My friend Alex Mancheno is a cartoonist and animator. He’s yet to hit it big, but he’s diligently working on great projects. Educated at The School of Visual Arts in NYC, he assisted on a professional animation project for VH1 and is producing his own independent illustrated zine.
I caught up with Alex for a chat about his artistic influences, the animated blockbuster Beowulf starring Angelina Jolie and the future of animation.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a cartoonist/animator?
I first wanted to be a cartoonist in the early 80’s when my sisters and I all drew our own version of comic strip and cartoon characters. I drew my version of “Garfield” as an elongated “M” with similar Garfield eyes and a big round nose. I called him “Nutley”…probably from the NJ town though I didn’t know it at the time so that was sort of my first cartoon character I named and thus “made” after a fashion.
What were your earliest true animation influences?
Some of the first animation I remember seeing were Warner Brothers cartoons, Disney, Saturday morning cartoons. The animated film “Animalympics” was my first real glimpse of a non Disney animated film as was Canada’s first all animated movie “Rock & Rule.” Also, there was Secret of NIMH by Don Bluth and his video games “Dragon’s Lair” and “Space Ace” and his animated sequence in the film “”Xanadu.”
What movie changed your ideas/attitudes about animation and coaxed you more to dream?
Heavy Metal which I saw at age 6. LOL that REALLY blew my mind. There’s also Yellow Submarine with The Beatles. I was very surprised and happy when my animation tutor from Canada said he had worked on both HM and YS – those two really did jolt me out of the Disney mode of filmmaking at an early age,
In your opinion, what’s the best animated film ever – in terms of quality, story – overall production?
Pinocchio, simply because it’s so different from Snow White as a follow-up film with a very dark story. None of the villains die or get any comeuppance and because of snow white’s success. Walt was willing to spend more money on it and thus there were more risks taken most of which are mind boggling in hand drawn conceptual terms
What do you feel is the best animated televsion series ever?
I will have to say this just because of how diverse it was and how many other shows came from it…Liquid Television I can’t think of another show before that that showcased animation from ALL OVER….in a cable network
Do you look forward to working in CGI – or do you see yourself only as a hand drawn animator/cartoonist?
Truthfully, I wish I could see myself working in all those mediums. I think they compliment each other well when done in equal amounts – like CGI and hand drawn in the Iron Giant and digital artwork mixed with hand drawn in comic books and comic strips. Since I was taught mostly in traditional animation and hand drawn comics…I do like that a lot CGI I still have a bit of a love/hate thing with in that I want to like it, but hate the notion of it eclipsing traditional animation, but I know will not really happen as traditional has its own charm
Your favorite comic strip of all time? On a speculative note: Are comic strips “dying” out? Or will there always be room for “quick” humorous clips?
My favorite comic of all time would have to be Walt Kelly’s “Pogo”, it was excellently drawn, written and was of a time where comics could be that visually dense I was always told “oh,this medium is kind of dying out, try this one for employment”, but that was a while ago. and as you can see comic strips, comic books, quick humorous clips are still here. Maybe not as visible as other mediums…but still here
Your favorite comic book of all time? Why?
Cerebus the Aardvark by Dave Sim. Again, very visually good and one of, if not THE longest single story in independent comic book history
Do you resent comic book movies being – for the most part – action oriented? Aren’t there comics or comic books that rely more on story/character and visuals – aside from beating up bad guys and saving the world?
There’s one currently making waves called “Persopholis” (I think that’s the spelling) about a girl growing up Muslim, based on a graphic novel and even better, it’s animated in the same style as the book, but I have my cheesy action loving side… I’m not that into superheroes but most are, so I guess majority rules with movies.
Beowulf by Robert Zemeckis starring Angelina Jolie – some charge it looks like a video game. Others say it’s the “future of film” – thoughts?
Yesterday my sister said it looked too much like a video game! Motion capture rolls back into that touchy love hate with CGI thing, but the visuals are great. I looked at the book of concept art and like how the characters look…but, having never read Beowulf, I have no real inkling of the story. All I can say is I hope the plot can be followed. It’s said that special effects should be made to advance the story, not be the story, but if people like it, it may well be the future whether we like it or not. I remember reading of several directors in the past lamenting the “future of movies” they saw when they saw the original Star Wars.
Currently Alex is working on Wonderful – his independent comic strip which can be seen at: Wonderful.