because I knew you wanted more!
because I knew you wanted more!
The quote in the title is from someone special we lost yesterday, Maurice Sendak passed away at age 84. Best known for ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ Sendak was a prolific writer, publishing more than 18 books and illustrating over 100.
Sendak was seen by many as a cynical, grumpy man. And I always suspected he was, but for no other reason than the world around him was strange and perplexing. Sendak pulled no punches with children. He told the truth.
Being a child is the single hardest thing any of us will ever do. Period. You come into this life knowing nothing, having to be cared for, and the instant you learn how to get away, you’re dragged back over and over again. You’re shorter than everything, can’t understand what adults are talking about, forced to learn facts you care nothing about, made to eat food you don’t like, and you have to be in bed at the same time every night. While around you, people are eating cookies in the middle of night, going to movies in the middle of the day, and generally seeming to have a much better time than you are.
As an adult, you understand that you’re doing these things for your children to protect them, help them learn and prepare them for life. Sendak’s argument was always, just be honest, your kids can handle it. And he was right.
Sendak has only a tenuous connection to Disney, some citing Fantasia as his inspiration to become an illustrator. However, he did seem to enjoy Disney, authoring two introductions to Disney books: “Mickey Mouse Movie Stories” and “The Disney Poster Book.”
“Where the Wild Things Are” was published in 1963, and is still one of the most popular children’s books in the world. Why? We could debate for a while, but I think it’s because it puts on paper what children feel when they’re angry.
Much like Mr. Rogers, Sendak allowed children to be angry. Not throw a fit, hit your brother, hold your breath angry, but a simmering, thoughtful anger. The kind revenge fantasies come from. The kind you work through yourself, then come to the hopeful conclusion that life is more important than this, you gather yourself up, and go have a slice of pie your mom made.
Notice how Max accepts his punishment with only a small amount of indignation. He retreats to his room, then to another land altogether. Now, is the island in his mind, or is it real? That’s for you to decide. Spike Jonze’s film version in 2009 presented an allegory. The Wild things are bits and pieces of Max’s personality and family. It’s his job as king to figure out how to make all the pieces work. A country divided cannot stand. For me, the book is Max’s simple desire to be in control, then slowly understanding that those with power sometimes need someone else to help them deal with life.
Even in the face of ‘Oh, please don’t go—we’ll eat you up—we love you so!’ Max calms the wild things and allows them to grieve and grow on their own terms. Because they can, like children can a lot of the time.
The fact that there is no father in the story is what brings me to the Disney connection. Does Max have a father? We don’t know. The movie tells us no, he doesn’t. But this plot device gives the child an instant vulnerability. Go back and think of how many Disney and/or Pixar movies contain a child with only parent, or only one parent who cares for the child: Snow White, Dumbo, Pinocchio, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Santa Clause, Princess and the Frog, Up, Tron Legacy, Mars Needs Moms, Chicken Little, Ponyo…
And the ones with no parents at all: Bambi, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Sword and the Stone, Mary Poppins (the parents are never there for the children), The Rescueres, Aladdin, Tarzan, Meet the Robinsons, Lilo and Stitch, Tangled…
Children instantly understand not being cared for and the anger that comes with it. It’s how we deal with the emotion that Sendak presented to us in such a special way.
You can go online and read more about Sendak’s love of his parents, his coming out of the closet, the controversies over his books and his general view on life, but what I want to say here is Sendak gives me hope. Hope for other adults never forgetting what it was like to be child. Honestly, we were all kids once, how hard is it to remember?
It’s always bugged me a little that people have latched onto Max as some kind of counter-culture, do what you want, devil-may-care character. If he’s any of those things, its because he’s a kid, they’re supposed to be like that. And while I do a lot of grousing about never forgetting childhood, when you are an adult, you have a job to do. Take care of yourself and your family before you prance down the street in your Max costume. If anything, let your children run down the street and be Wild Things, and be there when they come back. Always.
The “Where the Wild Things Are” film was only made with the express consent of Sendak, Jonze going so far as to include Sendak in the script writing process. It was in the very first trailer that I felt these two men had captured what it means to be a kid: Max is asleep on Carol’s back, walking through the woods. He awakens and asks where they’re going. Carol says he wants to show him something. The camera follows them through the woods, catching rays of the rising sun. Music plays.
For me at least, this is childhood, waking up each day to fresh hope and letting someone show you something you’ve never seen before. May we all never forget this.
RIP sir, you will be missed.
or “I’m just happy to be here!”
Friends, let me be one of the first to congratulate the winner of the Disney Store’s Design by Me contest, Christy W. This is something other designers look at, smack their heads and say “why didn’t I think of that?” It’s such a simple premise, and yet it says so much. Just as good design should. My hat’s off to you Christy!
Ok, so until May 4, we all thought the results would be different. But according to Disney, many of the votes, including some of mine, were not legit. No more info was given. In the end, I came in second place, losing about 400 votes, taking me to 1,200 total.
As for Michelle M.’s shirt, her take on Mickey was, I think, exactly what Disney wanted from this experience, a fresh, new look at Mickey Mouse. Yes, it was polarizing. Very polarizing, complete with accusations of cheating and even some generational trash talk about those “Brooklyn hipsters.” But good design, as with good anything, should cause a little stir. As my wife once said to me, one of the reasons she married me was I could make her the most angry. Something that illicits this much emotion has some serious emotion behind it. But more on that later.
For me, this entire adventure, and trust me, it was just that, was one of great highs, the lowest lows and everything in-between. And even though I didn’t win, I can thank all of you who voted, and had your friends vote for me! I even made the front page of the business section of the our local paper’s Sunday edition! How cool is that?!?!?
The truth is, I truly was honored to just be in the final five. I have no idea how many they got, but we can assume it was more than a few. And for about an hour on the first day, I thought I might have a chance, by the Friday after the contest started, I knew there was slim chance of pulling out a victory. And I felt how you say, not so great about it. I decided to try to get 1,000 votes, and I did just that. So thanks to each and every one of you. You made me feel like I created something meaningful.
So, about the contest itself, and the thread on the Disney Store’s Facebook wall about it. Wow, those people are vicious. I mean, just read through them. Yes, I was surprised that some of the designs got so many votes so quickly, and so long after the contest started, but that’s the internet folks. And for those people accusing some of the designers of ‘knowing the right people’ yeah, that’s how it works. It’s “social” media. I told every single person online I could tell about this. Some of you who voted for me may not even have liked my shirt, but voted for me anyway. And that’s cool.
Last year, I sent some Disney attraction posters I did for fun to Boing Boing. I was proud of them, knew that one of the moderators on the blog was a big Disney fan and thought what the hell. Within the hour, I got word via Twitter that he had posted them. Within 24 hours I had over 16,000 hits to this very blog. Even now, I get 2-3 hits a day just from that one post.
I also did some “Keep Calm” Disney posters, based on the English posters used during WWII. I posted them here, on Pinterest and Tumblr. I’ve had over 700 repins on Pintrest and over 7,000 reposts on Tumblr of these three. My point? This is how Social Media works. And though I tried to get my shirt higher in the rankings using these very same sources, it wasn’t in the cards for me.
And some of the things said about my shirt: “…it does not represent the spirit of the Disney brand or of our beloved Walt,” and “common and uninspired.” Sigh…Such is the life of a designer. Unlike fine artists, who have the leeway to create based on their own emotions and experiences, professional designers and commercial artists design for the marketplace. And we are met with much criticism much of the time. You have to have a thick skin in this business. Don’t get me wrong, it is through this fire we emerge as better artists, but it can sting at first.
I’ve also done these charity posters recently. I’m including them here because I can. And I think they’re really cool.
But in the end, it was just a t-shirt. Let’s all dial it back a little…
The one thing I can take from this? Out of all the entries, someone at Disney thought mine was one of the best.
I’ve tried to get Disney’s attention before. I would so love to do this very thing for them and design Disney Park merchandise. I even caught the eye of the Disney Store President on Twitter with my Mickey Ears idea. But this is the first time someone in the organization actively picked me. For that I am eternally grateful and will carry that with me the rest of my life. The masses can say what they will, but I’ll always have that nugget of validation.
If you’re still reading at this point, I’d like to take a minute and talk about the design process, because this is my blog and I can do that if I want ;-).
Market research…i.e. looking at the Disney Store Online for shirts, and walking outside my office to see what the kids are wearing these days. Working on a college campus give one a unique perspective on fashion and current style. This year? It’s all 80s dude. From off-the-shoulder t-shirts, big belts and gladiator sandals to neon sunglasses and bandanas, what was hot when I was in high school, is hot again. So, it seemed a natural fit.
Disney Park merchandise has had a decidedly retro feel to it for the past few years, with the 1970s being in the forefront. I decided to go one step beyond (see what I did there ‘Madness’ fans?) and bring Mickey into the 80s.
But what 80s style? Well, 8-bit games are a hot design trend now…
so I did a low-res version of the ears. Bright colors. Bold lines.
The “every guy you knew had one” Nagel posters are making a bit of a come back. So I tried one of those.
And I did one more
I even tried my Keep Calm idea
It wasn’t until I was somewhere with my daughter and saw my inspiration…shutter shades. Thank you Kanye for bring these back. Ever kid in my daughter’s school has a pair of these.
Of course, I couldn’t find an illustration of these in a vector format I could use, so I made my own:
Which led to this:
Add this totally awesome 80’s font, which happily matched the sunglasses:
Add some 80’s color from a palette I found online:
I remembered how much I loved paint spattered clothes when I was young…
Plus, we could only use a black or gray shirt, so I wanted something that would stand out against the black and really be in front. I also was going for a fun, Summertime shirt, and something that evoked those emotions of being with your friends, being outside and enjoying yourself. Back in the day, I spent every Summer from 1983-88 in Southern California, and most of that time was spent at either Disneyland or Universal Studios. I would have worn this shirt to within an inch of its life. So, for me, this turned into a bit of an exercise in experiencing my youth again.
The strangest part of all this? Two different Greek media outlets picked up on this and posted links. In the end, it didn’t do much for the votes, but cool none the less.
So, it’s over. A week of surreal experiences. I got new followers, talked to a lot of people and heard nothing but kind words from friends and family. Again, because I can’t say this enough, thank you for your votes, and making this a most memorable task.