In honor of International Women's Day on March 8, we “doubled-down” and celebrated by participating in a virtual interview with Art Director Andrea Fernandez of Netflix's “THE CUPHEAD SHOW!” We loved having a discussion about women in animation.
Andrea Fernandez Interview – “THE CUPHEAD SHOW!”
When did you discover your love of animation and who were your greatest influences?
Andrea: To be honest, I thought animation was real for a very long time. There was no distinction to me as a child between watching a movie that was animated…to me, The Little Mermaid was a real person.
I actually didn't have like, early animation heroes, because I didn't really understand what was going on, I think. But now, as somebody who makes this stuff, I actually think it's kind of a beautiful thing that I was just accepting of this wonderful reality, of these imaginative worlds that like the Disney animators were putting in front of me. And I was just like, “Yep, that's what I want.”
I remember thinking I wanted to be a director because I thought that's what it was. In 5th grade, I went to Universal Studios, and…everyone was picking out their, like, Hollywood star…My sister picked “Actress,” and my brother picked “The Terminator.” And I was like, “No, I want the ‘Director‘ badge.” Because that's what I thought I was going to do, and what I wanted to do, and, um, I always knew I could draw.
I liked art. And I liked making films and movies. And almost like, this is like the mixture of those two things. Animation is a mixture of those two loves.
I was like, very inspired then by actually like Mary Blair because I thought she was like, the only person at the time that I could find I was like, well, she's in animation. And she did all these, like movies that I loved as a kid. And that was like really inspiring to me as like, as a college student when I was like figuring out what animation really was and how I can fit into the space. So I would say early on, she was probably one of my bigger influences. I think I always looked more towards like female artists and female voices in this space. And they were hard to find.
And I wish there were more at the time than Mary Blair, but that really was one of the first people that I really was like, enamored with and her history at the Walt Disney Company. I wish I had more. But there weren't that many, unfortunately, like, females.
I think that's what's been wonderful about at least the last 5 years is that there are so many more women and, you know, in this space, and girls who know who those are like, that's, you know, that's really exciting that that's starting to shift.
Do you have a favorite style of animation that you prefer to create or work with?
Andrea: I have, like style ADD, and I think that's because I actually have ADD. So for me, it's actually, it's been, animation has been really fun because of that. Because one of the virtues of an animation artist is that they can shift and mold into different styles. It's kind of part of the gig you know, you have when you're an illustrator or fine artist, it's really about your own unique voice and finding your thing, and finding your aesthetic and animation you get to kind of step into I look at it as like, I don't know, like a dress-up box. And I get to like pick different people like different styles to wear and play with.
And this is very different than what I did before this, I worked on a show called “Unikitty.” That was like a sparkle explosion. And I loved it, like the palettes are exciting, and there was so much texture. And it was exciting to me, because I was like, “Who's ever gonna let me make a world full of glitter and a cat that lives in a pink castle, that looks like a cat? That's insane, who's gonna let me do that? I want to do that!”
So that was really exciting to me for that reason and then stepping into Cuphead. Cuz it was really exciting because I got to flex this, like, this love that I have for the actual medium of animation, like, where it started the history behind it, the kind of naturalistic palettes that come along with it. So I would say, and, you know, next, I really want to probably try something in the 3D space and push that like, I think for me, it's, it's less about this style, and more about the world, I feel stepping into for about 2–3 years, and how I'm going to wear that and how I want to like play in that space and the kind of artistic skills I want to push within while I'm working on that specific show.
I will say my heart beats a little faster for 2D because I think it's it's this classic, timeless medium. I don't know, I've tried watching Toy Story. I loved it when I was young, and I look at it now, and I'm like, “That is terrifying to look at.” After all this time, it hasn't aged well, but then I look at a movie like 101 Dalmations, it was probably made in like the 60s, and it's gorgeous. It retains this, like artistic beauty that, you know, a lot of the other animated mediums can't hold on to so style-wise, and I kind of love it all, as long as it's beautiful and fun to play with. I'm into it.
But medium-wise, I have a special little place for 2D animation.
Were there specific things that you wanted to bring out, in the animated series, from, say the video game and to bring it all together?
Andrea: Yeah, we look to the game a lot like the game did some really, really beautiful things. The biggest difference between what we were able to accomplish in the game is, is we just had different levers that needed to be pulled, right, like for the game, for the art for a game, you're making a lot less art for a video game, you know, so you can actually do things, they actually really stuck to traditional methods because they the volume of work they produced allowed them to do that.
For us, it's different, you know, to make an animated series, the amount of assets, our work, unique pieces that need to be created are, you know, in the 1000s. So it's a very different thing to do. But being said, you know, the spirit of the game is absolutely what we did, we wanted to retain as much of the game as we could, we just wanted to do it for a TV show, right for the narrative format, which entails different things, you have to get these characters to act, and you have to get, you know, you have to get them to do things that they would never do in the game and take them to places that don't exist in the game.
And so we're just pressing on, like different artistic buttons, and they are in the game, but it's all coming from the same spirit. And it's something that we want it to feel like they come from the same world, but almost like they were shot on a slightly different camera. So it's like, if back in the day, you saw this—you would never see this in an arcade because it doesn't work—but that idea that like you could see this in one medium and then translates to another one in a really kind of cohesive way, allowing for the differences to still remain there because of the differences needed to be there.
Something we talked about a lot [is how clean the animation is] because we knew that fans, like there's this like grittiness to the game and that they can create things in a way that because it's paper-like there's a watercolor that you're seeing on screen it has this really nice kind of tactile quality to that we couldn't do that because obviously, we had to use digital tools so we did instead was like up the ante we made the production value higher so that you as a consumer so felt of the media still felt like you were getting something that was talked here like premium per TV kind of thing.
And so you know that that's part of it. Some people don't like that it's clean, but I think I think we were aiming at a modern audience, right. Like we were like, as much as we love the video game. We were we had to make something new and something innovative and push the envelope in our medium. And for they were pushing the envelope in the kind of game space. And I think we needed to push the envelope in the animated format.
There are young women who are watching this and saying, You know what, I want to do that, I want to be an animator—what would be your advice to them? As far as getting into the entertainment space, the animation space? What kind of steps can they take to work on pursuing that?
Andrea: I think when I was younger, I would have been like, work hard work every day get really good at drawing. But I think the more I get into it, now, I actually think it's the opposite, I actually think you have to play a lot, I think you have to keep that sense of play alive, as long as you can, I think I was one of those kids that were like, very aware of childhood, like, I did not want to grow up, I was like, I'll take my time. And everyone's rushing to it, I'm getting good. And I think like, that's kind of helped me in what I do, like retaining this, like, sense of creative playfulness, I think is super important.
So as much as you have a goal of you know, maybe, maybe the goal is to get really good at drawing over a summer or two, I don't know, maybe shoot a little movie with your friends over, you know, a weekend. Like, I think that's the kind of if you're a kid like that's the kind of things that I think you should explore at that point.
If you're trying to actually break into the industry, that's different, that's a different thing. You know, like, I think school is important, learning is important education and connections are important. But if, if you're a kid, and you're looking at this and thinking, “How do I get into that, when I'm older?” I would say have fun. You know, the joy thing so that you can tell good stories later, and retain that kind of creative play in either your artwork or films or tik toks, whatever, you know, like, just create, and learn how to love to create, and then toss that out. And then do it again.
Because I think that's really what animation is, you know, it's a lot of trial and error, it's a lot of play. And you have to really like hone in on those skill sets, to kind of make things that are, you know, deemed successful for other people to watch. And when you're a creator in this space like that's really what it takes, you're really putting yourself out there, showing your ideas, trying failing, trying it again, like and through it all you have to kind of still retain that like, “Hey, this is fun.” You know, at the end of the day, like, I'm hanging out with these two cups, like and we're blowing up stuff like it's funny. It is a job, of course. But at the same time, I try to keep that perspective when I'm working on stuff and I think kids more than anyone should really, really hold on to that perspective while they're thinking about maybe venturing into making animation.
Watch Interview with Andrea Fernandez – “THE CUPHEAD SHOW!”
Watch THE CUPHEAD SHOW! Trailer
About “THE CUPHEAD SHOW!”
Based on the award-winning video game that smashed onto the scene with a gorgeous retro animation style, “THE CUPHEAD SHOW!” is a character-driven comedy series following the unique misadventures of loveable, impulsive scamp Cuphead and his cautious but easily swayed brother Mugman. As the two scour their surreal homeworld of the Inkwell Isles in search of fun and adventure, they always have each other’s back. Unless there’s only one cookie left, in which case it’s every cup for himself.
“THE CUPHEAD SHOW!” combines nostalgic delights, side-splitting gags, and a healthy dose of the heebie jeebies—especially when a ridiculously weird nemesis, The Devil himself, arrives on the scene to toy with our heroes. For King Features, C.J. Kettler will serve as the Executive Producer and Cuphead creators Chad and Jared Moldenhauer will serve as Executive Producers for Studio MDHR. The series will be produced by Netflix Animation and is executive produced by Emmy and Annie Award-winning producer, Dave Wasson (Mickey Mouse Shorts) and co-executive produced by Cosmo Segurson (Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling).
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