Lisa Hanawalt: BoJack cartoonist get personal in Hot Dog Taste Test

The illustrators new volume of comics, like BoJack Horseman, balances the somber and the playful, mixing food experimentations with family journeys to Buenos Aires

Lisa Hanawalt was not an adventurous eater as small children. I was a disaster, the cartoonist and decorator for BoJack Horseman told me earlier this month at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. All I wanted to eat were plain mashed potatoes, and I didnt even like pasta, she told. They had to be the right texture, they couldnt be too smooth or too lumpy.

These days, her palate craves the unusual. For one of the pieces in her new collection of comics, Hot Dog Taste Test, Hanawalt shadowed the cook Wylie Dufresne at his omnivorous eatery wd~ 50, the kind of place that served caviar atop ice cream and foie gras pumpkin pie. Hanawalt says she doesnt cook often herself one page of Hot Dog Taste Test showings dinners shes thrown together, including a fistful of potato chips and olives but she knows that everything we eat can lead our senses to unconscious memories.

Another sequence in Hot Dog Taste Test describes a trip-up to Argentina, where her mother grew up, and her family of Jewish refugees passed down South American dishes that accommodated Italian techniques. Hanawalt shows gnocchi with the same bright red surrounding her great-grandparents, as they run from persecutions in Odessa to Genoa and then Buenos Aires. She visits La Recoleta, a cemetery of tombs too decadent for many descendants to afford the rent any more.

A A page from Lisa Hanawalts Hot Dog Taste Test. Photo: Drawn& Quarterly

Hanawalts art balances the somber and the playful.

In Hot Dog Taste Test, she depicts death as a game you dread getting tagged out of; she brainstorms potential headstones: GLOBAL WARMING WAS REAL, TOO MUCH FOOD( WORTH IT ). Hanawalt told me that she found the cemetery in Buenos Aires both sad and silly: There are people running around there with selfie sticks, like, narrating their trip-up to the graveyard. Its the kind of tone that built her ideal to scheme out the visuals of a celebrity horse taking drugs, breaking down, and imploring his ghostwriter: Please, tell me Im a good person.

Hanawalt grew up in Californiaand attended UCLA, and after expending much of her 20 s as a cartoonist in New York, she returned to work on the animated series BoJack Horseman in 2014. When its creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg( who knew her from childhood) pitched his idea about a Hollywood filled with talking animals, starring the title character as a distantly successful TV actor, he included drawings by Hanawalt. Netflix picked up the demonstrate, and she became production designer.

She wasnt the solitary artist in a studio any more. The biggest change, Hanawalt told, is that I have to communicate my decisions to a whole squad of animators now and collaborate with them. And in the final hours Ill often be like, You guys, Im sorry, I know I opted this font, but I truly dont like it, can we change it? And sometimes I can and sometimes not.

Anthropomorphism has always been natural shorthand for cartoonists, heightening absurdities.Whether shes drawing horse-people inked with unnervingly detailed lines or a young moose fretting about her art practise( My sculptures dont even work as visual idioms or whatever the hell Im trying to do ), Hanawalts hybrids make use of the estrangement between human and animal.

Visual consistency is crucial to BoJacks themes, because his suffering keeps penetrating through the rapidshow-business satire. Hell say something appalling to a friend( paid or unpaid ), eyes widening as he notices the words leaving his mouth, and you remember this character is a depressed alcoholic.

In flashbacks, BoJacks parents careen between forget and instructive cruelty. Its like watching a gag machine confiscate up and catch fire. Hanawalt manages to place puns, references and sight gags in nearly every shooting, giving this abrasive ecosystem some internal logic Im fond of the jukebox listing Macaque the Knife, or the equine Basquiat paintings foreshadowing BoJacks alienation from his old mentor/ showrunner Herb.

Hanawalt tells me the lack of tails in BoJack has been controversial among furries. I suppose I am technically a furry, Hanawalt told, because I think about animals so much, and about what it would be like to be an animal, but its not erotic for me.

Shes sought out nature elsewhere: for another piece in the new volume, Hanawalt swam with otters at a wildlife sanctuary. You know when somethings so cute that you feel internal pain? There should be a word to describe a certain kind of horniness that isnt sexual I cant emphasize enough how nonsexual it is but its when something is so cute that you feel kind of aroused.

After moving to Los Angeles to work on BoJack, Hanawalt started riding horses again, something she hadnt done since childhood. Theres this Facebook group thats like, Bad Horse Marketings, and it simply talks shit about people who sold them a shitty horse. I love reading that, she told. But I also follow horse rescue sites, and then I read the narratives about the ponies that got rescued and I cry.

In Hot Dog Taste Test, theres a diptych depicting what riding feels like( eyes shut, limbs flung back) and riding looks like( dorky helmet, dutiful posture ). Hanawalt said that, for her, sitting on a horse feelings meditative. You cant think about that thing that happened earlier that day, or worry about the future, because you have to pay attention to what youre doing or else youll fall off Sometimes I pretend Im trying to get away from the bad guys.

Hanawalt likes to go riding at a place in Joshua Tree. The German woman who owns it once told her: You know, the horse can smell youre a carnivore. That inspired the creepiest moment of Hot Dog Taste Test, akin to earlier horror comics like Extra Egg Room. A toothy, shadowy figure rides the horse she simply bought, musing: He thinks its only a matter of day before he becomes my next meal.

Im strapping dead animal to a live animal and then climbing on top of it, she told. And thats the thing ponies are supposed to fear most, something being on its back with its claws its very weird.

I like to hope that[ with] the animals in my life, theres a mutual enjoyment there, she added.

Hot Dog Taste Test( Drawn& Quarterly) will be available in the US on 14 June.

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