INTERVIEW: Joe Pearson, Creator Of “Pearl Jam: Art Of Do The Evolution”
Ever seen the music video Do The Evolution by Pearl Jam? Have you ever wondered about the genesis of the video? Well, wonder no more! Joe Pearson,
head of Epoch Ink Animation, has written a book on the process. In full
color and including original cels from the production, this art book is
a must for Pearl Jam fans and animation nerds alike. Lucky for us, we
got an interview with Joe to find out what he has to say about it. You
can also watch the full music video down below!
AP2HYC: Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I’m a jack of all trades, a master of some, and an apprentice at most.
I’ve been working in the animation industry about thirty five plus
years. Before that I was working as an illustrator. In animation, I’ve
worked as an artist, a writer, an animation director and producer, and
beginning in the 90’s I set-up my own animation studio – Epoch Ink. So
I’ve been working as a creative since the late seventies, early
eighties. I grew up reading science fiction and comics. I remember
buying my first Fantastic Four issue on the newsstand. That
tells you a lot right? I grew up reading Marvel comics, and science
fiction, going to the movies – you could see a double bill at the local
theater for 50 cents – and of course watching lots of animation: Disney,
and especially the great Looney Toons cartoons. What I love doing best is writing and developing new concepts and worlds for games, or film, or tv. And also comics.
Pulling in this art book. It’s part memoir, part animation cels, and
part storyboard pages. How did you design the layout for it?
Well, I produced the video back at my studio in 1998, and I had about
five to ten percent of the original cels from the video and all of the
storyboards, and all of the predevelopment art and character designs. I
gave all the artwork and materials to Robbie Robbins at
IDW and we brainstormed how to approach the book. I did a breakdown of
how I saw the book working, with each chapter being based off of a lyric
from the song, etc. Then, I wrote about 40 pages of text for each
chapter and gave that to Robbie with suggestions about where to place
the art within each chapter. He was really the one who took the hundreds
and hundreds of images that we had scanned and placed them into the
appropriate chapters. He’s the one that did this incredible, incredible
deconstructed layout for the book. I think a good part of the book’s
appeal is in Robbie’s layout and
the design, and the way they use those images to really give the viewer
kind of a feeling of being in the middle of the production. He was
really a full collaborator on the book.
video and the book really do grapple with the dark side of human
nature. What would you say some of the themes are that you’re trying to
Pearson: Initially, we didn’t have a strong creative mandate from Todd McFarlane or Eddie Vedder as to what the content of the video would be, just that it would be an edgy video—kind of a warning video. And when Kevin Altieri and I read the lyrics, and saw a version of Do The Evolution that Eddie had made on his home editing machine using the animated Spawn, it solidified the direction and “feel” of where we could go with the video. Most of the lyrics to Do The Evolution is
a scream of rage against what we’re doing to ourselves and the planet.
So we made the video really just echoing the lyrics from Eddie’s song.
I’ve been criticized by people for leaving out other holocausts or other
terrible events from history, like the fact that the Mongol
warlord/genius Genghis Khan killed a quarter of the
world’s population in the twelfth century. That certainly could’ve been
something we put in there. But in four minutes, we really had to try and
limit ourselves to just a number of clear events. To answer your
question more succinctly, our message in the video really was reflective
of the song’s lyrics.
AP2HYC: Is there any part of the video that you would say hits for you, particularly?
Man, let me think about that. I mean, there’s so many areas in there of
strong interest to me. Before I was in animation I actually did a lot
of political cartoons, and a lot of editorial cartoons, kind of like in
the New York Times book review or opinion page sections. That
kind of artwork. And I did a lot of political commentary illustrations
using metamorphic shapes and drawings. So I think for me the scene of
the giant metal sandworms coming out of a city, scooping up the earth,
shoveling it up and bringing it back and dumping it into this sort of
pulsating city monster in the background. It just kind of sums up
everything we are doing to the planet. If you freeze a frame of that
shot, you have an editorial illustration or commentary.
AP2HYC: What or who are some of your animation inspirations?
Well, I’ve got a lot. I grew up watching the Warner Brothers cartoons
and just loving them. So there’s a side of me that loves Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes. I was one of the key designers and concept people on the original Crash Bandicoot Cartoon.
And if you look at Crash and his design and his actions, you’ll see a
lot of Bugs Bunny in there. On the other hand, as far as animation goes,
it’s all about Hayao Miyazaki. He’s truly the greatest
animation director living today, and one of the great directors in any
media living today. I number his films up there with the best films of
all time. So I would say the two of them are two of my biggest
influences. And I love the great Disney cartoons, I like Pixar stuff,
Illumination stuff. But I really love Miyazaki; he’s got like a world
soul that’s unique and beautiful. He conceptualizes and directs action
like a master, but also does these quiet, human and naturalistic moments
of incredible beauty.
AP2HYC: What comes next for you after this project?
Pearson: Oh boy. Well, I feel like I’m semi retired, especially with Covid right now. I settled on an IP of mine called La Cruz, which is sort of like Blade, but
oriented around the L.A. Chicano culture and locale. It’s centered
around Arturo De la Cruz, a Chicano who hasn’t aged in forty years since
he was attacked and marked by demon gods in Guatemala. He’s been cursed
by them, but he’s living in L.A., hunting down monsters and demons and
fighting the beast inside him. And the demon gods come up to L.A. and
start to infiltrate and turn gang members into demons. Part of their
plan is to resurrect their demon god lord and bring back hell on earth,
to Los Angeles, and then [to the rest of] the world. It’s a gothic,
Chicano oriented, horror action series that would be done in a very hard
edged anime style, laced with moments of surrealism similar to those in the epic first season of American Gods. We’re finishing the pitch bible now. All that’s left to do is to attach some named Hispanic actors to the project.
thanks to Joe for his time and such an interesting conversation. If you
loved reading this too and would like to know more about Joe and Pearl Jam: Art of Do The Evolution, the graphic novel is now available on IDW Publishing. Have any thoughts on the book? Sound off in the comments or tell us what you think on Facebook or Twitter!
Thanks Demetrios for the link. I ordered late this week from IDW and still got a first printing copy!