From the mind of veteran
animator and storyteller Everett Downing comes an inventive and straight up beautiful project and crowdfunding campaign that aims to amaze you,
his short animated film “The Book of Mojo.”
With a recently launched IndieGoGo
campaign, Downing’s adaptation of his comic book of the same
name tells the story of Lucy, an orphaned teenager and new initiate into the
world of magic, who with her newfound and growing abilities ditches the
foster-care system to search for her father. But when Lucy’s search leads her into a dangerous confrontation
with a merciless gang intent on pressing all magic users into committing
illicit activities for them, a 7 foot tall enchanted statue drops from the sky,
rescuing her from certain death…and the real adventure now begins.
I recently interviewed Downing about “Mojo,”
taking a sneak peek into his mind and 15-years of experience in animation as a
story artist and animator at Pixar, Blue Sky and
DreamWorks., with credits that include “Ratatouille,” “Up,” “Toy Story 3,” “Brave,” “Ice Age” and “Ice Age 2.”
Although increasing in popularity, it is still rare to see the protagonist
of an animated film be a person of color.
Was it important for Lucy to be so? And if so, why?
It is important to me. When I
first wrote the comic book, she was Polish, but the more I was writing the
script I thought to myself, “Why don’t we see more people of color in these
roles?” I felt I was falling into
those same traps of old. So in Lucy I created someone who reminded me of my
[For characters of color] I felt
someone had to draw the line in the sand because its important…even more so
after my daughters were born. I began
to watch the things they watch that usually have the princess phenomenon, and
they don’t see themselves or me in those things. I want to change that, to have people of color feel free to
see that. I remember one day my
daughter coming home looking perplexed wondering why she’s not blond like her
favorite baby doll. We assured her
that it’s okay to be you.
What remains is that when people
say popular culture, they mean white color. But it doesn’t have to be.
I know the character of Mojo himself is supposed to have mysterious,
and unknown to us initially, origins. But, he seems to have origins in the tales
of the Golem? Was that, and are
there any other inspirations, that led to Mojo as we first see him?
Mojo is partially inspired by
mythology. The story is all about
a world where mythology now becomes fact. [When I first devised it] there was
more of a connection between Mojo and the original [Lucy’s] culture. But as the story progressed, that began
to change into their being connected through their circumstances, not from
their histories. They are more mirrored through their individual journeys.
The teaser animation is fantastic. What has your experience at Pixar brought to the making of
Comic books are my entry into the
industry, and that’s where I wanted to [work] when I went to college, but I
ended up getting into animation. This is why I revisited the medium, having started “Mojo” as a
Career-wise, I began [as a
storyboard artist] with the studio Big Idea Productions (“VeggieTales” series)
as a freelancer. I then got my
first feature work with Blue Sky Studios where I worked on “Ice Age” and learned
a lot about both animation and performance, and they gave me a lot of opportunities
to work out on how to better shape the story through the storyboarding
process. As important as it was
for me to be there, I learned Pixar was hiring animators and felt like their
storytelling was so top-notch that I wanted to work there even if it wasn’t in
the story/storyboarding department. While there, I worked with Brad Bird on “Ratatouille,” and learned so much from him.
Their process is really scrutinizing, the work doesn’t come out easily or quickly
until it is perfect; I stayed there until “Monsters University.”
At Pixar, I didn’t make it into
the storyboarding department, so I decided to start my own comic and that’s how
“Mojo” began. [The comic book]
helped me learn how to make even better stories. I finally made it into the story department shortly
thereafter, but I also decided to make an animated teaser for the comic with
some of my cohorts, putting the ideas we learned from our job into effect, and
it came out amazing.
When [business circumstances] led
to my getting laid off from Pixar, I decided to put the celebrated teaser into
effect and make it a full animated special. Still, it got stalled when I got a job from DreamWorks soon
thereafter, who did me really well for a while. But after having the project on
hiatus for a while, I decided to go all in resume it.
Your voice talent do an amazing job instilling life into the
characters we already see, but if you had your pick and an unlimited budget, what
actors would be in your dream cast?
My team does do an awesome job,
I’m so proud of their work. If the coffers were wide open, though, and this is
also mixed with who I envisioned when I was designing the characters, I would
choose Keith David (“Gargoyles,” “Spawn”) or Clancy Brown (“Superman,” “Justice
League”) for Mojo, but also began to think you could do a different take on it,
especially considering I like to
do different things with the voicing. That said, I’ve always liked the
earnestness of Chris Pratt’s voice. For Lucy, there are a few people I
like: Amandla Stenberg from “The
Hunger Games,” or Zendaya (“K.C. Undercover”), but when I was first writing it I
was thinking of Keke Palmer (“Akeelah & the Bee,” “Ice Age: Contiental Drift”).
For the main bad guy, Clancy would
also fit really well for that. For
the Mother Yu mentor to Lucy, I pictured Ming Na (“Mulan”). I also really like Kelly Hu’s (“Young Justice,” Phineas and Ferb”) voice.
Good stuff. Everett, anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Right now, the amount we’re asking
for in the crowdfunding campaign keeps the momentum going [on our production],
so we’re very grateful to the support we’ve received. “The Book
of Mojo” is an interesting and cool world that we haven’t seen before, and we
look forward to expanding it for our audiences.
see more about “The Book of Mojo,” including all the cool incentives, visit: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mojo-the-animated-short#/story
To keep up with Team MOJO, visit
their website www.bookofmojo.com ,
Facebook page , Twitter, Tumblr at http://teammojogo.tumblr.com/
and on Instagram at https://instagram.com/bookofmojo where you can join the
conversation by using the hashtags
#animationseries #wassupdos #magicworld