Emotion Time Lord!
Doctor Who airs tonight and we can’t contain our excitement! Check out this awesome fan art of an Emotion Time Lord!
If you haven’t watched Manly yet then I suggest you do so ASAP! IT is all kinds of awesome or shall we say gore-some. ^_^
What happens when two wildly creative brothers get together to create an animated project of their own? In the case of Jesse and Justin Moynihan, you get Manly, Cartoon Hangover’s newest Too Cool! Cartoons’ independent short, that’s what! Just two and a half years apart (Jesse’s older), Jesse and Justin were brought up outside of Philadelphia and have pretty much lived together most of their lives, and worked together on everything from various music-related endeavors to performance events to Manly.
Jesse has primarily focused on animation and illustration, including working as a storyboard artist on Adventure Time, for which he received a Primetime Emmy nomination for the episode Too Young (Season 3, Episode 5), and where he also writes some of the premises. Jesse is also well-known for his graphic novels, including the mystical sci-fi title Forming. He is also a musician. Justin is an avid outdoors man and musician; he has composed several songs for Adventure Time. Justin has also developed a range of physical outdoor programs, worked as a guide and has taught wilderness medicine courses. Together the guys have been in multiple bands. For Manly - the brothers co-composed the music, with Justin penning Nimbus’ song.
I think you’ll find this interview with Justin and Jesse almost as fascinating as Manly.
Frederator Times: How did you come up with the idea for Manly?
Jesse: I can’t remember! We were emailing and talking in video chats for a year - brainstorming ideas. This one just emerged out of nowhere, it seems like. Small pieces that just started to fit together. I think the concept started really broadly about general philosophical ideas about Death and the Universe. Then characters emerged out of that. Then we decided we had to really pull the characters into the foreground.
Justin: We played with a bunch of ideas. I think Jesse originally came up with the idea of a hermaphrodite who killed Gods for her Dad to escape the collapse of the universe. We both came up with the idea of a best friend like character. We were thinking of creating a show that delves into the deep thinking of Star Trek TNG, with the violence of Fist of the North Star, with the tenderness of the Little Prince. Jesse drew a bunch of pictures while I came up with the idea of a bunch of Gods. We swapped and I wrote character descriptions of the images he gave me and he started to vamp on the ideas I gave him.
FT: In developing Manly - did you also create a back-story for her planet?
Jesse: Yeah we have some back-story about Manly, but I think that stuff still needs to remain a mystery for now. I will say that Manly is the only daughter of Ahriman, and he’s had countless (thousands of) male offspring. Why is she the only daughter? That’s something we’ll explore if we get a chance to do more episodes. If not, then I guess you’ll never find out!
FT: What being is Nimbus?
Jesse: I don’t think we can answer that just yet. Nimbus is a little bit of a mystery.
Justin: The mystery of Nimbus might be a big part of the show if we are granted a season. From what you see in the short, he is a balance, or an outside perspective in the violent world that Manly lives in. What can I give away without spoiling or locking myself in?… He is a cloud climber.
FT: Is it harder to create a character or storyline?
Jesse: It’s harder to create a character. Storylines are transient. Characters have to last and evolve over many many storylines. They need the spark of life and relatability to hold the audience captive. Stories are easier. Building a good character is a little more mysterious.
FT: Is there a specific reason that many of your characters in Manly (and other projects) have points or curves on their heads (hats - helmets)?
Jesse: It’s really just a design sensibility. Although some designs relate to sacred geometry.
Jesse: I loved The Point! as a kid. I’m sure it’s at least had some general influence on the way I see myself in the world. You know, like not fitting in anywhere.
FT: How do you decide on a color scheme for your projects, specifically Manly and Forming. Yellows and pinks/reds play a big role in them - why?
Jesse: I go for the most saturated and lurid end of the color spectrum. I want to convey a heightened expression of our life force through color. That’s the idea anyway. Blood, guts and energy!
FT: What are the best and hardest parts of collaborating on a project (on any project, not just on one with your brother)?
Jesse: Collaboration means giving up a part of your ego to a greater goal. You have to be humble and assertive at the same time. It’s a balancing act of knowing when to listen, and when to make a decision. The best part is when an layer of complexity emerges from the merging of multiple brains. You can’t accomplish that with one brain.
FT: What’s it like working with your brother? (ed. note: in the photo above, that’s Justin on the left and Jesse on the right, looking a little like Nimbus - don’t you think?)
Justin: We’ve been working together on projects for maybe 22 years? Seriously. But we still get into it too much (fight). We are getting better, but somehow we still hurt each others feelings some… I think. Or at least I frustrate him/vice versa.
Jesse: We’ve almost always lived together, except for a few years where I was living here in LA by myself, and the year he lived in Japan. Justin is my main collaborator in life. Even if we’re doing different things, there is a general understanding that both of our lives are dedicated to creative expression. Obviously brothers fight sometimes. So we can get into it from time to time like those brothers from Oasis, except I think we’re cooler than the dudes from Oasis.
Justin is more of a dreamer, and I’m more pragmatic when it comes to visualizing projects. It’s a good mix, but sometimes yeah there’s some friction.
FT: What other projects have you and your brother done together?
Jesse: Justin and I have been in bands together since middle school. We’ve always collaborated on music and theatrical presentations for our bands. We used to organize art/performance events at our old warehouse in Philadelphia, as well as writing clubs, and spiritual dream journey clubs. We used to make zines together too.
FT: How did you get into animation? Do you doodle?
Jesse: I was making comics/graphic novels and Pen Ward discovered me. Then I moved to Los Angeles and started being able to afford a dentist. (ed. note: see one of Jesse’s doodles above)
FT: Do you draw too Justin?
Justin: I do. But I work with pencil and crayons (an effort to learn colors), and I used to do a lot of wood burning. I’ve moved most of my artistic attention to writing and composing though.
FT: How did scoring Manly work?
Justin: We gave Alex Tyson the episode to play with and do what he was inspired to do. Then we incorporated it into what Jesse and I composed together. Scoring was actually really fun. One the better collaborative moments by Jesse and me.
FT: What is more fun composing on your own or collaborating with someone?
Justin: The product I make collaborating with Jesse is always better, he pushes me in ways I don’t push myself. But we fight a bit in the process. Like I said earlier, I think we are getting better and not fighting. And I am getting better at composing on my own.
FT: What was the first instrument you learned to play? What others do you play?
Justin: Piano was the first, and still the main. I dabble with a bunch of novelty instruments, including some devoted periods to the accordion, the uke and 5 hour energy bottles.
FT: What is your favorite instrument to play? Did you take lessons or are you self-taught?
Justin: The piano still wins. A mix of both. I started with lessons, spent almost a year almost alone playing for 4-6 hours a day, then took lessons again, this time for ballet accompaniment, then self-teaching again.
FT: Jesse, what instruments do you play?
Jesse: I mostly play the violin and guitar. I also play bass, and mess round with synthesizers. I’ve been slowly teaching myself the cello too.
FT: Did you two play music together growing up? Do you have a band now?
Justin: We still compose and record for our music project (once band) Make a Rising. We are releasing a full length album in chunks called Wounded Fealers right now. Jesse is going to the East Coast in August to mix some songs we’ve been chipping away at.
We started playing music together in 1991 in a punk/funk/ska band. We had a progressive pop band after that. And then Make a Rising, which is more ambitious.
FT: Justin, what other projects are you working on - or have you worked on recently?
Justin: I composed an hour long modern dance piece that was performed at the Annenberg in Philadelphia this past February. That felt like a pretty big deal to me. The dancer/choreographer who commissioned me (Gabrielle Revlock) makes some pretty wild and awesome stuff, so it was a real honor to be trusted with a huge piece like this. The piece was entitled Confetti. I adapted some of the music for a smaller piece she performed called Lobster Slice as well.
I also finished a novella last year entitled I’m Fine. Really rough drafts are on my website in sections; the current final draft is also on the site. I am currently working on another novella and a short play.
FT: As creators what is like working with Frederator?
Jesse: The only thing they were strict about was the running time being under 5.5 minutes long. I think we went a few seconds over. Besides that, it’s been a very trusting experience. We got one note about emphasizing the relationship between Manly and Nimbus. That was a good note.
I wanted to work with Frederator because I knew they wouldn’t interfere with our ideas. They totally allowed us to pursue a direct vision, and didn’t hang us up with months/years of development notes.
Justin: They are pretty easy to work with, though I have nothing to compare them to. It feels like a reasonable balance between chillin and get ‘er done.
FT: If Frederator’s Cartoon Hangover hadn’t given the go ahead on Manly … did you have another idea to pitch? Can you say what the idea was?
Justin: I always got projects in mind… Not sure if I should say, might want to pitch them one day. One involved two brothers looking for their parents in their dreams. It would have been a vehicle for tripped out imagery, introspection, and practical skills for lucid dreaming.
FT: Jesse, you have said that Manly is, “about Spirit triumphing over flesh.” What does that mean to you - and are you a spiritual person?
Jesse: Yeah, I am a spiritual person. I think if you consider yourself an artist, you should consider yourself a spiritual person. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but for me it’s vitally important. When you are reaching for ideas, where are you reaching to? And what is the limit of your reach? Sometimes you need to go beyond the limits of your physical identity and give into higher forces of creativity. How you want to define that is up to you. But in the realms of creativity, the laws of the material world can break down.
We’re planning on exploring these ideas in Manly. Manly has violence and crudeness but there is an underlying philosophical exploration happening. Hopefully that comes through. All of our greatest mythological heroes have triumphed over their flesh in some way. I think that’s our greatest goal as humans!
FT: How about you Justin - are you spiritual? How does that play into the work you do?
Justin: I think I was having an existential crisis for about 15 years. From 17 to 32. I definitely leaned out supernatural and non-ordinary realities to keep me from despair, but I could not understand how we (all) could be one yet feel divided as souls (and objects). This questioning led me to a lot of thinking around non-duality. I think just the meditation and intention around that thought process, coupled with efforts to expand my perspective and recognize the artifacts that influence my cultural bias, along with a willing (and purposeful) engagement with extremely painful physical and emotional ordeal - this head first interaction with the things that scare me - had led me to a place where the conflict has really dissolved.
Sometimes I worry that that will make my art less exciting, or less relatable. I mean people really love conflict and drama! And it certainly can still exist with my perspective, but it is something different. Well, yeah, to answer your question, these inquiries into universe and self definitely come up in the work. And the archetypes and rituals used to interact and describe these quandaries appear as well. I’m big on writers like Daumal and Hesse who incorporated these journeys of the soul into their stories; and in tv and movies: twin peaks, true detective, Jodorowsky, Boorman…
FT: Were you brought up in an artistic and spiritual family?
Justin: Our Mom is a writer and plays the flute. Our Dad writes too, but differently, and he likes singing Elvis karaoke. They are also both super spiritual and really out there. They have an artistic openness. But I wouldn’t say they are aesthetes.
Jesse: Our mom can paint, but she never really does it. I think she’s very insecure about her painting abilities. I don’t know why! We were raised in a very spiritual environment that was Christian early on and then sort of evolved into a personal interaction with subtle forces around and inside us. I don’t operate in the same way as our parents, but I can’t deny that I come from that, and that I have a great appreciation for it.
Thanks Justin and Jesse!
The creators of Manly, Jesse and Justin Moynihan are doing a Reddit AMA this Sunday 6pm EST August 3rd. Ask them anything!
Adventure Time storyboard artist and writer Jesse Moynihan along with his brother musician and Adventure Time composer Justin Moynihan have created Manly in which they have described as “Silver Surfer meets Star Trek Next Generation, with the violence of Fist of the North Star and the tenderness of the Little Prince”.
Now stop reading the description and check it out for yourself!