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How Mondo Posters Get Made

MondoArchive.com
MondoArchive.com

If you're a fan of movies, you've probably heard of Mondo, the Austin, Texas-based shop that creates limited edition screen-printed movie posters that make typical one-sheets look like child's play. (TV shows get the Mondo treatment, too.) The company and its artists have put their spin on everything from A Christmas Story and Office Space to The Shining and E.T. (You can check out the full archive online.) Mondo's Chief Operating Officer, Jessica Olsen, told mental_floss how these posters get made.

m_f: How did Mondo get started?
One of our current Creatives, Rob Jones, who is heavily involved in the gig poster scene, approached the CEO/Co-Founder of the Alamo Drafthouse and suggested that they commission various artists to create posters to promote the Alamo Drafthouse's Rolling Roadshow. He contacted his friends in the music poster scene and got them to do re-interpretations of classic movie posters. We got a following from there. When Justin Ishmael came on, he suggested that we elevate the business model to feature licensed properties, our biggest one being Star Wars in 2010. Over the next couple years, our fan base got bigger and bigger, and marketing teams at studios starting taking note.

m_f: What’s the process of creating a Mondo poster?
Justin and I handle the legwork of obtaining the rights to older titles, or negotiating with the marketing teams at studios on newer properties. Once we have a title, Justin, Rob, and Mitch [Putnam, Mondo Creative Director] spend a good amount of time brainstorming who the right artist would be for the property. Mitch contacts the artist and once assigned, Rob directs them from there. Once the design is done, we circle back with the studio for any revisions—if any; the studios typically have guidelines, usually for legal reasons, that they give us in advance to follow. They vary from title to title and studio to studio—and then move to print. It can get more complicated than that at times, and we all wear a lot of hats, but that's the general process.

m_f: What happens more often: Do you seek out the license, or do companies seek you out to create posters?
It's honestly about half and half at this point.

m_f: Once you have a license for a particular film, can you create a number of posters for that film, or just one?
We can create more than one. On some titles we have several artists we think would be a good fit.

m_f: How do you match an artist with a particular film for a poster?
It varies. Sometimes when we first start working with an artist we ask them "Hey, give us the top 10 movies you would kill to do a poster for," and then match them up from there. Other times, we'll have an artist we want to work with in the wings for the perfect assignment. For example, Justin really wanted to work with David Peterson who does the comic Mouse Guard. When we added Brave to our list of posters for our Oscars series we spent some time going "hmmmm..." and then all of the sudden it was like "Oh man! Of course." And that's that. We like to match artists with movies that they are passionate about so it remains fun and doesn't feel like a job.

m_f: How much collaboration is there in figuring out what the poster will be?
We try to give the artist as much freedom as possible. Because Rob is a designer himself, I think he's able to act as a sounding board if an artist ever gets stuck or needs some direction. I stay out of all of those conversations though because they typically happen at 3 to 4am while I'm trying to get some sleep.

m_f: For some posters, you release variants. Why is that, and how do you decide which posters get them?
Variant posters are part of the established practice of screenprinted gig posters, which is what we stemmed from. They're designed to be more rare and therefore more collectible. We'll create a variant copy when both the film and the design calls for it—Attack the Block, for example, with the glowing teeth, or Iron Man II on metal.

m_f: What licenses have been particularly tough to get?
Taxi Driver was a challenge. We worked over a year to make that one happen. Once we got the approval to make the poster we had to track down Robert De Niro and Martin Scorcese and request their blessing for their names and likeness on the poster. It was an inquisition but worth it. It was such an exciting day when I got those emails back.

m_f: What film would you love to see a Mondo poster of, and which artist would you put on it?
I'd really like to acquire the Toho license for Justin so we could do kaiju movies like Godzilla and Mothra. He's wanted those for a long time. Personally, I really want to make Ghostbusters happen, with full likeness rights. It's so aligned with what we do and our fan base. We could do amazing things with it.

m_f: You put on two shows during SXSW—one for Game of Thrones, one with artists Tyler Stout and Ken Taylor. Why do those two particular shows during SXSW?
HBO approached us after our collaboration during San Diego Comic-Con last summer. They asked if we had any ideas, and we thought a gallery show and poster series during SXSW would time nicely with the season premiere of the show. Stout/Taylor was planned to coincide with Flatstock, which is a poster show during SXSW that brings in really great artists.

m_f: How often do you have Gallery shows like this? What do you have on the walls between shows?
Gallery shows typically run four weeks with a week or two in between to prepare for the next one. There's nothing on the walls in between shows because we're typically rapidly patching up nail holes and giving the walls a fresh coat of paint, or occasionally an artist will be in town creating a mural on the walls for the next show.

m_f: If I were you, I’d make sure to grab a copy of every poster before it went on sale.
Yeah, but they take up more room than you'd think! My favorites so far from this year are Taxi Driver by Martin Ansin, Django by Rich Kelly, and Jaws by Laurent Durieux. Oh man... and Beetlejuice by Ken Taylor...

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Art
5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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Dan Bell
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Design
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.

[h/t Kottke.org]

All images by Dan Bell

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