Merry Melody is a digital illustration depicting a satirical collage of characters from the Golden Age of Animation. The drawing confronts themes of cultural exploitation and appropriation, drawing attention to the depiction of non-white culture and the influence of blackface theatre in these popular cartoons.
The work is structurally similar to my other digital illustrations, particularly Magic Mirror which was completed in the same year. Both works are crowded, beset with complex layering, and held together by colorful liquid backdrops that shift seamlessly between the background and foreground.
Unlike Magic Mirror, which is structurally abstract, this drawing adheres to the structural tradition of the collage. It has a strong sense of direction, a consistent scale and a clear focal point around Mickey Mouse.
While the arrangement of the characters is surreal, it’s still grounded in a believable space, with cartoon hands and limbs naturally interacting and overlapping. This semi-realistic structure is inspired by the character collages commonly found on cartoon franchise merchandise.
As a child I was fascinated by these types of products. Not so much for their artistic merit, but rather for each product’s ability to store a large quantity of information.
I was fascinated by a Simpson’s poster with every character in the show’s history. One-part family photo, one-part trophy collection, it served as a reminder of my personal connection with each character, as well as a validation of the connected universe in which they all lived.
When I was nine, on my first visit to Disney World, I encountered similar products in the amusement park’s gift shops. Posters, t-shirts, keychains and mugs - all covered with intricate collages of the company’s most popular heroes and villains.
Merry Melody is a cynical imitation of these gift shop illustrations, replacing beloved and commercially viable characters with subversive and racially charged content.