The creative team from Illustrátus is bringing their brand new scary kids book Ghost to The Last Bookstore on Friday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m.. These are Disney/Pixar alums doing their part to scare the behoojies out of youngsters, and – if you have the guts – you could come here in person to catch a glimpse of them before they fade into the ether. Here’s a short communication, which may or may not have been captured entirely through “spirit-writing”.
Eric Larkin – What is the origin story for Ghost?
Illustrátus – The idea really came about between Jeff Turley and Chris Sasaki. They were two artists who admired each others work and wanted to collaborate on something. One day they were talking about how they loved scary stories and how there didn’t seem to be new scary stories like the kind that we grew up with – Goosebumps, Sideways Stories, etc.- stories that had that classic, timeless feel about them. They were imagining spooky stories that would be read around a campfire and remembered forever. For me, what inspired me to actually pursue this project was the memory of my mom reading my sisters and me stories before bed. She’d do the voices and play all the parts, and it was memories like that that made me want to create something that could provide similar childhood memories for kids.
EL – What is it like to work for Disney/Pixar? – surely a dream job for many writers/artists (including yours truly).
Illustrátus – Working for Disney/Pixar is a dream job for many of us. It’s a great environment, being completely surrounded by creative, talented people- who encourage, inspire and make you strive to be better in your craft. It’s a place where we work many hard and long hours, but also a place where we can have fun while doing it.
EL – Pixar seems to have an unbroken line of excellent movies. What’s the secret to getting it right every single time?
Illustrátus – There’s a standard that every film has to meet- each film gets put through the ringer, getting checked and balanced on SO many levels by SO many people who are top in their field. If the movie isn’t up to par with the studio standard, they won’t push it through.
EL – Ghost was produced by Kit Turley, with Blaise Hemingway and Jesse Reffsin writing and Chris Sasaki and Jeff Turley illustrating. What is the process for that? I mean, you have stories and art – which came first? Or did they develop together?
Illustrátus – The stories were written first. But in the beginning, as a group, we all brainstormed the story ideas. And throughout the writing process, the writers would check in with the artists to see what they thought about certain details, and the artists would give some notes/ideas. It was really a very collaborative process. Even when the stories were being laid out along the illustrations, the artists would sometimes ask the writers to tweak/change something here or there so that the layout would aesthetically work better.
EL – What is your own background with ghosts, real or imagined?
Blaise – I grew up in a 200-year-old colonial in New England in a very old village on the Canadian border. There were rumors that the stone basement of our home was used in the Underground Railroad. Any time you live in a house with that kind of history and you have an active imagination like mine, believe me you…you are going to see and hear some ghosts on a regular basis. I spent a lot of nights with the blankets pulled over my head. My three siblings became convinced the house was haunted and all slept in the same room for years. I guess they were hoping that ghosts were scared of crowds.
Jesse – An apartment I lived in was previously a 1930s era hotel. We’d always heard that there had been some deaths in the hotel. My dog (who almost never barks) used to go into the kitchen at night and bark her head off. I’d go into the kitchen to see what was up and there was never anything there. One time I walked in during one of her barking fits and one of the burners on the stove was mysteriously on, even though nobody had touched it that day.
Chris – I once stayed in an old mansion hotel in Savannah, Georgia for a few nights. My friend dropped me off and warned me the place was known to be haunted. I was the only person checked in, and my room had a strange art installation of wooden dolls suspended from the ceiling. Just as I was falling asleep, my luggage mysteriously fell off some furniture, and the toilet flushed on its own three times.
Jeff – In Northern California I lived near a Native American burial ground called Grinding Rock. We lived a mile or so in the deep of a wooded forest off Mitchel Mine Road. Every Fall my brother and I would crawl up on the roof of our house to hear the chant of Natives well into the night. I used to get an uneasy feeling hearing those chants. That to me felt haunted.
EL – What’s next for Illustrátus?
Illustrátus – There are plans for a Ghost II – slowly in the works, but definitely something the team wants to pursue based on how well Ghost was received.
Sure, you might learn something about illustrating and writing a kids book, or working at the highest levels of animation, or blah blah – but you will for sure get read a scary story, and that’s why you’ll be here Friday, 4/14 @ 7:30.