Liger, Get Ready For Your Closeup: Jon Heder Scores Production Deal

Actor will assist in development and creation of animated and live-action films, and act in them.

In movies like “Napoleon Dynamite” and the recent “Just Like Heaven,” rising star Jon Heder’s animated personality has endeared him to audiences.

Now, thanks to a new deal with Universal Pictures, his work will literally be animated.

“I love animation. I’d like to do it myself someday,” Heder said recently, adopting the voice of his most famous character. “I’m pretty good — I can draw a killer Liger.”

Although the Lion/Tiger progeny was deemed by Heder in “Napoleon Dynamite” as “pretty much” his favorite animal, it can be assumed that Universal is willing to accept other subject suggestions as well. The first-look deal, which includes both animated and live-action vehicles for the 28-year-old actor, covers the Greasy Entertainment production company he operates with his two brothers. Under the terms of the deal, Jon will assist in the development and creation of the films, and also contribute his distinctive persona both on camera and in the recording booth.

“It’s not all I want to do, but I’d definitely like to do it,” Heder said of utilizing the skills that earned him and his identical twin, Dan, computer-animation degrees from Brigham Young University; Jon, Dan and older brother Doug all studied film at BYU. Dan is now a character animator (he worked on “The Chronicles of Narnia”) and Doug has produced video games with the likes of Tony Hawk.

Adding with a grin that “these just look like fun projects,” Jon was already committed to providing voices for two animated flicks before the Universal deal: the comedy “Monster House” (due in July) and the surfing-penguin flick “Surf’s Up” (2007). According to Jon, the brothers’ new arrangement represents the realization of a goal they set while in school.

Doug and Dan are expected to run Greasy’s day-to-day operations, with the power to option material and/or hire writers to develop the Heder brothers’ ideas. Universal, which doesn’t possess traditional animation facilities, expects the clan to utilize its entertainment backgrounds to create several computer-generated films.

Among his other responsibilities, Brother Jon will be called upon to provide his instantly recognizable voice to the projects, a gig that he claims isn’t nearly as easy as you might expect. “To tell you the truth, ['House' and 'Surf'] are two of the most challenging projects I’ve done yet,” he revealed. “You’re not in costume, you’re not in an outfit, so it’s easy physically, but it’s not as easy as it might be.”

Regardless, the brothers Heder will begin developing projects immediately, with the star of “Napoleon Dynamite” already insisting that he would forsake technology if he gets the chance to embrace his dream project. “I don’t know about a CGI Liger. If I ever animate a Liger, it would have to be two-dimensional,” he laughed. “Ligers aren’t cool enough for computers.”

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