MondoCon is a celebration of everything Mondo loves, including movies, art, comics, music, toys and food. It’s a weekend curated with fans in mind, featuring incredible artists & creators from around the world, panels, screenings, food trucks, live scores and interactive events. This year, these genre loving artistic wizards are excited to unveil the lineup of panels, artists, screenings, live music and more for MondoCon 2016 taking place October 22-23 in Austin, TX.
The stellar schedule of panels will include sneak peaks at upcoming posters, toys & collectibles, and an in-depth discussion of soundtracks from Mondo Music Group and other leading labels (you can read find from the press release/schedule here). We’ve had interviews with members of the creative team before (click here to read each of those), and recently we spent time with three of Mondo’s prolific visionaries – Mo Shafeek, Brock Otterbacher and Jay Shaw – and discussed their panels, the products they will be bringing to the Con, and the efforts that went into bringing these releases to the public.
Note: click on any product image below to see the hi-rez version
Record Label Production Manager, Mo Shafeek
At Mondo, vinyl releases are one of the exciting and diverse product lines offered by the Austin-based outfit. Each year, MondoCon has been a platform to offer special releases and showcase a unique music experience. Clint Mansell has been a composer the music group has worked with before (In the Wall, Black Swan, High Rise). Yet this year, Mansell is celebrating the 10th anniversary reissue of The Fountain, and both parties couldn’t be happier about re-releasing this fan favorite score which, Shafeek says, was a long time coming.
“The Fountain has been the Holy Grail for us for a very long time, and that is not an exaggeration. For me, there’s a short list of titles that, if I can help get out into the world, will legitimately make me feel like I’ve accomplished something. The Fountain had been on that short list ever since I got to Mondo.”
When the music group started working on Black Swan, The Fountain was always on the periphery. But Shafeek and the team didn’t want to seem too eager. “I thought that it would be really cool if Clint liked what we did, we could ask him about other titles down the line.”
Mansell has over 30 film scores to his name, but of all his works there was what can only be described as an underground movement of fans who regularly tweeted the composer requesting a re-issue of The Fountain on vinyl. “The demand was there, and Clint would re-tweet that, so we were able to point to that at a later time when we were discussing this with the label who had the rights to the soundtrack – Nonesuch Records. They were a label we had never worked with before, but we told them ‘Clint really likes us, and we want to do this…’, and thankfully they, ‘said sure go ahead’.”
The team worked with Clint, who had the audio remastered at AIR Studios in the UK, and worked with artist Nicole Gustaffson on all new original artwork. Everyone involved was immensely happy with how it came out, especially Shafeek.
The team began by contacting Clint (who was easy to get a hold of thanks to his connection with Spencer Hickman), then they got the artwork prepared, and had the audio remastered at AIR Studios in the UK. Everyone involved was immensely happy with how it came out, especially Shafeek.
“I’m not just excited because I have a stake in this. I’m a fan, so I am legitimately thrilled. But I’m also very, very, very, very happy that the person who composed music is happy with what we’ve done with it. It’s not every title that we get to have conversations with every composer we work with. I can only hope the John Williams is happy with our Jurassic Park soundtrack, and pray that Alan Silvestri is happy with our Back to the Future soundtrack, and on and on.
But this is a rarity where along the entire way you’re involved with the composer. So the fact that Clint is happy means I am flattered, and also overwhelmed with joy. It’s a dream come true.”
The celebrated composer will be at the Con attending the screening and, following, sit for a Q&A with Birth.Movies.Death. soundtrack journalist Brian Satterwhite (aka Score Keeper).
Speaking of continued work with certain composers, this year Mondo released six singles for Disney • Pixar’s Inside Out. They also released four variants of the single from The Monster Squad at different times of year and in different parts of the globe. This year, Mondo will re-release Bruce Broughton‘s score to that classic ’80s film, along with collectible artwork by Gary Pullin.
As Halloween is fast approaching, this is the perfect time of year to release the full score to The Monster Squad. At the point Shafeek and Hickman originally got the music rights, and they were preparing for the album release, they thought it might be cool to do a single of the “Monster Squad Rap” and “Rock Until You Drop“. Once they were given the green light, they worked backwards from there.
Singles first and then the full album is the traditional record label route, but Shafeek says it’s not planned that strategically. Singles are a definitely a “when it fits” decision, but they are also a standby product for Mondo, so expect them to release something every year (either at a convention, or on their site). But are singles a baby step towards the release of a full album? Is anything we’ve seen available through Mondo prior to now, (Grand Piano or Midnight Special), a hint of an album release in the future? Well, Shafeek tells us that every title is different.
“When we go to San Diego Comic-Con, and Texas Frightmare, and different conventions, we try to have a spectrum of products that don’t break the bank; one of which are the singles. It’s something that we started dabbling in with Batman: The Animated Series a couple years ago. So if you want to buy something from Mondo, but you don’t want to spend $60 on a poster, you can get something that’s $10 or $12 at our table. What we sell are ultimately boutique items. Those tend to be more expensive than you would find at events, but singles have become a staple at public facing events like this.”
Mondo Music Group has, and continues to offer a wide spectrum of releases – from mainstream titles like Jurassic World to obscure ones like Cat in the Brain. Is there a science to doing things one way or the other? No, that answer is pretty simple; Mondo goes after what they like.
Also, if there is a title that fans think would be in Mondo’s wheelhouse, and are surprised they haven’t done it yet, there’s a reason for that. Shafeek’s running joke is he wants to do Josie and the Pussycats from 2001…how hard can that be? Well, if it’s not out by now, there is a complicated combination of x and y variables pointing towards why that hasn’t been done yet. Every title is different, and when it comes to rights – who owns what specific music – it all makes for some interesting production stories.
Beyond the physical merchandise, Shafeek and the team will continue championing live music, too. “The first MondoCon was a crossroads of a lot of different things for us. One being that Spencer Hickman came on board, and Death Waltz records became a part of Mondo.”
Based on the past successes of the “Hook and Pull Gang” (a live Texas Chainsaw Massacre re-score from Umberto and Antoni Maiovvi), and ” Frizzi 2 Fulci,” (Fabio Frizzi paying tribute to his late friend Lucio Fulci) and Umberto’s live re-score to the film Pieces – this year the Con will end with another music performance. Mo Shafeek comments on how that Pieces solidified musical performances as a staple of MondoCon, “Pieces was the right energy and mood and it felt like bringing Mondo fans to the Alamo Drafthouse in a way, with their “Terror Tuesday” or “Weird Wednesday” screenings.”
The closing affair this year will find Canadian duo Le Matos taking to stage to play selections from their “Join Us” and Turbo Kid: Chronicles of the Wasteland albums. MondoCon will offer a special repressing of each title. Everything at the Con has a unique appeal to it (even the screenings where attendees walk away with a print only available at the event), but a live show really is a one of a kind experience.
“Following the Con last year, and heading into December, Turbo Kid was a weird secret success. When Spencer first came to Mondo, he had been championing the soundtrack the film, and produced the single “No Tomorrow”. Then the full album was released right as the movie hit Netflix. Of all the things we couldn’t have predicted, “Chronicles of the Wasteland” was a real hit for us.
People really love this and it’s the perfect Death Waltz/Mondo release in the sense that it sold well, but it’s still an indie, underground thing. And people who have it are telling their friends and the word is spreading. It is a genuine music forward release. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of the movie, you are still buying that album because the soundtrack is so good. And that’s because of Le Matos.
We sold some leftover copies of the original pressing of the “Join Us” album, and they were gone in no time. Based on the success of Turbo Kid, we were able to convince Le Matos to let us do a re-issue of it.
There’s a real awareness now to what they do. Now, re-issues happen all the time, but this isn’t a re-issue of something that has been in circulation for a really long time and you can get anywhere. It’s special because it’s still really rare and old fans would be happy to get a crack at getting this as well as new fans who are riding the wave of synth mania. We feel we are putting something out there that people are craving.
I’ve never seen them live, and because Spencer knows them, he was able to convince them to come to Austin for a weekend and I am beyond excited. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most at MondoCon.”
Creative Director – Toys/Collectibles, Brock Otterbacher
MondoCon is less about teasing and announcing new figures, and more about the explanation behind the statues and collectibles out, or soon to be out. Of course there’s always something on the horizon, but the more tangible the statue, the more the team (and the public) can get excited about the release.
As such, Brock Otterbacher is most excited about the Batman: Red Rain and Harley Quinn statues (from the posters by Francesco Francavilla and Matt Taylor respectively) because of the design challenge, but also the overall enjoyment of taking something from 2D to 3D. That’s the main focus of his panel this year. “It’s not an exact translation, but you try to stay as true to the source material as possible while dealing with creative hurdles or the mechanics of reproduction. Even the color of paint is greatly important.” What Brock does is take a poster design, and give it life in three dimensions and he has been doing so more regularly as of late.
For instance, in the “Marceline Abadeer”statue from Adventure Time, (which sort of breaks its own forth wall), the details in the base are one of many key elements playing up the character’s personality. With the “Red Rain” statue, Otterbacher and Francavilla had many discussions such as what to do with Batman’s left hand as well as what’s behind him because, in the poster, it’s hidden. To create a satisfying 3D figure, one needs to think in 360 degrees and about how signature details – the depth and reach of Batman’s cape for instance – work from different viewing angles as opposed to a flat image. That figure went up for pre-order two weeks ago, and the panel will discuss the entire process in more detail.
Otterbacher views the translation process like “comparing apples to pineapples“, because sculpting requires thinking about little details not necessary in a print, such as texture, textiles, pores, etc.
“I like the idea of both talents, in 2D and 3D, coming together and taking it to the next step. What Francisco did with Red Rain a few years ago got me interested in taking that and other posters this route. It looks great in a frame, and I thought this would also look fantastic as a statue. The print is amazing, but it was the background elements that really drew me in. The tombstone and the vampire skulls make for a very collage-looking element in the background, but how to make that work in 3D was the real trick. So I looked for ways to put in little touches that really make a piece special and stand out. They can be simple, but you don’t tend to think about them until you get into the process.”
“Harley Quinn” is based on Matt Taylor’s work from a few years ago. That is pretty much a straight translation from the poster to the statue, but the unique thing about that is that the sculpture had every color from the poster, exactly.
“The color in the poster, the whites for instance were not a pure white, they were an egg shell, almost a light yellow that gives an older, almost retro feel to it. Then you add the reds and the blacks, however the black is actually a deep violet. So when you see it, it matches the poster right down to the line work and is a true 1:1 translation.”
Brock teased a number of items at Beyond Fest (a festival similar to Fantastic Fest co-founded by Death Waltz/Mondo’s Spencer Hickman). There was Harley, then there were a trio of tiki mugs, and a certain vampire from the Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. That’s right, Alucard is a statue that will be available in mid-to-late 2017 (as well as the LP which should drop at about the same time) and it has just as much stunning detail as the previous statues of The Iron Giant and Hitchcock.
Also, all you ’80s fans will be happy to know that the He-Man and Skeletor statutes will be making an appearance. And, if we’re lucky, maybe one other Masters of the Universe character may show up. There will also be an extra special reveal of a Mike Mitchell piece done in the vein of the Little Mikey figure.
Mondo is known for products that are as ultra cool as they are classy, yet the next two lines are a bit of a departure. The first is a bit kitschy simply because it’s based on a novelty saturated in kitsch. The above mentioned mugs are a new line called “Mondo Tee-kis“.
“They are designed to look like a Polynesian artist saw Gremlins a couple hundred years ago, and carved his impression of it. We’re not overselling the goofiness of it, but we think we hit a good balance with these.
We will start offering them at the end of the year, and we have a bunch of different licenses we’re working with so we’re excited to roll them out soon – it’s functional, and it’s art, and you can have a lot of fun with it.”
The second is the MondoBalls line. Those are still coming, but the line has been redesigned a bit and will include a low profile base (specific to each character) which make each orb really unique. It helps break the ball format by having the base bring the design of the piece bursting forward. They are small vinyl figures, and you can change the bases (bodies) out however you want.
“The line will be called “Mondoids”, and ScarecrowOven is helping in the design process and the finished product will fall somewhere between Madballs and Boglins. I’m really pumped about this, and it really puts a new spin on that ’80s/’90s gross out aesthetic, but also takes it to the next level.”
This next statue was teased when we last interviewed Otterbacher, but he couldn’t reveal anything specific. The piece was not ready in time for this year’s MondoCon, but while you won’t see the prototypes or the finished product, Otterbacher has let us peak behind the curtain of his production process and given us an exclusive look at a test sculpture.
We’re stoked to hear this because any time Mondo does something with The Rocketeer (which is my all-time favorite movie) it hits me in my DNA and speaks directly to 11 year old me. Brock contacted the artist who did the original artwork, and made an agreement for rights as well as the liberty to modify the design to me more statue friendly. To quote the great Cliff Secord himself, “I like it!”
“As toy makers, we can be focused on monsters, and super heroes, and sexy babes, but the interesting thing about this is the chance to do something different and capture the spirit of the character or film, not just have a cool battle pose or a pumped up chest. They’re not always the most popular, but I really strive to make character pieces.
With an action figure, that’s interactive – the story and life of the character is up to you. But with a collectible/statue, it’s about the subtle things you can do and the moment you pick is very important. A certain pose, a head tilted a certain way, etc., that makes the character feel alive. You can nail that look in a poster, but when you get to 3D, you see how much more difficult it can be. But you try to be proactive rather than reactive, and it makes for great pieces even with the production challenges and headaches. Thankfully the rigors have been mostly technical, not creative. Starting with a vision, and ending with your vision is still a thrill.”
Brand Director, Jay Shaw
Jay Shaw has been designing posters at Mondo for many years. A few years ago, the company had an opening for an in-house design person. Shaw accepted the role, and as head of design, he looked after the aesthetic of the company – record covers, poster layout, etc. But when a spot opened up to be the brand director, it became clear there was a need for something different.
Mondo already had two brilliant Creative Directors (Rob Jones and Mitch Putnam) so the need for someone to focus outward was established. This role would manage studio relationships, work with the Drafthouse, and be the voice of Mondo outside of Mondo. Everyone at Mondo wears many hats as it is, but with three creative directors (Eric Garza filled the third role alongside Putnam and Jones), Shaw could look at things from 30,000 feet and still step in when needed.
As the boutique poster arm of the Alamo Drafthouse, Mondo excels at providing fans stunning alternative artwork for a variety of films. MondoCon is a chance to showcase some of the best of what the company offers each year. Shaw and others host one of the most popular panels, “Mondo Talk”, where three of four artists sit on stage and show posters that didn’t happen, albums that might have happened, and alternate versions of things that didn’t make it to market for one reason or another. Shaw believes that, sometimes, those stories about things that almost made it are more interesting that what did go through. “That’s a lot of fun because it gives fans a peek behind the curtain.“
“I was talking with one of our most popular and favorite artists, Olly Moss, and having a loose conversation about him coming out this year. When discussing the panel, we came up with a fun idea would be to make a poster in front of an audience. Olly was game for that and was on board immediately. What could possibly go wrong?
The idea grew from there and details were fleshed out, and someone suggested, ‘let’s not leave it up to us. Let’s let them figure out what they’d like the movie to be for. It doesn’t matter if we’ve seen the movie, or even like the movie. Whatever the absolute best suggestion from the audience is, that’s what we’re doing’.”
Shaw and Moss decided this required more talent than the two of them, so they simultaneously said that Jock needed to be part of the panel. Shaw has absolutely no idea what they will be doing. All the technology will be in place, but they are going into this completely blind.
A finished design for a poster can take weeks, so, obviously, the trio will not have a Mondo quality poster in an hour. But it does depend on what film/property is suggested. Shaw, Moss, and Jock are known for their speed, and the latter’s handwork lends itself to quick design.
“If the poster is something like Weekend At Bernie’s, you’d be surprised what could be produced in a sitting. We could do it in an hour, it wouldn’t be great, but we could do it. If it’s Blade Runner, that’s tougher and will take a while.
The three of us are very, very fast, and we can break up the components in it. Depending on what’s requested by the audience, Jock will get to work on the illustration, Olly will work on the layout, and I will work on the billing in addition to the layout. So if each of us takes a different part of it, it may come out finished and not just a rough concept, or a good idea, I won’t know for sure until we get on stage.”
There’s a hope that if it’s good, and they can license it, the team could finish and release the poster at some point in the future. But it all depends on how it goes on the day. They are going to playing it as loose as possible. Whether Shaw had a hand in bringing it to the Con or not, he is really excited about the line of world class artists coming to Austin for the MondoCon 2016.
“All the artists are dear friends and it’s a great community. I love seeing these folks. Many times we go to conventions, and the exhibiting artists may not know each other, or if they do it’s only a business relationship. But at MondoCon, it’s like a homecoming, for artists and fans alike. It’s a big get together and that’s always fun. I can’t wait to get all of us in a room together. I love these people and am excited there are all able to come to Austin. In addition, I am really looking forward to the screenings, and think they are going to go over really well. The line up is just phenomenal, and the secret screening is going to be really special. I cannot wait for people to see what that is.
Aaron Draplin is a hero of mine, so just getting to hang around him, listen to him talk and hear his stories is really inspirational. Bill Stout is probably my favorite guest, he’s obviously a legend, but he’s also the nicest dude in the entire world, so getting to see him and go to his panel is going to be amazing. It’s hard to focus on just one thing because there are 30 elements of MondoCon that are going to be a ton of fun.”
Back at Mondo HQ, Shaw’s role has him overseeing different aspects of every product line where he finds his time and responsibility focused on what is needed most at one particular time or another.
“If I’m working on a poster with Matt Taylor, a really, really wonderful illustrator, sometimes Matt will say he has all the illustration and line work done, but he’s not 100% sure about the title treatment and so he asks for help. That’s what I love doing. I love layout, I love copy, I love title treatments and billing, so I love getting involved in those elements. Other times, I can be involved in the concept, but as far as doing the actual illustration, I tend to save that for the times when I’m doing my own work because, to be honest, there are far more talented illustrators in our roster that I would much rather see work from them. Not putting my work down, I mean I like it just fine [laughs], but my stuff is more about the concept than it is about the actual art. So when we have a great artist ready to do something, I step out of the way completely.”
Shaw has an important role within the company, but if you were to take a look at John Carpenter‘s modern works, specifically his Lost Themes albums/singles, you’d find Shaw credited with the design of that packaging. That came out of a relationship he had previously Sacred Bones Records (with whom he also created the recent Moon Duo cover), so when asked to help out on the many recent Carpenter releases, he was all for it.
These days, Shaw doesn’t typically take freelance work, but every so often if there’s a record label, or film studio that there’s a good relationship with, Shaw will jump in and help. “It’s good exercise, and album art is something I love, so while most of my day is spent on the phone, and emailing various people about a number of things, if I get a chance to take a Friday night and work on an album cover, I will. It’s a lot of fun.”
Shaw can have his hand seen even in the most simplistic of designs. Take for instance the box that housed the “bolt” collectible from The Iron Giant. Many of those who got it probably noticed the paucity of detail to the chipboard looking package. But that was intentional as it was based on the time in which Brad Bird’s film was set.
“I’m a nut when it comes to being authentic, and if you’re trying to go for something that is from another time period, I love studying the look and design of how they did things back then. With The Iron Giant bolt, I thought about what would this have come in if this were sold at a hardware store. What is the design of packaging for mid-century mechanical parts? It was really, really simple, and often times the box was simple and had an illustration of the item so you’d know what it is and would look right on the shelf at home in the garage. I also love mirror boards and die cuts, so any time I can get goofy with package design, or a poster, I’ll do it in a heartbeat.”
One item that, recently, had been scarce in the brand’s catalog, has been Steelbooks. Those are fast becoming collectors items and the selection of films added to the line so far (Drive, Total Recall, The Thing, Flash Gordon) really epitomizes genre films. But don’t worry, there’s more coming.
“We came out of the gate with a ton of steel book titles and that had more to do with the prep for that. There were a bunch of titles we had built up and ready to go. So when it came out, there was a really steady flow and you could almost count on something new every month. It is still going strong, but we’ve been working with Scanavo and figuring out what that looks like going forward, so there will be a lot more, there’s just been a lull while we’re planning the next stages, but next year you can count on a huge uptick in the steel book series for sure.”
There is a big push for the merchandise and events happening at the Con, but beyond the events this weekend, Mondo is always working on something new and looking ahead to future projects. Like an iceberg, this weekend will celebrate what the team is able to share now, but they’ve got so much content under wraps getting ready to release in the future. That is perhaps the best part of working for the label.
“We’re releasing a lot of finished products at MondoCon, but there is no end whatsoever to the projects we have happening at Mondo. And that’s what happens. When the product – whether it’s a record, a collectible, or a poster – actually comes out and fans can buy it and see it, we’ve lived with it for a long time. So the excitement for us it right at the beginning when we get to start working on something. Seeing it in its earliest stages is fun because we’re looking at all the possibilities to make this, whatever it is, amazing product.
Seeing proofs come in and amazing production samples is what we, internally, get really, really jazzed about. By the time the product comes out, we’re still really excited about it, but we’re already working on the next ten things. Sometimes something comes out and I’ll get surprised by it and go ‘Oh, man. I forgot about that. That was so cool six months ago’.”
Like others at Mondo, Shaw thrives in chaos, especially in convention mode. He’s not sure if it’s healthy or not, but going 100 miles an hour is a speed he’s gotten comfortable with. Covered in tattoos (with zero affection for any at this point in his life – some he even forgot what they were are one point) but his tapestry of “cute and stupid” reminders of decisions between ages 15 and 40 help make Shaw the right creative individual to be running the Mondo label. A perfect mascot for the Austin-based boutique outlet if there ever was one (ask him about his first tattoo, that story is hilarious).
If you film fans loved what 2016 offered (and it ain’t over yet), 2017 is going to be unreal. Let’s just say the 13 year old Jay Shaw is having mind blow right now.
MondoCon 2016 will take place October 22nd and 23rd in Austin, TX at AFS Cinema and Holiday Inn Midtown Conference Center. An opening reception featuring artwork by Jason Edmiston & Ken Taylor will take place on Friday, October 21st at the Mondo Gallery. Follow MondoCon on their official page, or Twitter for additional updates.