Deja's first inspiration to be an animator came after a viewing of The Jungle Book when he was eleven. After graduating, he went into studying graphic design at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen, Germany.
Deja was employed by Walt Disney Productions in 1980 after corresponding with Eric Larson, one of Disney's senior Nine Old Men of animation who ran the studio's training department. In his early years as an animator, Deja sought assistance from seven of the Nine Old Men, all of whom were already retired.
While animating Scar, Deja remarked, "When I first began to animate this character, I remember thinking, 'How am I going to get all this humanized personality into this character without hands?' Hands are so important to expressing a character's emotions. Finally, I learned to concentrate on the overall body attitude, the angle of the head, and the facial expressions. Sometimes, very subtle things, like raising an eyebrow, let you show what the character is thinking."
The primary inspiration for Deja's performance and Scar's ultimate design came directly from Jeremy Irons.
"As a voice talent and actor, he was able to do so much with the dialogue and was a great springboard for the character," recalls Deja. "He had a way of playing with the words and twisting them so that they would come out very sarcastic and always a bit unexpected. I would watch him at the recording sessions and then run back to my desk because I couldn't wait to get started with the animation."
Some of Irons's physical traits also had an influence on Deja's design for the character.
"There was a darkness around his eyes that fascinated me and gave him an eerie look in his films. I wanted to keep that quality, so I gave Scar dark circles around his eyes and combed his mane as if it were slicked back."
Disney Animation Credits
The Black Cauldron
Animator: Gurgi, Dallben, and Fairfolk
The Great Mouse Detective
Animator: Queen Moustoria
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Supervising Animator: Roger Rabbit, Bongo the Gorilla, Mickey Mouse, and Cameos
The Little Mermaid
Supervising Animator: King Triton and Vanessa
The Prince and the Pauper
Supervising Animator: Prince Mickey
Beauty and the Beast
Supervising Animator: Gaston
Supervising Animator: Jafar
The Lion King
Supervising Animator: Scar
Supervising Animator: Adult Hercules
Animator: "Host Sequences" Mickey Mouse and "Rhapsody in Blue" Flying John