and it ran, but DataEast folded.
Later I built a Playstation game for an educational company named LightSpan. This was a cool project called "Kasmania" where we tried to merge Playstation fun with educational materials.
After that I moved to Sony Interactive, which became 989 Studios. There we released a product called GameDay99 PC. This was the first online head to head football game. Joe Shoopack and John Roy, and Ben Lazarro, Alvin Aquinaldo were my partners in art crimes here. The game worked if you had the bandwidth but the market was small for well equipped users. Most folks just played solo on their computers, since modem lag was terrible for the client. But we were the first! I built stadiums and the support interface screens for the game. Our company changed their name to Verant and we released another little game called Everquest.
Everquest allowed me to get a paycheck while we tried to build Sovereign. A massively multiplayer 3D modern RTS world combat game. It was really ambitious. It was voted one of the top potential games of the year 2000! I decided that when the design changed I need a breath of fresh air and I moved over to our Space version of EQ. This was called "Exodus" at that time. Soon we were changing the company name to Sony Online Entertainment, and Exodus changed to Star Wars Galaxies.
SWG was developed jointly by our small San Diego crew and the excellent studio in Austin run by Jake Rodgers, Rich Vogel, and John Donham. Their expert guidance allowed us to create the second most successful MMORPG launch in US history (the first being Everquest). Too many great artists worked on that project to mention. This was my first experience with MAYA software so I worked on things I could handle. Some creatures (I made many of the bugs, textured many other critters). My biggest impact on SWG was working with Bill Daly, Dan Borth, and Jason Minor on the wearables. This was complicated work considering our robust customization system. Good direction allowed us to complete the task, it was a lot of really hard and fulfilling work. I am really proud of my time spent on Star Wars Galaxies and Jump to Lightspeed, they will be days remembered as challenging, hard long work, but in the end rewarding as a life experience.
Currently I am creating weapons for Everquest II and for the future EQ2 expansions. I hope that if you stayed around to the end of this monologue you found it interesting.. or you are surfing and it is as late at night as you read this, as when I posted it:)
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- EverQuest II: Sentinel's Fate (2010), Sony Online Entertainment Inc.
- EverQuest II: The Shadow Odyssey (2008), Sony Online Entertainment Inc.
- EverQuest II: Rise of Kunark (2007), Sony Online Entertainment Inc.
- EverQuest II: Echoes of Faydwer (2006), Sony Online Entertainment Inc.
- EverQuest II: Kingdom of Sky (2006), Sony Online Entertainment Inc.
- EverQuest II: Desert of Flames (2005), Sony Online Entertainment Inc.
- EverQuest II (2004), Sony Online Entertainment Inc.
- Star Wars: Galaxies - Jump to Lightspeed (2004), LucasArts
- Star Wars: Galaxies - An Empire Divided (2003), LucasArts
- Desert Demolition Starring Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote (1995), SEGA Enterprises Ltd.
- Vectorman (1995), SEGA of America, Inc.
- Shadowrun (1994), SEGA of America, Inc.
- Jurassic Park (1993), SEGA of America, Inc.
- The Ren & Stimpy Show: Stimpy's Invention (1993), SEGA of America, Inc.