As Attaboy will point out, his sense of humor — and by extension, his creative life — shows a flair for the literal. “‘I Hate Cartoons’ was originally an idea I had for a cartoon TV show hosted by an old man who hated cartoons,” the regular Express contributor says. “Each week we’d dress him up different, like a raver, a vampire, porn star — and he’d hate us for it, and each time he’d say, ‘I hate cartoons. Here’s the next cartoon!'”
The idea grew and morphed, but was realized, first as a self-published comics anthology and now in the first I Hate Cartoons Animation Festival, premiering this Friday at 21 Grand. It has retained its air of waggish cultural commentary. A mere “cartoon” seems hopelessly old-fashioned when put up against an array of “kickass indie animations” hosted by a pancake juggler and enhanced by, among other offerings, the “music to dismantle to” of Attaboy and Burke, and the “Sesame Street Death Metal” of Cookie Mongoloid.
An “I Hate Cartoons” tour will make the rounds in independent theaters next year. But it says something positive about the East Bay’s general aura of creativity that the inaugural event is here, as its press release suggests, for you to “get yer li’l kid on.” It’s a release party for Attaboy’s new toy, a customizable figure called Axtrx.
That, “and the rest of the Super Action Nub Nub [figures],” the creator explains, “are the vinyl embodiments of punctuation marks. Axtrx’s brother is Qweshun.” Another on the drawing board is Ape Ostrophe. “The names come from my literal sense of humor, and the enjoyment of English on Japanese packaging and making people say new words I come up with.”
Attaboy, who earned his moniker after being booed down at his first spoken-word performance, describes his creative maturation without sentiment. “I was a child model who suddenly got a bad complexion and retreated to the basement to learn to draw from my mom’s Cosmo mags,” he says. “Puberty was me drawing and reading articles about orgasms and Dana Delany in the basement.” That might be enough for a lifetime’s worth of inspiration, but there is also the matter of craft. Attaboy went to Toy School at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where he grew up, inasmuch as he grew up. He later worked for Milton Bradley in Massachusetts, and started his own company, Yumfactory, in Albany in 1998.
Attaboy’s marketing strategy is not to cultivate an image of himself as a capital-D Designer nor to affect a ponderous unifying philosophy, but rather, it seems, to just keep making fun stuff and getting people to play with it. In other words, to stay artsy but not especially fartsy. His pronouncements of aesthetic vision are accordingly well-tempered: “‘I Hate Cartoons’ is about bending genres, blending entertainment and art formats when possible — be it animation, performance, music, visuals, toys,” he says. “Thanks to everyone’s help, I get to hit the ‘puree’ button on that mighty blender. Hopefully it won’t make anyone throw up.”
The “I Hate Cartoons” Animation Festival happens Friday, December 5 at 21 Grand, 449-B 23rd St., Oakland, www.21grand.org or 510-444-7263. Reception from 6-8 p.m., party at 8:30. $10, or $7 in advance through Yumfactory.com