Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gloop, Gleep, and All Things Shmoo

A couple posts ago I mentioned being influenced by Heinz Edelmann's work (mainly by his design for The Yellow Submarine, which destroyed my mind at a young age), but lately I find myself coming back to another influence: a simple bean shape, that of Gleep, Gloop, and the far more culutrally significant Shmoo.

It was my love for these characters that made my eyes bug out in southern France when I came across a child's bank in the shape of the cartoon character Barbapapa. I had no idea who the character was at that point, but I had to get the bank (though if memory serves, the vendor was asking a ridiculous price and I found an almost exact replica in Paris for far less). Barbapapa was a Shmoo with arms, but minus the legs. Or Gloop plus appendages and nostrils. However you choose to describe him, he was/is great.

There's something about the purity and simplicity in these little beans that just works (of course their simplified phallus shape can be picked apart by the armchair psychologist, but I'll leave that alone for the time being).

I find myself trying to decode what works about these characters and how far the shapes and simplicity can be pushed before that effectiveness drops off. Of course sometimes, as in the case of Dr. Huba and Mr. Moob, I'm happy to espouse an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach.

(Or are those two more influenced by Captain Caveman? Who knows...)

This obsession with these bloated, bean-shaped characters connects somewhat tangentially to my love of McDonald's Grimace and my more recent infatuation with the world of James Jarvis' art and toys. Though I suppose they're steering more in the direction of eggplant or gumdrop shapes.

All of these obsessions and connections led to my interest the early 1970's Japanese children show Kure Kure Takora, (posted on Boing Boing recently). Though I was drawn in by the Shmoo-esque sidekick (or perhaps more accurately Barbapapa-esque, given that they are from the same time period (Barbapapa first being published in 1970)), there was a familiarity in the octopus protagonist itself. The familiarity with his design, I later realized, stemmed from a late nineteenth century toy design posted on BibliOdyssey. It's easy enough to believe that the design for the show's hero was inspired by that earlier toy design, though I don't have any hard evidence of a connection. Take a look at both, draw your own conspiracies.


Mike Baehr said...

You might want to check out the current Nickelodeon show "Yo Gabba Gabba" for more striking blobby character design.

derya said...

When I was in first grade or so, my parents let me have a birthday party at mcdonalds and there was a sugar grimace ornament on the cake and I remember wanting to eat it because I thought it would be the tastiest. I cant remember what the other options were.

Paul Hornschemeier said...

Mike, being one of those unfortunate souls not possessed of cable, I've never seen a full episode of the show, but from the clips and shots I've seen, it looks amazing. Thanks for mentioning it.

Derya, given the theories (and evidence) that taste is influenced by state...,M1

there's no doubt grimace will always taste better. As is only right.

Alan said...

Hey Paul,
Saw this book cover while browsing flickr and made me think of this post.

I haven't read this, but Jeff's a great artist