Tomas Demisevicius’ ‘Mission Creep’ is a comic and nostalgic short feature animation based on a real-life story of a man who burned his house down by accident while blow-torching weeds.
Tomas, who is in his second year of illustration with animation at Manchester Metropolitan University, is inspired by cartoons from the ’90s and early 2000s. aAh! Magazine spoke with Tomas about lockdown challenges, cartoon models and real-life inspirations.
Hi Tomas, how are you enjoying your Illustration or Animation degree?
“It’s great, I like that there’s a lot of variety in the work we are doing. This is one of the few university courses which includes both illustration and animation in the degree title. I didn’t want to commit to either, so this is a good half-way point between the two.”
Can you tell us more about your short animation film Mission Creep?
“I came into the project wanting to make the animation a bit light-hearted and fun, and involve these comedic beats (pauses for comic effect) reminiscent of 90s and 00s cartoons. As a kid, I would come back from school and put on an episode of Tom and Jerry or Courage The Cowardly Dog. These are the kind of cartoon models I am inspired by and I wanted to evoke that nostalgic feeling.
“The project started with a choice of real-life news articles. Mission Creep is based off one which involved a man in America who burned down his house while burning weeds with his blowtorch. However, I wanted to stay away from depressing scenes, especially with everyone’s mind focused on COVID-19. I wanted to make it fun, and I wanted to make people smile.”
You have certainly achieved this. Do you often find inspiration in real-life articles and stories?
“Yes, I’d say people are my biggest inspiration; I like the psychology of people and the choices they make. Just walking around Manchester you see so many characters and different situations. I go by the city centre a lot where my studio is, or to grab lunch.”
Has your studio space helped separate your home from your studies?
“Yes, I’m very lucky I have a studio space where I can work. Working at home can be disruptive and distracting, but many of the university facilities are also shut and we can’t access workshops now. I used to love screen-printing and etching workshops. It’s really sad you can’t access that at the moment. It’s this feeling that you could be doing your best work, but you can’t right now.
“However, I think a lot about the way I work and how I can improve things. It’s good to think about your practice and work with yourself and your situation.”
Has there been a greater demand for animations now many children are at home at all day during the pandemic?
“Yes, there was an increase in demand for new releases I read about in an article by Entertainment Weekly. The video in it also talks about about parents introducing their favourite childhood animations to their children during the pandemic which is nice. “
Can you run us through the process of making an animation like Mission Creep?
“The first stage is character design, which involves choosing a colour palette and shapes. I really enjoy this part – rearranging shapes to build characters. I wanted to make the characters believable, but also cartoonish.
“The wife is based on a vulture and the main character was based on a frog and a marshmallow to imitate a goofy personality which juxtaposed the wife. As for the cute fire element, its childish and out-of-control nature is imitative of the way fire jumps from leaf to leaf and can get out of control fast.
“I used a program called Procreate on an iPad which I’ve seen people use to create GIFS, but not for short-feature animations. I want to push the medium as far as I can.”
What were the most challenging parts of this project?
“It’s a challenge getting all my journals organised; I have all the ideas, but problems arise when I’m writing up the work and providing explanations. It’s about managing time effectively.
“It’s also difficult to make sure the key scenes are in there and make sense, as well as cutting out some of the scenes. But I’m planning to make a director’s cut including these scenes at some point.”
What are your favourite animations or illustrations?
“Going back to older shows, I used to watch Cartoon Network a lot. I like the shows like Dexter’s Laboratory. I find there’s something magical about 2D animations. I also like some Japanese-style animation like Sailor Moon.
“I just binged four seasons of the American series Superjail!. It’s got that raunchy, New York humour and there’s so much going on – one storyline in the background then another in the foreground. It’s all done digitally which is something I’ve wanted to try out.
“Disney is also a big influence, although they are beginning to move away from their classic animation style and do remakes of old versions like The Lion King, for example.”
Disney’s remake of The Lion King has a hyper-realistic animation style. Do you like it?
“It’s a shot-for-shot remake of the original, and the original holds a very dear place in my heart because it’s from my childhood. I used to watch it all the time. I think the remake has lost its old magic.
“While it might inspire current generations of children, I struggle to see the point in a shot-for-shot remake. It feels like they recycled the idea. I like the remake of Mulan – it had new messages and a feminist perspective.”
What have you been working on recently?
“I had a deadline for a film poster and experimental animation not long ago. It was a lot of fun creating the poster. We watched suggested films and picked which one we wanted to make a film poster for. I watched Jan Cocteau’s Orpheus and a German film called Wings of Desire and produced some drawings to create a poster.
“For the experimental animation, we were given scientific articles. I chose how speaking with our mouths will become irrelevant in the future because we’ll do it with our minds.”
Do you have any ideas you would like to explore further during your degree or after?
“I’m very influenced by legends and myths. I was researching the Iliad and Odyssey and might do an animation on this topic. There’s something magical about the whole mythos.
“I’m leaning towards pre-production in animation which involves storyboarding and concept art. I like building characters with different appearances and occupations. That’s the kind of industry I want to go into.”
What advice would you give to students who have just started their Illustration with Animation degrees?
“I would advise them not to be discouraged, especially where artistic people can often be quite introverted and struggle mentally if we’re not in the right environment. Drawing and creating can be like art therapy. Do your best. We need to keep returning to that space in art which feels therapeutic.”
Follow Tomas on his YouTube Channel Tomtly to keep up with his animations.