Universal & Tongal Launch “Universal Monsters: Out of the Shadows” Art Initiative

Honoring the milestone anniversaries of some of film’s most legendary characters, Universal Pictures and Tongal have launched the “Universal Monsters: Out of the Shadows” Art Initiative on Tongal’s content creation platform in an effort to expand and enhance the artist conversation around the iconic Universal Monsters, keeping them fresh and on-trend.

Beginning February 11th through March 4th, the initiative aims to discover visionary artists (open to U.S. residents only) to create an original character inspired by Universal’s classic cast of Monsters, including DraculaThe WolfmanFrankensteinBride of FrankensteinCreature from the Black LagoonThe MummyPhantom of the OperaHunchback of Notre Dame, and The Invisible Man. The winning artist will receive $10,000 and have their art recognized by an esteemed judging panel of filmmakers and industry creatives, including Robert Kirkman – of the award-winning comic turned TV series The Walking Dead, Andy and Bárbara Muschietti – director and producer (respectively) of the blockbuster horror films IT and IT: Chapter Two, Crash McCreery – legendary creature designer, Tristan Eaton – celebrated mural and fine artist who recently created a Monsters mural on the famed Universal Studios Hollywood Backlot, along with artists Afua Richardson, Matt Taylor, and Yuko Shimizu.

In celebration of this art initiative, Universal Monsters revealed a collaboration with three of the judges – Afua Richardson, Matt Taylor and Yuko Shimizu – for reimagined artwork of Classic Monsters celebrating their iconic anniversaries in 2021: Dracula’s 90th (Richardson), Frankenstein’s 90th (Taylor) and The Wolfman’s 80th (Shimizu). This artwork, which serves as inspiration for the “Out of the Shadows” initiative, will be featured across consumer products launching later this year. *See each piece of art, plus read more on the artists and their inspiration further below*

“The artwork from Afua, Matt and Yuko – in addition to the ‘Out of the Shadows’ initiative – spotlight artists who have a passion for creating memorable characters and artwork that inspire filmmakers and storytellers. We are seeking creatives who are drawn to the narrative that the Universal Monsters are the original outsiders, misfits and misunderstood,” said Holly Goline, film executive in charge of Universal Monsters at Universal Pictures.

From the shadows, the swamps, and the science labs, these dark figures are the terrifying misfits and fiends that have inspired generations of moviegoers. They are the icons of horror – the original “Monsters” – who’ve given shape and meaning to that word, and they remain to be symbols of fears we all share, giving us some of the most relatable characters in cinematic history. Artists are being asked to tell a story through one image of a creature or monster – what would that look like? Perhaps it’s a totally new memorable character that needs to be brought to life? This is a call for original, imaginative storytelling through artwork. Various mediums are welcomed, whether it be traditional drawing or painting, digital painting, moving imagery, transmedia, or sculpture. Winners will be announced March 29, 2021.

“I’m excited to be a part of the ‘Out of the Shadows’ initiative and see the unique takes on The Wolfman, Frankenstein, and so many other iconic monsters,” said Robert Kirkman. “Universal has put together a creative way for artists to showcase their own takes on these characters with such well known lore, and I can’t wait to see what creators come up with.”

“Opening up the archetypal worlds inhabited by the Universal Monsters to our creator network sets the stage for magic to happen. This is the further democratization of storytelling and it empowers the next generation of talent and fans to help shape the next generation of Monsters,” said James DeJulio, Tongal Co-Founder and CEO.

Judging panel includes:

  • Robert Kirkman – First and foremost a creator himself, Kirkman has seen groundbreaking success in the adaptions of his comic books across all forms of content. His Eisner-award winning series “The Walking Dead” is now a world-wide phenomenon with multiple television series, video games, books, licensed merchandise, and more. His comic book titles “Invincible”, “Outcast”, and “Super Dinosaur” have all been adapted as television series, and he has multiple titles in development for film adaptations with Universal. Kirkman is also Chairman of Skybound Entertainment, a multiplatform content company he started with his long-time business partner and fellow Executive Producer David Alpert.
  • Andy and Bárbara Muschietti –Andy Muschietti is an Argentine filmmaker, writer, and producer best known for directing IT (2017), the highest grossing horror film of all time, and IT CHAPTER TWO (2019). He first received wide recognition for his film MAMA (2013) which was based on his short film of the same name. Barbara Muschietti is an Argentine producer and screenwriter best known for producing the horror film Mama (2013), IT (2017), and IT CHAPTER TWO (2019).
  • Mark “Crash” McCreery – Having worked in the entertainment business for the past 30 years, McCreery has designed for some of the most prestigious films in the industry. He spent the first 11 years of his career working for Make Up Effects legend Stan Winston as one of his studio’s lead artists; then has continued as a freelance creature designer since 2001. His character designs can be seen in such films as the Jurassic Park film series, the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, Edward Scissorhands, Terminator 2, Galaxy Quest, The Relic and many more. He has designed for numerous high-profile directors such as Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Tim Burton, M. Night Shyamalan, Larry Kasdan and Ang Lee. He acted as Gore Verbinski’s Production Designer on the live action film, The Lone Ranger, as well as the animated feature, Rango, which earned him an Animation Award for best character design and helped Verbinski garner his first Academy Award for Best Animated Film. He’s currently working at Universal Pictures as lead designer. 
  • Tristan Eaton – After graduating from the School of Visual Arts in New York, Eaton built upon his experience designing toys at the age of 18 for Fisher Price and co-founded the legendary Kid Robot. There, he created two of its most iconic designs, the Dunny and Munny, solidifying himself as one of the founders of the designer toy movement carried forth by contemporary pop artists such as KAWS today. Shortly after Kid Robot, Eaton founded Thunderdog Studios, where he created original art and design work for major clients like Nike, Universal and luxury watch brand Hublot among many others. His highly sought after style and work ethic in the field continues to inspire confidence in his clients and admiration among his peers while he blurs the lines between commercial and fine art. Eaton is perhaps best known for his large scale public murals, found throughout the world from New York to Paris to Shanghai to Universal Studios, which he executes in freehand spray paint; a technical and personal nod to his own history and respect for graffiti culture, while honoring traditional painting and muralism with his thoughtful and dynamic subject matter and compositions. 
  • Afua Richardson – An American illustrator best known for her work on the Eisner Award-winning series “Black Panther World of Wakanda.” Other works include “X-Men 92,” “All-Star Batman,” and HBO’s Lovecraft Country directed by Misha Green and Produced by JJ Abrams and Jordan Peele. In addition to being an illustrator, Richardson is a singer/ songwriter, musician and voice actor, and mentor to many aspiring artists. She is the creator of her upcoming series “Aquarius the Book of Mer.”
  • Matt Taylor – An artist and illustrator based in the UK, Taylor has a visual style that leans toward the figurative and dynamic and has found himself working for a wide range of clients from Nike to the BBC. Over the past few years, he has created some of the most sought-after movie posters.
  • Yuko Shimizu – A multi-award-winning Japanese illustrator based in New York City, Shimizu is an instructor at The School of Visual Arts and has almost 20 years of experience illustrating. Her work includes multiple disciplines from DC Comic covers (“Sandman the Dream Hunters,” “The Unwritten,” “Batman”), Criterion Collection DVD jackets (Godzilla box set), and advertising for Apple, Nike and Pepsi. Additionally, she has collaborated with the Smithsonian Museum and Library of Congress. Shimizu is a two-time Hugo Award nominee and was recently awarded the Caldecott Honor, one of the highest awards for picture books, for her work on the children’s book “The Cat Man of Aleppo” (Penguin, 2020). 

Looking ahead, the studio also plans to commemorate the Classic Monsters milestone anniversaries with new, special home entertainment offerings later this year.

For more details and full rules of the contest, visit the initiative page at UniversalPictures.com/UniversalMonstersArtProgram and follow the conversation with @OfficialUniversalMonsters on Instagram.

About the Universal Monsters Artwork

Dracula by Afua Richardson

I’ve always seen a comparison between the Count and the gaslighting psychopath. They forfeit empathy, love, and self-sacrifice, surrendering to animalistic impulses using those around them as a resource to prolong their survival at the cost of everyone else’s. Count Dracula also brings to mind those in my life who were hidden enemies. The way he can cunningly convince someone, even as their life force slips away, that where they want to be is in the confines of his beautiful prison—what a beautiful, terrifying, lonely beast. And yet, you’ll always watch to see if there is a moment of reflection. Is there any humanity left in their veins? [Besides what they’ve pilfered out of someone’s aorta] I wanted to try to expose the beast that lives in the immortal predator. Whenever I create a composition, I chart out the dimensions and midpoints thru grids and diagonals. Along the way, this blood-red V made its way into the work as I outlined where I wanted to put all my focus. I thought I’d keep it to add a modern effect to a classic monster.

Frankenstein by Matt Taylor

Frankenstein is a really special movie, and really not even a horror movie at all, but a warning on the consequences of playing God. The Creature has the mind of a newborn but is cursed with a body assembled in the form of a brute made from spare parts. I wanted the artwork to focus primarily on The Creature and his birth – the violence of his creation, with nods to all that happens after. I’ve looked at a lot of Frankenstein posters by some of the best artists in the game, and the image of The Creature being birthed by the lightning felt new to me. The skull, the grasping stitched hand and the medical illustrations were all meant to speak to the macabre patchwork nature of creation; the windmill is such an iconic image in all of film that was no way I could leave it out; the image of The Bride a nod to what awaits The Creature just down the line. And then in the background, the face The Creature itself, emerging from the chaos of the painting. I wanted him to have a somber expression – not aggressive or angry – The Creature isn’t the villain or a monster in any real way, but hopelessly misunderstood and unaware of his own strength. This might be my favorite poster I’ve painted – a mix of classic elements and contemporary framing and type – it all came together better than I could have imagined.

The Wolfman by Yuko Shimizu

This idea came to me first. It was my first time watching the film, and there is this mystical Eastern European dark feel to it. So, I was envisioning old Northern European Renaissance print type of look, involving dark woods which much of the story takes place. Usually, coming up with ideas is the hardest, but this came pretty easy to me. The actual work took longer, to get that engraving feel, each line needed to be carefully drawn. It took quite a lot of time, but I am really happy with the result, and hope the viewers feel the same.

What do you think of the “Universal Monsters: Out of the Shadows” Art Initiative? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter @josh_millican.



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