Eric “Unkle” Pigors is a staple of the contemporary horror artist crowd. Having worked as a Disney animator for over fifteen years, Pigors’ personal work would seem to be a huge diversion from the mouse and princess scene. But to the many devoted collectors who flock toward his website and convention appearances, Eric Pigors has become “the” name in macabre illustration. Dwelling in California, “Unkle” Pigors makes an annual birthday trek to Atlanta, Georgia for a weekend of fun and frights at Netherworld Haunted House. He was kind enough to take a few moments to lend us a bit of insight into his work and love of horror and All Hallow’s Eve…
We have had the good fortune to see you at Netherworld every season for the past several years. You are in close proximity to Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, so what is it about one of the country’s most popular haunted attractions that sends you to the other side of the country to celebrate?
Well, I was introduced to one of the co-owners of Netherworld at the San Diego Comic-Con about 6 years ago. We hit it off, and he invited me to come sell my TOXICTOONS merchandise at Netherworld on my way back from doing Screamfest in 2007. The first night I sold my merchandise, but on the second night it rained. So I asked if I could dress up and scare people that night. He let me, and I had so much fun scaring people that I told my wife we have to go there next year together and scare people together. Then I told her in detail how great their haunt is! Next year we went to Netherworld, and we had a blast, so we have gone back the past 3 years together.
The first time I walked through Netherworld’s mazes I was amazed how much detail they put into their haunted house. I was jumping up and down, and yelling at the monsters how cool it was while going thru the maze. I’m sure the monsters must have been wondering “what’s wrong with this guy?”
I also love Disney’s Haunted Mansion. And I remember as a kid going to Disneyland and seeing the Mansion not opened, and the sign out front saying they are collecting ghosts for the ride, and I kept wondering “what is this Haunted Mansion going to be like once it opens?” I couldn’t wait!
Also around this time I bought my first record, “Walt Disney’s Chilling Sound FX” record. Funny story about my record – I listened to it once, then I ran to show my friend Tom Cole my brand new record and watch it slip out the record’s jacket and bust into pieces on the floor! I bought 2 of this record about 5 years ago. HAHAHA!
Tom Cole’s dad worked for Walt Disney’s WDI doing work for the rides. And he kept saying he was going to build a Haunted Mansion ride in their garage. Whenever I went to their house I would peak in the garage and just see their VW sitting on blocks collecting dust and cobwebs, and I would be disappointed. We once spooked out their bedroom with fishing wire to a rocking chair and ghosts, and then hid in the closet and made ghosts sounds to scare the neighborhood cuties! It didn’t scare them though!
Can you tell us a bit about your artistic influences – how you got started and some of the creative positions you’ve held?
Sure, most of my influences are from when I was a kid, “Odd Rods” stickers, Mad magazine, “The Munsters”, Charles Addams, “Wacky Pacs”, Plop comics, EC comics, animated cartoons like “Bugs Bunny”, Tex Avery cartoons, Walt Disney, Fleisher Brothers and “Frankenstein” all seeped into my brain. Then when I got older it just started pouring out of me in my TOXICTOONS ART.
I always loved hand-drawn animation and went to a school called ”BRANDES ART” that was taught by Disney artists. I went there for two years and then hit the pavement looking for work. My first job I worked on was,” THE LEGEND OF ORION in 3d”, which was 3d view master style glasses, Not 3d like computer animation you see nowadays.
Then I got to work on “Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Tales” show, ”Family Dog” which Tim Burton designed the characters for. This project was so fun and Tim’s style was so similar to my own style at the time.
In 1987 I started on “Oliver and Company” at Walt Disney Feature Animation. I worked for Disney 15 years straight, on the films ” The Little Mermaid”, “Aladdin”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “The Lion King”, “Hercules”, “Tarzan” and lots more. I even was given the chance to do character designs on “Runaway Brain”, which was a Mickey Mouse short with Peg Leg Pete, and they chose one of the characters I designed and named it Pigors after my last name. I also drew Silver, the character on “Treasure Planet”, who was a lot of fun to draw. But the characters I enjoyed doing there most were the Hyenas on “Lion King” , and Hades on “Hercules”.
In 2002 they told us people didn’t want to see hand drawn films anymore and let go over 700 artists.
So I took the $$$ I had made from Disney and decided to invest it in doing my TOXICTOONS. And I have been doing my art since.
What is it that draws you toward the dark and eerie? Have you always had a love of horror and dark art?
Well as a kid I loved fun spooky monster stuff. I liked horror host shows , had some monster model kits, Jack Davis’ “You’ll Die Laughing” cards, Rat Fink, “Odd Rods”, “Frankenstein”, “The Munsters”, and I loooooved HALLOWEEN time! And love monster art!!
My mom still asks me why I draw monster art. And I tell her,” I grew up with it.”
You’ve been known to lurk about the darkened halls of Netherworld Haunted House from time to time. Do you frequent haunts during Halloween season, and can you tell us about a few of your favorites?
Yeah, that was me and my wife hiding in the shack in the top maze for two years the last weekend before Halloween. I like going to Knott’s Scary Farm, Universal Studios and home haunts. There was a really great home haunt in California done by Disney Imagineers and had lots of similar FX like the Haunted Mansion.
Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion music and the song ”Grim Grinning Ghosts” is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. And I listen to it a lot when I draw, as well as other old Halloween songs from the 60s & 70s.
One day I would love to travel across the USA and see as many haunts as possible.
You have legions of rabid fans (most of the Netherspawn among them). We’ve seen many a Pigors tattoo on the arms of our friends and patrons – as a creator what are your thoughts on seeing your work permanently emblazoned on a fan’s flesh?
I truly appreciate the support the fiends of Netherworld have given me and my artwork over the years. And when people show me tattoos of my art on them, well it’s the highest compliment an artist can get. That’s on them for life.
How do you react when you see a badly executed rendering of your art in tattoo form?
Well luckily I have only seen a few that were not done so well. I get a little bummed, mostly because I want it to look as good as possible since it’s on them for life. I sometimes wish the tattooist would have just traced my line work a little better. But I have also seen some that have plused my art, or done my art but in the tattooist’s style.
What are some dream projects you’ve had the opportunity to be involved with, both horror-related or otherwise?
Well, the Disney films work was one.
But every Halloween I make a Trick or Treat bag special I sell at my site www.toxictoons.com I enjoy and look forward to this a lot.
My Halloween masks represent one of my dreams, and it’s now coming true through WWW.TRICKORTREATSTUDIOS.COM. They have four masks so far based on my TOXICTOONS characters. I would really love to be even more involved in the Halloween industry, by having more of my Halloween art made into merchandise. Maybe props, toys, shirts, maybe even a TOXICTOONS theme in a haunt.
But my ultimate dream project is to do an animated Halloween special with my TOXICTOONS characters. Then I can R.I.P.
What is a project or subject you would like to take on – something that would really stir your creative juices and allow you to cut loose?
Well the Halloween special, designing my masks, and making Halloween merchandise would definitely be top of my list. I am currently working with a fellow Disney artist who is building a very cool app with my art that should be coming out in May or July of 2011.
People are going to really have fun with this app.
Over the past several years you have released a myriad of merchandise targeted at your fans and collectors – toys, stickers, art books, buttons, apparel and much more. How important do you find it to offer a wide variety of items, as opposed to simply releasing fine art prints and posters?
It’s a lot of fun trying to figure out new ways to put my art on merchandise.
Ed “Big Daddy “ Roth was a huge inspiration in what he put his art on – model kits, shirts, masks, stickers, rings, toys, prints, etc.
Only problem is when you have a huge selection like I do right now it eats up your money quickly. Some of my merchandise is made by other companies. But most of them I create, like my shirts which I control and are my most popular item I sell at my site
Your stylized characters have become somewhat of a staple in the Netherworld Haunted House gift shop, appearing on everything from apparel to art prints to Halloween masks. Other than your website, where can fans find your merchandise and collectibles?
Well WWW.TOXICTOONS.COM is pretty much it for now. So come on down and check out my creepy website, and if you enjoy my art grab a shirt, some stickers, signed prints or even my “three artbook special”, that saves you $40 and comes signed with a signed Netherworld poster and stickers.
Quick top faves list:
Favorite horror film?
“Bride of Frankenstein”
Favorite horror artist (other than yourself)?
Favorite band or album (what they used to call musical recordings back in the day)?
Minsitry – “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste”
Least favorite holiday food?
Any last words of advice or encouragement for all those aspiring artists, wishing to leave their stamp on the contemporary art scene?
Yah just do what you like, and if it takes off for you, that’s great! And if it doesn’t, you had a lot of fun creating what you enjoy!
Visit toxictoons.com for all of your Eric Pigors information and merchandise cravings, or keep your eyes peeled and catch him when he leaps out of the dark some enchanted evening at Netherworld Haunted House!