Jeremy Mansford • In Profile
Jeremy Mansford • In Profile
For our inaugural feature, we’re talking to Melbourne-based creative, animator and director, Jeremy Mansford.
Jerry is the talent behind the animation of our original logo; working his trademark mojo to inject personality, creativity and fun into our humble design. If you have a look through Jerry’s website, you will notice that those three words pretty much apply to everything he touches.
On first discovering Jeremy’s work, you’d be forgiven for thinking someone had spiked your morning coffee with benzedrine as there’s an eye-popping, manic energy running through each one of his creations. Whether it’s his penchant for bold colours, breakneck pacing or quirky humour, it’s hard to not remember the feelings you had watching Saturday morning cartoons as a kid.
So, Jerry, are we close? How would you describe your style?
You’re definitely in my erogenous zone. Energy is my favourite word there. Instead of establishing myself with a certain visual style or technique, I prioritise injecting a certain energy and vibe into my work first.
I always aim for playful, explosive and entertaining executions. I find a lot of commercial work leads to designers simply designing to impress other designers – which just ends up feeling pretentious and flat to non-industry people. In my experience, remembering what I find ‘fun’ and ‘cool’ helps appeal to an actual audience, who aren’t so concerned with the technical aspect.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Any big influences in your life?
Thinking about it now, it seems a bunch of my favourite stuff comes from the 80’s and 90’s, or at least calls back to that era. I’m still trying to put my finger on it, but cartoons, anime, video games, film, VHS, illustration and music from that time all have a certain vibe and attraction for me. Nostalgia plays a part, but I’m mostly just drawn to the priorities and style choices that were made back then. Styles were strong, atmosphere was thick, more risks were taken, you know? And creepy synth soundtracks!
Outside of that, more modern inspiration comes from works like Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, Kung Fury, One Punch Man, groups like Golden Wolf, Red Letter Media, Oats Studios and artists like Oliver Tree, Felix Cosgrove and Paul Robertson.
Retro gaming is a clear influence in your work, and that has clearly come to a head in your Mortal Kombat: Scorpion tribute. What’s the thinking behind these awesome pieces?
Fighting games melted my brain when I was a kid. They were a big part of what made an arcade magical. I was never any good, but the art styles and characters they created were instant hits for me.
With the fighting game resurgence still going strong, these IPs are getting some amazing love and craft pumped into them. As soon as Mortal Kombat 11 was revealed, its stunning treatment instantly got me excited. I wanted to create something.
I figured out the best use of my skills was to experiment with a type of content I had not personally seen or felt within the current MK canon. I wanted to take a beloved character and give them some solo screen time. Part of MK was originally inspired by old kung-fu and samurai films, so I wondered what’d happen if we reimagined an iconic Mortal Kombat character in that style and mode of storytelling.
It seems your sense was right – your first piece got a great response across social media.
Yeah, it was awesome seeing something like that just take off, winning praise from Ed Boon, the co-creator of MK himself. It was more than I could’ve hoped for, but it’s great to know you’re onto something.
You seem to have found a niche in title sequences too. What’s your experience been working on them?
Well, the majority of my title work has been in the shorter format for Youtube channels. Traditionally, longer format title sequences can act like a friendly portal, slowly massaging you into the world you’re about to visit. But I’ve found a successful Youtube intro works slightly differently – it can be more of a slap in the face to get you hyped for your favourite content.
What’s your ideal brief when it comes to creating something like that?
Most often the brief has been ‘make something awesome, with these topics in mind’. An open brief can be both a blessing and a curse, but I find it a satisfying challenge breaking down the priorities of a channel or content myself and crafting it into something as sharp, explosive and hype-inducing as possible.
Do you enjoy working in that super compressed time frame?
Yes. It’s refreshing to focus on a short amount of time and make sure it all works perfectly together. It leads to very efficient and punchy storytelling. Every shot counts, so I make sure I take time to pump as much energy and detail as I can into every shot. It’s worth it, as the shorter formats tend to be watched more frequently, so lots of detail means the audience can appreciate different levels through repeat viewing.
How did your collaboration with famed Youtube Gamer – runJDrun – come about?
I had the pleasure of creating an awesome body of work with the iconic fighting game content network – Cross Counter. Part of this was devising an intro for their famous show – Excellent Adventures. J.D. had seen that work and loved it, and wanted to craft something to a similar quality level for his gaming channel.
We decided it was the perfect scenario to do a neo-retro, gaming-styled animation. So, we worked out ways of cramming all the video game references and detail we could into the intro. Taking the instantly recognisable pixel art gaming aesthetic – but animating it in a fresh, more modern feeling adventure.
How do you wrangle that age old challenge of staying creatively stimulated versus making a living?
Once you have general experience, I find the making a living part mostly straight forward. However, if you want to pursue a certain role or type of creatively stimulating work, I feel like it’s your own responsibility to prove or remind the world what you are capable of. That will help merge the two realms and get the work you want coming your way.
Over my career, I have always made sure I’m doing something to flex my creative muscles. Early on, I found music videos a great format for this. Later, it became competitions. Sometimes you crave a challenge and that extra focus and motivation a prize-awarded brief gives you is great. Most recently, I’ve been lucky to have this approach pay off, and I’m able to tick both boxes more regularly. I’m still hungry for more though, and have found that I’m now in a place where I have the focus and drive to know exactly where I want to spend my creative time. The MK work is a great case in point.
Which other personal projects have given you that creative freedom and reward?
I’m lucky to say that about pretty much all of my intro and ident work. Motion Meat became an amazing vehicle to celebrate design heroes, transforming 90’s cartoons, and fast food. My winning NODE Fest ident was a celebration of visually dynamic samurai slashes and a love letter to the multimedia potential of motion design. KaiFive answered the important questions of how would sushi dance, and can you drive a corn cob?
You clearly throw yourself into every aspect of a project, from mo-cap dancing to music and sound design. Is that multidisciplinary approach a product of necessity or design?
It’s a bit of both – back to the energy and fun idea. A selfish reason for me wanting to get into this industry was to have fun myself. I’d like to think that if I’m having fun then energy will transfer into the work, or to the people I work with.
For example, rather than just find some dancing footage online, why not dance myself? I know what’s needed to make the work pop – I’ve got the moves…right? And why find stock footage of a cat to slice with a samurai sword when Noodle (my cat) is at hand? Details like this for me make the work special, and also add to behind-the-scenes lore, which becomes fun to share. People connect with something more when they sense there’s a story behind it.
Sometimes I might have the inspiration and energy but not the means. So, collaboration with other artists is still an important part of my work too. Overall, I want to keep surprising myself and viewers with new ways of telling stories.
What does the future hold for Jeremy Mansford?
I’m always looking for opportunities to experiment in the world of short form storytelling. There are more title sequences, intros and short films on the horizon and ultimately I’d love to work in a short series format. After the success of Mortal Kombat I’m eager to explore the potential of working with more video game IPs and find out where that can lead. There are so many opportunities out there at the moment, it’s a great time to be alive!