Mermaid Art Event MerMay Wants to Lead the Animation Revolution


If you notice an influx of mermaid-themed artwork posted online in May, there’s a good reason for that. MerMay is a challenge that encourages artists to draw different mermaids each month, with 31 prompts. along. The Art Challenge has been officially held since 2017, but the artists behind it didn’t expect it to grow this big. Animator supervised by Disney veteran animator Tom Bancroft. MulanThe little red dragon Mushu decided to draw a mermaid one day.

“It was a coincidence,” he told Polygon. In 2016 he I drew a picture Pictures of several mermaids hanging out on the rocks of the sea and talking on “Shelphone”. (“Did you understand?” He adds.)

“They are looking like each other [makes phone-displaying gesture], Just a teenage girl, “he explains. “I have four girls, so I knew the world very well. Today I just wanted to give the mermaid such a modern twist.”

The painting became a hot topic on Facebook, and Bancroft decided to draw a month-long painting with a mermaid theme. Eventually, it became a formal prompt list and contest and sponsored Wacom.

“Hundreds of thousands of people were involved. [that first year].. But since then, we’re becoming millions, “says Bancroft. “This has become a global drawing event. That’s what I really wanted. I wanted to encourage artists to work on drawing chops.”

By 2021, MerMay will be bigger than ever Official Chinese version Of events happening at the same time. It was also extended to TikTok for the first time this year, adding an animation component for the contest. Artists and animators around the world follow the same list of prompts generated by Bancroft. He interviews the artist every Tuesday and follows one of the prompts to host a live drawing on Wednesday. His role at MerMay has evolved considerably.

“First of all, I was just one of the thousands of people who draw mermaids. It was a little easier,” he says. “In general, it does a kind of execution itself. I was able to prompt, and people choose whether to use the prompt. And they just start drawing. What’s great is It means that so many people come back to do it every year. They are inspiring others and the chain reaction has already happened in the last 3-4 years. It grows on its own. And just grew up. “

He has certain responsibilities for MerMay, but especially in his studio Pencilish Officially sponsored this year, the self-reliant nature of the Viral Art Contest gives him the freedom to focus on his major passions. Bancroft has been in the animation industry for over 30 years and knows better than anyone that the time has come for change. He believes that ambitious animators shouldn’t get caught up in the path of one company. Even if that was the situation in the industry when he worked for Disney and it has been going on for a very long time.

“Young creators come up with the philosophy that if you want to get into the anime industry, there’s only one good way,” he says. “meaning I go to LA and go to work at Disney Pixar, Or either a large company.And I’m going to sell them all.. “

Bancroft wants his studio to be a viable alternative to large studios like Disney and DreamWorks where creators can create their dream projects. If the idea is good, Pencilish will help them fund — creators as partial owners of their work. Animators are not the only ones who own the property. Pencillish operates on a crowdfunding platform where the investor becomes a shareholder of the company. “It’s like Kickstarter,” explains Bancroft. He says he was tired of seeing the characters he created turned into non-profitable types of merchandise, such as stuffed animals and prints. He wants to fix a system where animators often sign their work and get a “penny” for what they make.

“They’ll make a billion dollars, you can’t see a penny,” he says. “And that’s really how things work in Hollywood.”

Image: Disney

Disney is a creative studio, but first and foremost, it’s a multi-billion dollar company, always focusing on maximizing profits rather than helping creators make money. Bancroft is far from the only Disney employee who saw his work making a lot of money into the company that he didn’t share. A $ 1 billion live-action remake that reuses characters.

But in Pencilish, Bancroft wants to use the studio to enhance his animators, not the other way around. He refers to the Irish Cartoon Saloon. Wolfwalker And Kells Secret..

“It’s a small independent studio doing it right,” he says. “They are doing 2D animation. This is what I love. I love their output. They are of high quality and really not used by Disney or elsewhere. It’s an interesting and different kind of story. “

Bancroft, who has been in the industry for decades, admits he didn’t expect CG to be completely taken over.He says he saw the opening sequence of Pixar’s 1995 movie Toy story With other animators. He found the first scene focused on green soldiers and other minor toy characters to be “attractive,” but the human character was too stiff and unconvincing. ..It wasn’t until Pixar’s 1997 short story Geri’s Game What human characters actually started to see good —But still, Bancroft couldn’t imagine a world that CG had taken over completely.

“We all thought. No, 2D animation is Disney’s core business. It has been around for 80 years. Mickey Mouse is 2D. I just don’t see the switch. They will coexist. CG is very viable, but of course 2D just keeps selling and running in parallel.“He says. “What we didn’t see was that one shuts down the other because it didn’t make sense. Why stop what’s still working?” He said, “Since then, they I want to regret it. “

Old man playing chess

Image: Pixar

Just as CG took over the animation rapidly, Bancroft believes that streaming will soon overtake the theater, and big companies will move to getting content rather than actually creating it. The world needs content, and outlets like Netflix are ready to get projects from small, independent studios, so he says it’s the perfect time for Pencilish.

“I don’t think we’ll get the best out of it unless Disney and Pixar buy it,” he explains. “They will continue to make good movies in-house, but I feel that the pace is slowing and some of their business is getting smaller. Their business is created elsewhere. You will get other content. “

Bancroft states that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this shift. The theater was closed, but Netflix remains accessible and available in a distracting world. In 2020 In the early days of lockdown, when restless people needed an outlet, they turned to entertainment, art, and the Internet.

“We needed some joy,” says Bancroft. “MerMay arrived at the right time. I still think it’s the right time. I’m breathing fresh air.”