All photos by Wizard Skull
Brooklyn-based artist Wizard Skull takes original animation cels from beloved childhood cartoons such as He-Man, The Smurfs, and My Little Pony, and “reboots” the stills by adding new characters to the piece, often in compromising positions. A lot of these stills look like nightmares you might have had as a child—Pac Man attacking a bizarro Mickey Mouse, Ronald McDonald, and Smurfette. Others look more like the messed up erotic fan art you find in the deep, dark depths of old Livejournal accounts. I asked Wizard Skull some questions about the series, titled Michael Bay. This is what he had to say for himself.
VICE: Why is the series called Michael Bay? This is a dig at the guy, right?
Wizard Skull: I called it that because it is somewhat influenced by what he is doing. Instead of a rebooted movie, it's rebooted artwork. It's nothing negative against him. When the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie trailer came out, I was seeing everywhere on the internet people getting upset because the turtles had nostrils added to them. I was thinking adding nostrils is nothing. If I could redesign the turtles, I'd do a lot more than that. I redrew the turtles as I saw them to be real mutants, and that kind of summed up what the series was about, taking preexisting characters and recreating them in my own way.
So, what inspired you to do this? How did you obtain these cels?
I love cartoons from the 1980s and early 1990s. If I could be an animator working on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe or The Smurfs, that would be my dream job. Also, owning the animation cels is like holding a piece of my childhood and I can now add my art to it. So that's what inspires me. Also, the idea that there is a limited number of these out there, and I'm destroying them in order to recreate them as my own art is what inspires me to keep doing it. I've gotten most of the cels through the internet and also auction houses.
My initial reaction to seeing these images is obviously "childhood ruined." Do you like that, or is that not the intent?
That's not really the intent. I think people like cartoon characters and other pop culture things to be ruined. A lot of the time people say that to me, and then they buy my art.
I choose the cels mostly based on cartoons I watched. Also, I like to have my characters interact with what's already on the cel. A lot of them I come across, and start thinking of what I see going on in the scene, then I need that cel.
How do you feel about this type of animation being a dead art form? Do you like the direction animation is going in today (computer generated)?
I like physical artwork. They are easier to alter permanently.
Do you have a personal favorite piece?
My favorite one so far is one I haven't even started yet. It's an animation cel from Garfield and Friends, signed by Jim Davis. As a kid, I collected all the Garfield books and would draw Garfield all the time. I can't wait to ruin it.
How long have you been doing this? Do you plan on retiring this soon?
I've been doing it for about two months, and I'd like to continue. If I could get my hands on a Mickey Mouse cel from the Fantasia movie that would be the ultimate goal. Those cels can go for over $20,000 though.
So, have any hardcore fans of these shows given you hate mail?
So far all the feedback has been positive. People who have original animation cels are now contacting me, asking me to add to them, and these cels aren't cheap.
I would like to get in touch with some of the original animators who drew these cels and see what they think.
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