Art Brokerage: David Willardson American Artist: David Willardson is now the creative force of the "Pep Art Movement," an innovative new genre where cultural icons are rendered with an unprecedented infusion of color, personality, and energy. Unlike traditional "pop art" however, the subject's of Willardson's "pep" imagery are not soup cans or Brillo boxes; they are classic Disney characters. Lurking behind his beloved Disney characters, Willardson discovered a team of animation geniuses that had left an indelible mark on American culture. He sought about learning their craft in order to figure out what made his heroes tick. "As a young kid, I studied them in minutiae," Willardson remembers. After graduating from the Art Center College of Design, Willardson burst onto the entertainment art scene. His passion for the craft and his natural creativity opened doors which allowed him to produce internationally known images, such as the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" movie logo and the classic "American Graffiti" car hop. In the 1970s, Willardson was asked by an ad agency to do a painting of Goofy for Walt Disney World. "I rendered it photo realistically," he says, "just a living being, with dimension, shading, core values and rim lighting." The ad ran nationally and Jeffrey Katzenburg (head of animation at Disney), spotted it. He then called Willardson and asked if he was interested in taking that same approach for a new look for the Disney animated movies, both Classic and New. The first poster Willardson created for Disney (and Katzenburg) was for the re-release movie poster for "Bambi." His fully rendered images for the Disney animated movie posters are still the most widely used to date. This seventeen-year relationship with Disney created such well-known movie posters, such as "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin," "The Lion King," "Oliver & Company," "Pocahontas," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," "Robin Hood," "The Fox & The Hound," "Beauty & The Beast" as well as Classics, such as "Snow White," Cinderella," "Pinocchio", "Jungle Book" (to name a few), earning him a permanent place in animation history. With joy, sadness, frustration, and exhilaration, Willardson's characters exude personality and soul first granted them by the old masters. "They are living legends to me," Willardson says, "just like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and James Dean."
Michelle St. Laurent