Jerrod Maruyama Talks About Hipster Mickey, Hipster Minnie, and It’s A Small World!

Jerrod's newest piece in the Hipster Mickey line - Hipsters in Wonderland
Jerrod’s newest piece in the Hipster Mickey line – Hipsters in Wonderland

Jerrod Maruyama is an extremely talented artist.  One look at his particular style and you can see why he is such a perfect match for doing unique interpretations of iconic Disney characters.  He has been a featured artist at WonderGround Gallery in Downtown Disney Anaheim for a while and his take on Hipster Mickey and Minnie have graced everything from t-shirts to journals to coffee mugs to bags.  Jerrod is often asked to come and meet his many fans and you can see him at WonderGround Gallery for the reveal of his newest piece of art in the Hipster Mickey line of portraits coming up May.  It’s called “Hipsters in Wonderland” and Jerrod was kind enough to let us have a look at this great piece of art.  Jerrod kindly agreed to do an interview about his creations, his inspiration, and tells us about his dream Disney job!

Little Jessica Rabbit by Jerrod
Little Jessica Rabbit by Jerrod

Hi, Jerrod! Thanks so much for taking the time to let me do this email interview with you. I have been a big fan since coming across your work at the WonderGround Gallery in Downtown Disney Anaheim, and I am obviously not alone. Your work is on prominent display throughout the gallery. Where did you come up with the inspiration for Hipster Mickey and Minnie? By that, I mean how did you choose his facial expressions and his accessories? What were your inspirations for being “hip?”

First, let me say thank you for that nice introduction. WonderGround has been an incredibly fun and satisfying experience. In so many ways, it’s been a dream come true to be able to work with these characters in this setting.

Hipster Mickey was an attempt to dress-up Mickey in the most contemporary way possible. It was always meant to be fun – not a re-definition of who Mickey Mouse is. It’s just a costume – one of many that Mickey has worn over the years. There was a lot to draw on from the so-called ‘hipster culture’ so the costume and aloof expression came easily. I’m not very hip when it comes to fashion so it did require some research. It’s been more of a challenge to come up with equally iconic outfits and expression as we’ve continued the line. Doing Hipster Minnie was just a natural extension of the original. Plus, I had so many requests for a Minnie piece. I was so glad we were able to incorporate her. The whole process has been great fun.

One of Jerrod's favorite interpretations of Hipster Mickey
One of Jerrod’s favorite interpretations of Hipster Mickey

You mentioned in an article that you wanted to make give Mickey a more contemporary look. Might we see other versions of Hipster Mickey from other decades? Perhaps a 50’s Hipster Mickey or a 70’s Hipster Mickey? I know I would buy that stuff!

I think they already exist! If you look back over the years, Mickey has had some very iconic costumes that have tied him directly to the current era. I vividly recall Disco Mickey and that one poster of a very 80’s Mickey and Minnie. That to me represents the ‘hipster’ Mickey of the times. In another ten years, we’ll see another costume that ties Mickey to whatever represents that era. Mickey is always hip.

I love the clean lines and color palette you use for your Hipster Mickey artwork. I noticed that Hipster Mickey is a divergence from your World of Cute work and other Disney pieces. What I mean by that is that the line work (I hope I’m using the correct term) is darker and more noticeable. What made you decide to go in that direction?

The kawaii characters I create have a distinct style. I want those characters to look soft so I usually avoid hard outline and sharp points. I didn’t want that same approach for Hipster Mickey. I wanted him to have a more graphic design feel. I think it works better for the tone of the image. The kawaii characters tend to look like toys. Hipster Mickey was meant to look more like a graphic.

Small World of Cute piece developed for the 50th anniversary of the legendary attraction
Small World of Cute piece developed for the 50th anniversary of the legendary attraction

Speaking of World of Cute work that you’ve done, the artwork you created for the “It’s A Small World” 50th anniversary was beautiful. I especially love the Small World of Cute print that you designed. What was it like being asked to work on a piece for the 50th anniversary? What has it meant to you and your career being given this opportunity?

I’m a huge fan of it’s a small world and the work of Mary Blair. For anyone who has visited a Disney park as a small child, ‘small world’ is almost always a memorable moment. It’s the most vivid memory I have of my early visits to Disneyland. It’s still one of my favorite attractions – especially during the Holiday season. So, to be able to work with these iconic characters was very exciting for me. It’s something to cross off the bucket list. Also, I have great admiration and respect for Mary Blair’s work on the project. Nothing I do can come close to her iconic designs. My work is a salute – a sort of fan letter – to her vision.

I noticed from your work on Flickr that you are a big Studio Ghibli fan. What is your favorite Studio Ghibli film and why? What role has anime played in your style of art?

I love the films of Studio Ghibli. They are creative in ways American animation will never be. There’s a free form to the storytelling that you just don’t see anywhere else. It’s hard to pick a favorite. My Neighbor Totoro is definitely up there. I guess Princess Mononoke is my all-time favorite. I love the mythic story and characters. The score is just fantastic. Other than those films and a hand-full of others from different studios, I don’t know much about anime. I’m much more influenced by Sanrio and that approach to character design.

What would be your dream Disney assignment?

I would love to design a whole line of merchandise for Disney that features my specific style of character design. I look at what Disney Japan does with their merchandise and I am always amazed. I would like to bring some of that to the American parks. I’ve done little bits here and there but to create a whole line of products with a consistent style would be fantastic.

I’d also love to design an official Vinylmation series.

Jerrod shared more about his art, his background, and what advice he would give to parents to encourage their children in the arts.  Come back and read the rest in part two of my interview with this talented artist posted on Babble.com.  You can view and purchase works of his at WonderGround Gallery at Downtown Disneyland Anaheim along with great merchandise featuring his art.

 

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