The Austin Chronicle

The Wonderful World of Mondo

By Richard Whittaker, March 5, 2014, 12:47pm, Picture in Picture

We live in a Disney world. Just ask artist Mike Mitchell, who said, "If you were born in the ’80s, it's unavoidable. Or the ’70s."

Mondo art director Rob Jones laughed. "I can't imagine there was a time when Disney wasn't a part of it. Maybe for people in the ’20s."

SXSW has always been a special time for the Mondo Gallery. That's when it first opened in 2012, and then in 2013 it held its biggest single-themed show so far, dedicated to HBO's Game of Thrones. But there are few more recognizable brands on the planet than the House of Mouse, and this weekend, March 7-11, the local poster mavens and the mega-studio's blog Oh My Disney combine for a new show, Nothing's Impossible!.

It may seem like an odd combination. As Mitchell noted, "The Mondo audience, what they like is very mature. They like Aliens and John Carpenter films, a lot of detail, sometimes violent, overall mature themed stuff." However, Grammy-winning designer Jones called the pairing "a natural thing, just because we'd started working with Oh My Disney."

The poster company has worked on several Disney-owned properties, including Star Wars and Marvel Comics. After several one-off posters for the parent company like Steamboat Willie in 2011, Creative director Justin Ishmael called this new show "the big 'go-for-it' kind of thing."

The process for selecting the talent and movies to go on the walls was pretty simple. Jones said, "We wanted to make sure to offer this opportunity to artists we've worked with, and who we knew were enthusiastic for Disney." Then came a surprisingly simple two-step with Disney. "One, we had to send in a list of artists to be approved, just to make sure that these artists didn't happen to have a Mickey Mouse cutting his own head off, and two, we had to send them a list of titles."

Mitchell, who had his own show at the gallery last April, said, "I didn't realize how deep people were going with the Disney stuff. I just thought it was going to be The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast."

Instead, Jones said, "For the most part, people would say things that no one else wanted to do. Like Jay Shaw saying, 'I want to do The Cat From Outer Space." Only one title didn't make the cut: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, "this live-action Patrick McGoohan movie from the ’60s. Disney went, 'Great, that's perfect,' but the producers went, 'we don't know what this is, so no. It's way too much of a headache to figure out.'"

The biggest challenge was to work out how to curate the show to a manageable level. Ishmael called it "a 'with great power comes great responsibility' thing. … We could have had 200 people, we could have had 500 people, quality no restraint, but having 35 people in the show is pretty nice."

Ishmael and Jones both agree that this is another Mondo show where the jpegs just don't do the images or the process justice. Jones said, "I noticed when the artwork came in, it seemed like a lot of people put a lot more blood, sweat, and tears into it. Like (Killian Eng) always does a great, killer job on everything he turns in, but on The Black Hole, he went nuts. In every email he'd go, 'I went a little overboard on this one.' He did three roughs, and I'd love to see posters made of all three. They were all perfect."

Ever since they were delivered, the galley gurus have been pouring over the posters, finding tiny details in the finished version. That need for perfection made the printing process particularly painstaking, so those details didn't get smeared out. The end result stunned even Ishmael, like on Kevin Tong's WALL-E. "I thought that maybe there was a messed-up version because there was a glossy sheen over it, but they said, 'no, it's all metallic.'"

Oh My Disney and Mondo Present: Nothing's Impossible! runs March 7-11 at the Mondo Gallery, 4115 Guadalupe. There will be a special free family day on March 8, 9-11am, with refreshments and activities courtesy of Toy Joy. Pick up our SXSW Film issue (on stands March 7) to see some exclusive images from the show.

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