• Equestria Daily Interview Series: Interview with IDW Artist Amy Mebberson

    Yes Elsa, I do want to build a snowman.

    *glances about* Right pony blog!

    Bronies and Pegasisters, welcome yet again to another edition of the Equestria Daily Interview Series! 

    For today's edition, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Amy Mebberson, whom you might recognize from either her amazing covers or jaw-dropping interior art from the MLP comic series. 

    So, what does MLP and that Acme Giclee of Elsa have in common? Amy Mebberson of course! As for how and why, well you can find out all about that, and Amy's amazing career as an artist, after the break!

    Who is your favorite Pony? If you do not have one, which pony do you find to be the most fun or challenging to draw?

    If we're talking FiM, I don't have a best pony, I love them all. Of all of them to draw, I think I enjoy Pinkie Pie the most because she's the most cartoony and that's very much worked into her personality. As an artist, being able to squash and stretch her a little more than the others is great fun.

    What attracted to you My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?

    I was 10 when My Little Pony first appeared in the 80's and I loved them ever since. I knew Friendship is Magic was worth checking out when Lauren Faust brought her formidable animation design pedigree to the project.

    How did you get interested in art?

    I didn't really 'get interested' in art, I've just drawn ever since I could hold a pencil in my toddler fist.

    Which artists would you consider to be big influences on your artistic style?

    Far, far too many to name! Obviously, I am a massive fan of animation artists but I'm also a huge comic strip fan. So Charles Schulz, Chuck Jones, Disney's Nine Old Men. The usual list of suspects!

    After you decided that singing wasn’t the career for, you ended up getting what I’m sure everyone would consider to be a dream job. So I have two questions to ask. The first, in animation, what is an inbetweener? Second, what was it like going through the hiring process for Walt Disney Animation Australia?

    An Inbetweener is an artist who completes the hand-drawn stage of traditional animation. An animator works in rough drawings and brings the character to life, but they don't draw every frame of the animation. They plot it out with key drawings and chart how those drawings should move and then it gets sent to a Cleanup Artist, who makes clean tracings of the animator's drawings. Then it goes to the Inbetweener, who takes the cleaned-up drawings and adds the additional drawings the Animator indicates to complete the animation. So the name is quite literal - an Inbetweener does the drawings that go 'in between' the Animator's ones.

    I was hired at Disney under a trainee system that sadly no longer exists. I sent in a portfolio and was invited to do a rough animation test to prove I knew the fundamentals of animation. I had to roughly inbetween a short scene of Rabbit pulling a big suitcase out of a trunk. I was then offered a traineeship as an Inbetweener and went on from there.

    [Interviewer’s note: Pictured above is a small sampling of the films that Ms. Mebberson worked on while employed by Walt Disney Animation.]

    Of all of the Disney Properties that you worked on, which ones did you find to be the most rewarding to work on, or did any fond childhood memories come back to you as you worked?

    It's flattering that you think any of those reflect my 'childhood', I'm older than I look *laugh*.
    I'd say the Muppet comics I worked on were the most fun, because Classic Muppets ARE very much of my generation's childhood and it's still a delight to work on them to this day.

    One of Walt Disney’s quotes that has stayed with me over the years is his one about dreams. How “all our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” So, did your dream come true?

    Absolutely. I get paid by Disney and its licensees to make art of characters loved the world over. It's a dream that works for me!

    It’s unfortunate that when BOOM!’s license to produce Disney Comics contracted term expired Disney chose not to renew it. In many ways that brought about the end of a very large number of comic titles that had been in existence for nearly as long as Disney has existed. I suppose this could have brought about an end to your relationship with Disney once the license was revoked from BOOM, but that didn’t happen. 

    Instead, you went back to working directly for Disney, starting as a concept artist for Disney Interactive. How different was it working on Disney video game properties when compared to working on anything else you’ve done with them?

    Well, I didn't go straight from Boom comics to Dis Interactive, I did a whole bunch of other licensed comics in that time. The project I worked on at Junction Point for Disney was my first professional concept art work, so James Silvani [Main Artist for the Darkwing Duck comic book series] & I were very excited to be involved. Even if the project ended up not being produced, it was really not much different from a comic project. Our bosses engaged us for our own take and ideas for these popular characters and we ran with it.

    In November of 2012, the fans of My Little Pony finally got a taste of your 7 covers that you did for issue 1 of the IDW Comic series. How did you end up working on the comic series?

    A sketch of Derpy I did for a friend got tweeted, our editor Bobby Curnow spotted it and invited me to submit art to Hasbro for approval. My reputation for working under very tight deadlines preceded me, so he put me to work on covers, which often are needed at VERY short notice!

    For the Nightmare Rarity arc, the comic readers were introduced to your interior comic work of pencils and inks. However for the Celestia Micro issue, you blew everyone away when you did all the coloring for that issue as well. Nothing against Heather Breckel, (who is an extremely talented colorist), but why did you need to use a colorist for the Nightmare Rarity arc when you can clearly color extremely well on your own? Was it a time issue?

    Nope. For the ongoing MLP comic series, Heather Breckel is by default the series colorist, so that's pretty much her assigned regular Pony job. For the spinoff series, I was allowed to color my own comic, which I prefer to do, but it very much comes down to time frame and deadline. Sometimes I simply don't have time to color the interiors and it's far more efficient to feed them to Heather, so in essence the comic is being inked and colored simultaneously and makes editors very happy.

    For the Nightmare Rarity Arc, what were some of the sequences that stood out as something your either extremely proud of, or was something that was a challenge to you?

    The big splash page when we first see NightRarity in her fabulous glory is hard to beat.

    Did you design Nightmare Rarity?

    Yes. Any new characters or major changes to existing characters have to be approved by Hasbro. Heather gave me some ideas for the moon denizens for me to go on, but for NightRarity it was a fairly simple matter of doing a Nightmare Moon overlay on Rarity.

    For the Princess Celestia Micro Issue, I lost track of how many different cameos/shoutouts/popculture references you threw onto each and every single page as background gags. Which ones, if you can remember , did you have the most fun putting in? I know you did Darkwing Duck, Harry Potter, Sailor Moon, Ducktales, and Gordon Ramsey as some of more the more fun ones that I can remember.

    The Gordon Ramsay one was too good to resist. But I loved reading people trying to figure out the Huey Dewey and Louie ponies.

    In September, comic readers were treated to the pony pets issue where you got to showcase your skills as a storyteller without any of that pesky dialogue to get in the way of your art. I’m curious, how much of the issue was panel by panel by Jeremy Whitley and how much of it was your own artist instincts telling you to draw the comic this way?

    Jeremy wrote the script pretty much as it appears on the page, including the panel breakdowns and the basic character actions. He suggested the idea of Angel miming his actions and between the two of us we came up with the idea of using pictograms to suggest dialogue from Angel. But as with all good physical comedy, the challenge is to sell the scene without words at all, so that was by far for me the best part about this story.

    Over the course of these last two years, you’ve done 73 unique covers for all the individual comic issues, 8 comic book interiors, one exclusive cover for the Japanese reprint of the MLP: Micro Series, and probably more sketches of ponies than either of us can probably count. You’ve done a lot of art for this series.

    And during all of that time, you’ve done a weekly fan comic of the Disney Princesses as they live together under one roof. What can you tell us about Pocket Princesses?

    There is really nothing more to Pocket Princesses than the simple idea of 'what if all the Princesses hung out together?' I am far from the first person to play with this idea, fanartists love it. I doodled a few gags in my sketchbook for fun and started posting them online for giggles. I had no idea it would grow as big as it has! But it's very gratifying and thrilling to hear how much people look forward to it, especially children. Disney is really where my heart lies and always has so I'm very happy that something I made using Disney characters in my own way is resonating so much.

    What advice do you have for anyone who is interested in getting into art?

    Create art every day, or as often as you can. The ONLY thing that will make you a better artist is an open mind and practice. So many people ask professional artists how to get into art as a career, but there is really no one piece of advice or magical secret that will get you instantly there. It is absolutely all about persistence, practice and good old-fashioned luck in being in the right place at the right time for a chance to show your stuff.

    You can follow Amy Mebberson on the web at: www.amymebberson.com