Grogar and Bray

Grogar

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Of all the original series villains, Grogar – along with his lackey Bray and his vanishing, decaying nightmare city of Tambelon – were my favorite. Since they were never brought back, here’s a drawing of them closer to the current MLP style.

This Pervert

This Pervert

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I got a Zootopia request for a sketchbook that happened to have some NSFW material in the front. The cover looked surprisingly like the one Nick is holding. The commissioner was a super great sport about paying me while I made fun of him. 😀

Full disclosure: I’d drawn some of the stuff in the front of that book. Also at the time there were no other Zootopia pics in it. I was totally projecting into the future! EDIT: My prophesy came true.

Disney and Furries

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Tonight will be the first public screening of future enormous hit and Best Animated Feature Oscar Winner, Disney’s Zootopia. In the weeks before its release, I’ve seen some comments that this is a furry movie (which it is), and that this means somehow the furries “got to” Disney – that is, Disney was either infiltrated by furries, or more likely Disney figured such an assured online-heavy group would turn out and do the marketing department’s heavy lifting for them (à la Bronies).

Outside of the idiotic delusion that Disney would ever bother to produce an animated feature aimed at a niche market, this premise misleads on a key historical fact. Disney did make Zootopia. But Disney also made furry fandom, in a very real and direct way.

The modern furry fandom is a direct descendant of the Southern California fandom, organized by Rod O’Riley and Mark Merlino and aggregated around their convention, Confurence, in the early 1990s. There were other furry fandom centers – East Coast fandom, centered around zine publishing, and Northeast/Midwest fandom, which grew out of sci-fi conventions – but their influence is far less today than that of SoCal fandom, which Rod and Mark grew and shaped to a fair degree.

Rod and Mark were art hounds and animation fans who lived in LA in the late 1980s. They had been members of the old Cartoon/Fantasy Organization (C/FO), an early anime fan group, before starting Confurence. Unsurprisingly, this all meant that they knew people who worked at Disney.

Once Confurence was running, Disney was part of it. Outside from the constant showings of Disney’s Robin Hood – a film held in almost religious reverence by early furries, which I am still at a loss to explain – Disney personnel were in attendance at the con itself. At first because of personal invitation, and then word of mouth and curiosity, workers from the Disneyland park and the then-booming animation studio came to the con, which was practically down the street for them. At one of the early cons (I think Confurence 4 in 1993) Disney writers Jymn Magon and Mark Zaslove gave an extensive presentation on their creation of the show TaleSpin.

But probably Disney’s the most significant and enduring contribution to the current fandom was the creation of fursuiting.

The early furries were fans of the 1980s, a time well before crafting knowledge was easily disseminated (mostly as photocopied instructions), when industrial crafting equipment was out of reach of most fans, and when only the most dedicated of nerds (like Trekkies) created costumes for conventions. At the earliest Confurences many fans wore fake-fur animal tails, an easy idea that was quickly adopted and spread, as were ear headbands slightly later. Aside from that there were a few sometimes frightening experiments with cap-like ear head coverings and face paint.

This all changed one year, 1993 or 1994, when an animator – whose name I will omit, since I’m sure he wants no part of this post, ask me at a con if you see me – showed up in the first fursuit: a fully realized Pepe Le Pew costume. Said animator had contacts at Disney, and it had been fabricated with the help of park costumers with a level of professionalism far beyond anything seen at a con up to that point. Wearable, durable, flexible and accurate, full-body, with invisible stitching and hidden closures, it was light years beyond what anyone had even thought of doing at that point, and would be considered an excellent piece of work even today. It had not evolved from earlier efforts, but arrived in a quantum leap.

The effect was electric. The fursuit was stunning by itself, with its superbly sculpted head and huge four-foot tail held upright with almost invisible magician’s wire, but more importantly it showed a crowd of hard-core fans a new and appealing idea executed with a high level of quality. Said animator showed up for several subsequent Confurences in different equally impressive costumes, but after the initial daunting exposure it did not take long for other fans – especially in Los Angeles, where the knowledge and materials were available as they were almost nowhere else – to start making their own primitive but increasingly adept fursuits.

All told, CalArts students and grads, Disney animators, fabricators, and studio productions contributed a huge amount to the early furry fandom of the 1990s. Once and future Disney artists contributed to fanzines and art sites, constructed the first fursuits, provided programming, and were con attendees alongside the ordinary proles.

Decades later, the studio has made Zootopia. But to say it was probably created by furries is just to note the closing of a loop – Disney made them too, right from the start.

Hussain Captain Britain

Dr. Hussain – Captain Britain

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I love, love the new Captain Britain, Dr. Faiza Hussain (aka Excalibur). A superhero who actually works to help people, who has healing powers and goes out of her way not to injure anyone! Her al-amira and white lab coat give her a very medieval look to go with her magic sword — which she picked because given the traditional choice between the Sword of Might and the Amulet of Right, as a surgeon she wanted something to cut with.

She was absolutely great in the War World two-parter Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders, drawn by my favorite penciller and definitive Captain Britain artist Alan Davis. I hope Marvel keeps using her. It would be great to see her teamed up or played off against their other mystical magical surgeon, Doctor Strange — who currently has some very nasty things inside of him.