As the production designer of Pixar’s Monsters, Inc., Ratatouille, Presto and Cars 2, Academy Award® winner, Harley Jessup, has built a career designing films that both children and adults can love. For each Pixar feature, his mission has been to create a visually exciting, believable world with appealing characters all in support of a great story. The new Disney Pixar for LeSportsac collection features Jessup’s exclusive concept artwork on a wide variety of styles, from accessories and handbags, to totes, backpacks and travel bags. We had the opportunity to chat with this imaginative visual artist about his thoughts and inspirations!
LeSportsac: Did you believe in monsters when you were a kid? If so, how did you envision them?
Harley Jessup: When I was little, there was a gas furnace in the hall outside my bedroom that I was sure transformed into a monster at night. I imagined it as a kind of wheezing mechanical beast with glowing teeth. When I started work on Monsters, Inc., my kids were small and I recorded their ideas about the scariest monsters they could imagine. My four-year-old vividly described a fantastic creature with “sharp claws, a long neck and a hairy, hairy rooster bottom”! We tried to capture the images and feelings that kids have about what creatures might be in the closet or under the bed.
LeSportsac: Can you tell us about the creative process of developing Monsters Inc? What were its challenges? What made it fun?
Harley Jessup: The story of Monsters, Inc. developed over a period of about 4 years. We tried all kinds of cool ideas as we figured out the monster world. At one point, the director, Pete Docter, suggested that monsters might be like actors and that scaring kids was like putting on a play. That inspired this artwork showing monsters in a Broadway setting that we used for the LeSportsac collection. At another point I imagined a world that was like Venice with monsters swimming in the canals. We designed many versions of the monster world and this ongoing exploration was was a real challenge, as well as a lot of fun.
LeSportsac: In creating a parallel monster world what inspiration did you take from the real world?
Harley Jessup: We finally landed on the idea that the monster world should closely parallel the world of a 1960’s American blue-collar worker. John Lasseter suggested we take a field trip to Pittsburgh, a city based on one industry – steel-making. There was an energy crisis happening at that time and we incorporated that idea into the story too. We made Monsters, Inc. into a scream factory, creating energy for the world and Monstropolis became a company town.
LeSportsac: Was there a particular Monster that you identified with? Which one and why?
Harley Jessup: I especially love Mike Wazowski. His character never gives up and he’s decided that no matter what he’ll look at the positive side of life. I drew the diagrams and notes that Mike makes in the movie and maybe I feel a personal connection to Mike, because we share the same handwriting!
LeSportsac: What was it like to transform your artwork into a print for LeSportsac?
Harley Jessup: I loved revisiting that early design I did for the film – I updated a few of the theater marquees to advertise plays starring Roz and other cast members. I have such great memories of working on Monsters, Inc. and I really love how LeSportsac has applied the artwork in this collection!