Back in October I had a friend who lives in North Carolina queue me in on a comic expo I had never heard of before that just happened to be around Boston… Cambridge to be exact. Of course, I go to school in Western Massachusetts so it was not exactly within my access at the moment.
I read a bit about it and then my finger slipped and I somehow accidentally booked a bus ticket for that weekend home. This was mostly after seeing that Emily Carroll would be there. She’s a fairly known online comic artist who had done artwork for the story and exploration computer game Gone Home (2013), as well as her recent graphic novel Through the Woods (2014). Find more about her on emcarroll.com
There were many great cartoonists and comic artists there like:
I love these sorts of things because I get to meet all sorts of artists I had never heard of, each with a table filled with their artwork, prints, originals, t-shirts, comics, and so forth. Several of which had been special guest artists who designed covers for such comics as Adventure Time, Regular Show and so on.
It was all just so inspiring. But I had a goal. To meet Emily Carroll, buy her graphic novel, say several words to her without drooling or passing out, and then getting her to sign it.
All of which I achieved!
At the end of the day I had amassed nearly every artists business card or anything else they were handing out, since I didn’t have enough money to buy literally everything I saw…because that is what I wanted to do.
Either way, it was pretty awesome and amazing. I’m hoping to go next year…I’ll probably definitely go…but what I’m really hoping is to have my own table next year. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Until next time!
(Also this was sitting next to me through most of the speeches. I’m not saying I would have stolen him…but I did consider it).
When Marnie Was There is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, known for directing the previous ghibli film The Secret World of Arrietty (2010). Marnie is centered on a 12-year-old girl by the name of Anna Sasaki. She is a foster kid who spends much of her time alone, until she moves to the countryside and meets a mysterious girl named Marnie who lives in the old house on the marsh.
While I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing When Marnie Was There for myself, I have read the novel, watched the Japanese trailer over thirty times and listened to the magnificent soundtrack from Priscilla Ahn and score by Takatsugu Muramatsu on repeat for days on end. When Marnie Was There tells a story from the perspective of a child in great depth and detail, much like Ghibli’s prior films, however, this time it deals with a more poignant look at isolation and depression.
With one listen of the title theme Fine On the Outside, written and sung by Priscilla Ahn, it is clear what the main character, Anna, is feeling. “I never had that many friends growing up, so I learned to be…okay with just me, just me, just me. And I’ll be fine on the outside.” The song continues on with a sense of loneliness and isolation. “Would you cry if I died, would you remember my face.” You can give it a listen for yourself right here. More interesting is that the song was not simply written for the film, but submitted for consideration. It was actually written by the artist when she was in high school, based upon her own experiences.
The soundtrack features additional similar tracks by Ahn, such as I Am Not Alone, Deep Inside My Heart and You’re a Star.
The film even presents lines straight from the character of Anna, such as the one where she is seen sitting on a bench sketching as other girls play in the distance. “There is a magical circle in this world that no one can see. Those girls are in the circle, and then there’s me, on the outside. But I don’t care about any of that. I hate myself.”
I found it so intriguing to have a character be presented so clearly as being depressed in an animated film. Though this isn’t uncommon in Japanese animation. We see similar feelings and expressions in many films, such as Colorful (2010) or Neon Genesis Evangelion. Another example is the Australian stop-motion animated film Mary & Max (2009), which even shows concepts of suicide. What makes Marnie different is the fact that its target audience is primarily children, though animation in countries outside of the U.S. are not often shoved into confining categories as being “for kids,” like they are in the U.S.
However, there was quite a hubub with the recent Walt Disney Animation Studios film Frozen (2013) and how people believed it accurately portrayed concepts of depression, anxiety and PTSD. Many who suffer from depression found the character of Elsa highly relatable. It may have been a huge part of why she has become so popular with the teenaged audience. With quotes from her featured song like, “Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show,” it’s hard not to view it as an allegory. [Elsa’s depression and anxiety was later officially confirmed by one of the films directors on twitter].
What is also interesting (but essentially expected) is the fact that while Frozen was an extreme box office success for Walt Disney Animation Studios, When Marnie Was There was pretty much the opposite for Studio Ghibli. The quaint and quiet nature of the film had a hard time competing with the intense, dramatic, musical, CGI, box office champion when it premiered in Japanese cinemas so close to its release.
This is also suggested to have been a reason behind the closure of the animation department at Studio Ghibli. No more films will be releasing for quite some time and the studio will focus solely on its distribution rights, products and museum.
I made sure to snatch a few When Marnie Was There items (actually I asked my friends mom if she could pick them up while she was visiting Japan). They’re quite lovely.
What do you think of When Marnie Was There and depression in animation? Does the film look interesting to you? Do you think it’s okay to show children these concepts? I’ll leave you with that, and my own sketchbook doodle of Anna and Marnie below!
First things first, I had no idea that anything actually interesting happened anywhere near where I go to school. Secondly, I didn’t realize so many amazing authors and illustrators lived in Massachusetts. The gallery featured walls and walls of amazing work and was accompanied by many of the books whose illustrations were featured being on sale by the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
I had the pleasure of seeing tons of artwork from Dr. Seuss to Maurice Sendak and meeting many authors and illustrators of whom I adore. There was Tony DiTerlizzi (author and illustrator of The Spiderwick Chronicles and The Search for WondLa series).
Then there was Mo Willems (creator of the popular book series’ Knuffle Bunny and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus). I actually knew Mo Willems from his prior work in cartoons while I was growing up. Shows like Sheep in the Big City (2000-2002), The Off-Beats (1996-1998) as well as work on Codename Kids Next Door (2002-2008). He seemed pleasantly surprised that anyone was actually bringing up any of these cartoons, which I personally was surprised by because the minute I heard his name I instantly thought of all these shows. I suppose that comes with all the childhood nostalgia. We had a nice chat about them. I thought to myself how interesting it must be to meet the audience for the show you had created long ago as adults now. 6-year-olds don’t have much of an outgoing voice, but here I am at 22 and I still remember them all like it was yesterday.
I got a copy of his book Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, which he signed for me. Though I wish I had one of the DVD sets of the Off-Beats or Sheep in the Big City onhand (not that they were ever released). Excuse how strange my face looks, I was way too excited and there was a ceiling light right above my head.
After that I met none other than Marc Brown! If you don’t know Marc Brown, he’s the creator of one of the longest running children’s series, Arthur. Arthur was a huge part of my growing up.
Arthur coated school walls, libraries and the PBS kids segment. I was just a little excited to run into him. He was also incredibly nice, not that I expected any less. I bought an Arthur book, Arthur Writes a Story, for him to sign and…well there was a tiny miscommunication when I told him “Damian with a double-a” because he wrote “to Daamian.” I told him it was fine but he said he had to make up for it and signed the other side, doodling a picture of Arthur for me. It was pretty great, plus I made out with my own original Arthur drawing.
I had this small urgency to let him in on the long going Arthur meme online but decided not to…it would be way too hard to explain how fairly innocent screencaps of a children’s television program can be so outrageously humorous for little to no reason. I guess that’s…just what happens when your preschool audience is almost entirely in their mid-twenties now, huh?
Anyway, it was quite exhilarating and fulfilling to meet such creative people, especially so many that had such an effect on my growing up.
If I’m around I’m hoping I can go again come next year! Maybe I’ll get a chance to meet a few of the other authors and illustrators I missed out on.
This is my entry for the September 2012 LAIKA/house (the people who made ParaNorman and Coraline) Creative Challenge.
The challenge was to create a character “Missing from ParaNorman” and so I decided to create the mentioned (but never shown and nameless) character of Mitch’s boyfriend. If you haven;t seen ParaNorman,it is a stop-motion animated zombie comedy for kids that is defiantly more than the trailers let on. [trailer] Mitch is a big jock and at the end of the film it was revealed that he has a boyfriend in the line “my boyfriend is a chickflick nut!” this actually lead to a bit of controversy from hateful, repressive parental units.
Meet Trent. He is a lanky, awkward teenager who spends a little too much time watching movies, reading and playing video games. He likes to watch “chick-flicks” because they give him a good cry as he’s mildly emotionally tormented. The simple mind of his boyfriend helps straighten out his stress and sadness. He likes Elvis, cartoons and says “Dude,” a lot. He was cut because he wasn’t necessary to the initial plot of the story and might have caused a bit more controversy then any one animation company could handle just now. He was also busy at a comic convention in New York City.
I decided to have Trent over Mitch’s shoulder because of the way he does this with his little brother during the film. (Also, I did not win the contest).