“It’s hard for me to separate serious topics from my sense of humour”: Mario Meneses on his comical animations
At the heart of Mario’s captivating creations are both sides of his personality – the clown and the philosopher.
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 25 May 2021
“Some people say that my characters look like me and I don't like it because I once heard Hayao Miyazaki say ‘If you can't draw well, your characters will always look like you’ – though it is cool that they are distinguishable,” says Mexican illustrator and animator Mario Meneses, reflecting on his illustrative style. Despite possible resemblances between himself and the protagonists of his work, there’s no denying their charm and memorability. The dark-haired figures in his illustrations navigate surreal worlds and absurd situations, acting and reacting in a humorous fashion to the objects and settings that surround them.
“I like to think that my work expresses sentiments of existentialism and self-exploration, though I don’t mix them consciously,” explains Mario. “I think that each moment of life is very surreal but we are so used to it that we don't see it. What I do is extract the essence of the moment, accentuate it and expand upon it to make it more obvious.” Studying his illustrations and short animations, we can see this idea in practice. His characters are frequently placed in either comical scenarios, such as two friends taking turns in sanitising and throwing a frisbee back and forth during the pandemic, or in the middle of seemingly existential questioning, looking out over a landscape that appears normal, but from the viewer’s perspective is actually the body of a fleshy, god-like figure.
The comical side, at least, Mario can trace back to his childhood. “Humour has always been an important part of my life,” he says. “Everyone in my family is constantly joking around. A long time ago, I even learned the art of clowning, because I like to make people laugh, but performing for people scared me and I looked for alternative outlets for my comedy.” Along with his sense of humour, Mario also attributes his creative sensibilities to his parents. “My parents are stylists but they have always had the impulse to create, write and dance. Growing up in my family it was very normal to think about being an illustrator or an animator.” He goes on: “Although the truth is that for a long time, I always believed that I would do something related to mathematics, until a crisis in my adolescence whereby this goal vanished and a more expressive need arose in me.”
After studying graphic design at the Metropolitan Autonomous University in México City, and then dabbling in wildly different subjects such as communication science, finance, acting, and styling, Mario discovered his love for animation. “I realised that animation had everything I liked: telling stories, making people laugh, music, drawing, and a controlled environment,” he recalls. “I looked for the addresses of several studios and went to each one to literally knock on their door – that’s something that I’ve learned over the years: if you want something you need to knock on doors because you never know if someone is waiting for you on the other side.” Mario’s search proved fruitful and he landed a spot at a studio called Homeboy where he was able to hone his craft. “This studio focuses much more on motion graphics but even so, my bosses at the time always gave me a lot of freedom to do traditional animation and illustration. It was a great moment because I started working on real projects, and I also discovered a lot of artists and creatives on the internet doing incredible stuff.”
With several great projects now under his belt, including a music video for well-known Mexican rock band Little Jesus, a collaboration with Risotto Studio on Issue 41 of its publication RISO CLUB, and a contribution to an animated short by French film director Jonathan Djob Nkondo, Mario’s career is going from strength to strength. Looking to the future, he says he has big ambitions: “First I will finish two comic books that I’m currently working on, but further down the line I would like to create fully-animated feature films and explore some weightier subjects such as psychology, consciousness and quantum physics. It’s hard for me to separate these serious topics from my sense of humour, but I will try…”
GalleryCopyright © Mario Meneses, 2021
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.