Guests who attended our Pixar tribute show earlier this month were treated to artwork from Michaela Kuenster of Burbank, CA.
Michaela's work is colorful, romantic, and wonderfully whimsical. I recently had the privilege of asking her a few questions. Below are her answers.
1. The Pixar universe is full of characters we can relate to. Is there one particular character you identify with the most? Why?
The Pixar characters are so relatable because of the great scenes that those characters get to have, emotionally. Those characters get put through some tough stuff - which is why I love these movies. So instead of a character, I'll pick a moment...
One that has always resonated with me is from The Incredibles. Mr. Incredible shuts himself in his study after being fired from his soul-crushing office job. He empties out his briefcase and finds the message from Mirage, offering him the mission. He frantically scribbles down the information while Helen yells through the door about dinner. The message ends and he sits back in his chair. He looks up at his “Wall of Fame" above his desk, covered in headlines, awards, and the key to the city – all these mementos that represent his extraordinary past life. As Bob (Mr. Incredible) gazes up at the man he once was, his face changes... you can see it dawn on him that he’s been offered a chance to be that man again. He's been offered the opportunity to be who he has always been at his core - the man he had resigned himself to forgetting.
I think that we can all relate to that on some level – being bogged down with jobs. And life stuff can make us feel like we are aren’t using our powers, that we aren’t being the person that we know we can be. It can be discouraging and can even cause people to give up on their dreams entirely. That scene did a great job of capturing that feeling and making us feel what Bob felt, as he realized he was getting a second chance at greatness.
2. What person, place or thing is inspiring you right now?
I think I'm always subconsciously trying to rip off Bill Peet, Jules Feiffer, Quentin Blake, or William Steig. But then I subconsciously beat myself up, because it doesn't look like Robert Lawson, Robert McCloskey, Alan Tiegreen, or Al Hirschfield.
Also, the city of Los Angeles never fails to inspire me! I live in Burbank, but I work on a show called It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which is at Fox Studios. That translates to roughly 11 hours a week spent crawling across LA in traffic. In the morning, I zig-zag through town, like a warrior. At night, I cut up through the canyons. So much of that drive is full of inspiration to me – it’s also full of extreme rage and mental breakdown - but I try to focus on the inspiration…
The Hollywood freaks, the regular homeless guys, the yoga mat yuppies through Runyon, the drivers sitting in front of the agencies and mansions, the film crews setting up, the nannies waiting for their buses, the dogs out pooping... I am inspired by those LA stories, but having grown up here, I have my own personal history superimposed over them. Think about it: You're on your way to work and you get to watch a crazy woman urinate on the steps of the Cafe 50s where you had your first date. That's a lot of layers of inspiration.
3. You showcased a piece titled "Your Only Limit is Your Soul" at For The Love of Pixar earlier this month. Tell us about it.
My Pixar piece comes from Ratatouille, where Remy watches Gusteau's cooking show. Gusteau's philosophy is "Anyone can cook" - that nothing should hold you back from becoming who you want to be.
Sometimes you just need someone to believe in you, even if they're only on TV. As a kid, I remember watching Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross, Julia Child - and feeling the same way. I knew that they were just talking to the camera, but it felt like they were talking to me. ...So I made my Pixar piece based on that.
4. If you could travel back in time, what advise would you give to your 10 year old self?
Stay in school. Don't do drugs. Don't open a bicycle shop in Texas. Don't drive more than 55 mph through Arkansas. Never put potato peels down the garbage disposal. Everybody plays favorites. Always look at every angle.
Check out Michaela's Instagram feed here to see a gallery of her work.