Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Maxim: How Grapes Become Wine

MAXIM art director Billy Sorrentino emailed me on August 3rd with an interesting job: they needed six spots illustrating the winemaking process, and they wanted them drawn in the style of the Schoolhouse Rocks educational cartoon shorts. This assignment came my way thanks to cartoondom's preeminent style mimic, the singularly gifted R. Sikoryak, (who was too busy to take the assignment himself, and was kind enough to recommend me).

After accepting the job, I poked around on the web a little bit for some Schoolhouse Rock pix and background info. As a child of the Seventies who'd spent way too much time planted in front of the tube, I was entirely familiar with the cartoons, yet I had no clue who'd made them. I was fascinated to learn that veteran cartoon talents like Arnold Roth and Rowland Wilson did design work on Schoolhouse Rock, while the series' core style was established by the phenomenally talented advertising artist Tom Yohe, Sr., (his son, Tom Yohe Jr. would lend his talents to some of the later cartoons). Yohe, Sr. originated the long-running series in 1973 with fellow ad guys George Newell & David McCall, (along with an assist from Michael Eisner, in his capacity as VP of Childrens' Programming at ABC).

I'm sure I speak for many Americans in my demographic when I confess that whatever meager math skills I have owe directly to those delightful cartoons, (whose catchy jingles are still bouncing around inside of my skull thirty years later). I'm presently showing Schoolhouse Rocks to our three year old daughter who, in spite of being a bit young for multiplication and American history, is enjoying the cartoons thoroughly.

I've never been much good as a style mimic, so any resemblance between these illos and the source material is largely luck. I shudder to think how much closer to Tom Yohe, Sr.'s style these illos would be if R. Sikoryak had taken the assignment, but I'm sure that my shuddering will cease a few seconds after I deposit MAXIM's check.

(Masterpiece Comics, the long-overdue collection of R. Sikoryak's spectacular cartoon revisions of literary classics, is now available at Amazon ).

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