Frank Santoro: You mentioned to me once—unless I’m misremembering—that you had an offer to do a Forming animated cartoon and turned it down to keep it for yourself - you talked about that Forming was your “space” and no one else’s - and maybe that you may do an animated version yourself - I forget.
Jesse Moynihan: If I remember, I was just saying that initially Frederator had asked if I wanted to do an adaptation of Forming for their channel. I told them something like, “Only if I have all the rights to it,” and of course they said “no”. I didn’t expect them to say “yes”! No production company would. That’s sort of my impossible ‘deal’ with Forming. If someone wanted to adapt it into another medium - my only way of agreeing to it is if I retained exclusive rights and control over all the content. Forming is my baby, man. It’s a place where I don’t have to answer to anyone. It’s a totally pure, streamlined place. I make up an idea within this world and I draw it. Then I put it on the internet. It’s so easy and simple. So regardless of how the rest of my career goes, I’ll always have that in my pocket, unless I give it up like a bozo!
Santoro: Have you been approaching the website or the way the the comic is seen online serially any different since book one came out? Like I mean, has having the book made you think AT ALL differently about the webcomic version. Nothing major - I just wonder how it feels seeing it as a book instead of a stack of originals and dots on a screen.
Moynihan: Yeah as I was serializing the first volume I had no solid intention to print, so every page was self contained. A lot of the gags and thematic ideas would resolve on the last panel. Once I held a copy of the first book in my hand, I think my consciousness shifted slightly and I started spacing my action and jokes out a bit more. I would let ideas spill out over a few pages and land wherever felt natural. I started to feel less pressure to sell a single page as a self contained thing. I think the second book breathes better because of that; maybe to the detriment of how it reads online. I’m definitely now in the mind mode of, “This will eventually be printed.” so I’m putting in two page spreads and stuff like that. It’s not a super radical change, but I can tell the difference.
Santoro: I’m happy to see you making comics steadily instead of disappearing down the animation rabbit hole like so many of my other cartoonist friends whose dayjob is animation. You seem protective of Forming - like its your refuge away from work life - like when we were talking it sounded meditative to me - like it was your foundation.
Moynihan: I can’t imagine calling it quits on my personal work. The reason I didn’t pursue film after film school, was I felt the medium to be too collaborative. I needed a thing that was my vision entirely. Collaborating is a thing I can do, and it’s fun but I gotta have the other thing that’s totally uncompromised. If I don’t have that, I think I’d get really depressed. More depressed than usual haha! The animation thing gives me a lot: The freedom to go nuts in someone else’s sandbox and live a financially stable life. It’s an awesome job and I love the characters/design/story of the show. If I didn’t have a burning desire to plant my flag in the dirt, maybe I would get completely absorbed by the show. At the end of the day though, Adventure Time is Pen Ward’s world. Forming is my world, and my ego requires I have my own world to share with people. I guess it’s my ego. That’s probably what it is.
Santoro: Can you talk about Forming process pre-animation day job and now - has animation day job made you a better cartoonist somehow cuz you aren’t only speaking one language ?
Moynihan: Before my day job I was working on Forming about 30-40 hours a week. After starting on Adventure Time, it went down to about 15 hours a week. I think working on the show has made me a better cartoonist in some ways. My understanding of volume has improved, as well as my willingness to flesh out and track environments. There was a period of a few months where some of the techniques I was using on A.T. started to seep into Forming and it was making my Forming stuff worse. It took a while to notice that and make sure I stayed conscious of the stylistic differences. I can’t have elbowless, Betty Boop tube arms going on in Forming. But yeah I think my stuff has gotten more energetic looking, after working in animation for 4 years. My posing is a little more extreme. Although that could have more to do with my higher level of Kirby interest in these past few years as well.