There is a glaring lack of fantasy in the world these days. Fortunately, we have Drew Hernandez.
The Phoenix-based cartoonist / director (who sometimes works under the pseudonym Givasti Hawking) has spent the last few years creating compelling DIY animated films. And he’s not just the creator but the artist, host, director, designer and vocal talent. – he even records the soundtracks. The two in-house features of Hernandez, October 2020 The late great garden witch and last spring Magnolia Manor, not only offers the aforementioned whimsy, but proves that he is an exciting talent among local independent designers.
And we have to thank Wes Anderson for everything.
“I drew a lot in my notebook,” Hernandez said on a recent call. “They were like, ‘Oh, there’s Drew drawing. You know, that’s aptly named.’ Then i saw The Grand Hotel Budapest, and I never thought that a film could be, for example, an artistic project. ”
There’s even some sort of Anderson-esque flair in Hernandez’s elevator pitch for those first two “episodes.”
“There are four friends and they hang out in high school doing their thing,” he says. “They have heard rumors that there are some strange things hidden in the woods that may or may not exist. And, unfortunately, they are starting to realize that the rumors may be truer than they actually are. thought. ”
Given the nature of the projects, it makes sense that Hernandez also drew inspiration from Disney cartoons and even more recent Cartoon Network offerings. But it was Anderson’s more low-key skills that influenced Hernandez’s broader approach.
“I would say it has to do with world building,” Hernandez says of his admiration. “It’s not just that the characters have lines and so on, but the whole thing has personality and every little detail has been researched.”
But given his lack of sufficient resources, he says “I didn’t think anything about” the life of an artist, adding, “I was like, ‘This is great. I could never do that. Move on. “” Of course, then he saw another major inspiration, Steven universe.
“Maybe I had a chance to draw [stuff] by myself, ”Hernandez says of the series. “I don’t need to shoot in place. I don’t need a lot of actors and I can just change my voice a bit. So I bought a graphics tablet … and that’s what did it. ”
Hernandez’s DIY approach also stems from the fact that he never studied art or film in college. Regardless, his degree shaped his outlook and creative endeavors.
“I have a science degree,” Hernandez says. “I’ve had classes where it has broken the minds of teenagers and the experiences they go through and how you can better meet those interests in your classroom. So having that experience and that input helps me create more realistic characters in fantastic settings, which is kind of my goal – to juxtapose the fantastic with the mundane. “
He adds: “The greatest quality they taught us is that you can teach the best science, but if no one wants to listen to you then you are talking on dead ears.”
While Hernandez is the first to recognize his unlikely path, there’s no denying that it turned out to be an entertaining animation. Because where some designers have spent years developing and testing their style, Hernandez immediately stepped in.
“I [didn’t] I just want to do an animation test, because it’s kinda boring, ”he says. “So instead, I made a very short film. And that’s kind of how I treated all previous work. I think it’s mainly rooted in the fact that I really have a story to tell. ”
It also means that Hernandez may not see animation the same way, which gave him a different perspective on things.
“There isn’t really anything out there for the kids that shows [kids] what it’s like to grow up and what it’s like to lose friends or go to college – all of these things wrapped up in an arc of absurd and curious animation, ”he says.
From there, it was about trying to combine his skills and his ongoing studies to create the projects he wanted to see in the world.
“It starts with where I want it to be,” he says. “You know, do I want it to be in an old witch’s house? Do I want it to be in a mystical mansion? And then I step back and wonder where humanity is? What’s the story that needs to be told that’s short and small and not grand, and then I have the set. ”
And, of course, it helps to have even more influences to lean on. Hernandez names two in particular. There are Lost, because “all the characters in this series had stories and personalities and weren’t just extras.” More, Midnight gospel (from Adventure time creator Pendleton Ward) for showing “how creators can express themselves without the restrictions of a network”.
This whole approach even gave Hernandez the courage to do things outside of his comfort zone, like recording music. Although he originally composed pieces “for non-copyright purposes”, it was an opportunity to deepen his creative skills in all areas.
“I want to make music that I would like to listen to,” he says. “Everything that happened was just an extension of the animation. It sort of goes back to when I first watched The Grand Hotel Budapest and since the sets had a personality, I wanted to make sure that the music I was making had a character as well. ”
He adds, “While Garden witch was a more stand-alone soundtrack, the OST for Magnolia Manor was arranged to tell a story themselves. For example, “Prelude” (from Manor) has motifs from “The Solitary Practitioner”, “Scarlett” and “In Memoriam, 19XX”. Each of the three main characters has their own theme. “
This fusion of ideas and experiences has created truly fascinating entertainment. (As Hernandez describes his work, “It’s a catharsis to sit down and watch something that’s an escape from reality.”) While he clearly relied on his influences – the absurdity of a Steven universe, the nuance of Grand Budapest Hotel, and keys of Her Arcade Fire soundtrack – Hernandez’s work is entirely his. Each episode is a heartfelt slice of life, and as bizarre as things get, there is clearly a heart of humanity beating in every picture. It looks like something close to life, even though it’s not our own world at all.
“It’s a black mirror, and not like the TV series,” Hernandez says. “It’s just thinking about your own society and taking it to the extreme. What I’m going to do is just throw that humanity into it. I guess plant that seed and all of the rest sees the fruit that grows around it. ”
Part of this process now is to think about what will come next. It means expanding your list of collaborators beyond just one other person. Even if that means, as Hernandez explains, giving up some of your own creative autonomy.
“I think that by making these things myself, I am able to show people that it can take a while,” he says. “I think it’s also stronger when it’s such a small team with no limits. Nobody says to me, ‘Oh, you don’t need to have that 30 second shot where somebody is standing in front of it. microwave while waiting for a cup of noodles to go. ‘ I think with that comes the power and the stress. ”
He adds: “If more people decide to join us, I want to give them the opportunity to flourish and also to follow their own creative vision.”
He’ll likely need that extra help as Hernandez embarks on “the biggest chunk” of this trilogy. Potentially released at the end of the summer, the feature film Insect queen is a direct sequence of Garden witch and “what happens immediately after [the kids] go into the woods and find out that a witch is real. What is happening to reality? And what do they do next? ”
It’s the most important thing Hernandez has done yet, and it will test most of the creative skills he’s cultivated along the way. But as he says, Hernandez is up to the challenge. The world needs more fantasy and escape, and if it does what it wants it will be like you’ve never seen it before and also everything you love about really great animation.
“I throw a bunch of nostalgic stuff into a huge blender,” he says. “It’s kind of what they did with It follows, where they do not focus on a certain period of time. So this feeling, this strange valley, is good. Something that delves into something more, for there is a grand ending to it. It will take time to get there. It’s not just a Spongebob episode where you watch it and it’s done. ”
To learn more about Hernandez’s work / portfolio, visit his official site.