Created by Diego Molano, Cartoon Network’s new series Victor & Valentino is a richly designed homage to the folk art and traditional storytelling of Mesoamerica, a region that encompasses Mexico and Central America. The show tells the story of two half-brothers who must learn to accept each other’s shortcomings and abilities as they explore the mysterious town of Monte Macabre, where famous myths and legends from the region come to life.
Art directors (and brothers) Josh Parpan (Gravity Falls) and Justin Parpan (Ducktales) played a crucial role in the construction of a culturally-specific world for the series. Eager to showcase their team’s artwork and the influences that inspired it, the siblings created a Tumblr page titled Folk Art Friends – The Art of Victor and Valentino, which serves as a home for the creations of their art crew. The images exhibited on the site are part of a library of images built over the last two years; the site also includes photographs that point to pivotal references.
“The goal is always to do something new and different artistically,” the Parpan brothers told Cartoon Brew regarding their approach to the backgrounds and character elements. “The Latin American setting of Victor and Valentino made it really clear what type of references we needed to tap into.”
In order to achieve the necessary authenticity to satisfy Molano’s vision, the Parpans surrounded themselves with a variety of Latin American art, from architecture, to Mexican horror movies, 1960s Lucha posters, and Oaxacan alebrijes. “There was so much inspiration to pull from,” they said. “It made it very easy to build something new and interesting for the show.”
Regardless of the series they are working on, the Parpan brothers do a lot of research, but they noted that this particular endeavor required more attention to detail than typical. “We, along with Diego, filled up reference folders for the crew to absorb. We’re lucky to have a crew that really seems to love the exploration aspect of being on an art team. It would be impossible to do this show within our tight schedule if they didn’t all care so much.”
According to the Parpans, there was one location that Molano was uniquely concerned with: Monte Macabre, a mythical land inspired by Mexican culture with a fantastical twist. Molano wanted this place to come across as a respectful and unique interpretation. From that initial pitch, the brothers and their team of artists were able to explore different approaches, which made the experience more enticing.”It makes coming to work every morning interesting,” they said. “Building a giant animation puzzle piece by piece.”
The Mexican cities of Guanajuato, Cuernavaca, and Mexico City were some of the main inspirations for the art directors. They created a library of photos from these towns to constantly refer to. Additionally, Molano was interested in including some elements of the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, which the team hopes to dive into further in the future, especially if the show receives a second season order.
Besides the Parpan brothers as art directors, other key art department members include Marcos Cohen, Kari Casady, Victoria Shifke, Olivia Aserr, Katherine Tsai, Michelle Park, and Wendy Park (background painting), Tania Franco, Tanner Wilson, Olivia Aserr, Marcos Cohen, Victoria Shifke, Maryam Sefati, and Paul Tsui (background layout), Tanner Wilson and Eric Gonzalez (props/effects models), Heejin Park and Victoria Shifke (color styling), and Roxann Cole, Brandon Wu, and Fabien Mense (character design).
Victor & Valentino premiered last month on Cartoon Network.