Webomator: Bradley W. Schenck's blog
Bradley W. Schenck's books Webomator Blog Topics Archives Retro Sci Fi
Search retro robot art
Subscribe RSS retro future Bradley W. Schenck at Facebook Bradley W. Schenck at Goodreads Bradley W. Schenck on Twitter Bradley W. Schenck at DeviantArt Bradley W. Schenck Also by Bradley W. Schenck I play games.
TED Talk by Bruce McCall (the New Yorker, The National Lampoon) about retrofuturism and humor

Filed under Found on the Web

Here’s the video of a TED talk by Bruce McCall, an illustrator from (notably) The New Yorker and The National Lampoon, in which he talks about his retro-futuristic work and humor. Near the beginning he describes how he arrived at his gouache style in terms that make that style sound like a limitation – while he also makes it pretty clear that the style is a kind of visual grammar that he uses, as you’ll see, to great effect. That stands out for me because the signature style is a double-edged sword that I know pretty well.

Throughout the talk we see examples of McCall’s work from his "Serious Nonsense" retrospective. He’s arrived at or invented a number of labels and phrases for his work that are sometimes pointed, and usually amusing, from the familiar retrofuturism to the unfamiliar and altogether charming faux nostalgia.

These illustrations are grounded in the real imagination of the 1930’s through the 1950’s (autogyros jousting over Malibu, or the auditions for King Kong); many of them get their bite from McCall’s experience as an illustrator and copywriter for the automobile industry. As he mentions in the talk a lot of this work has been folded into his children’s book, Marveltown.

And near the end, there’s another treat – an animated version of his three-page New Yorker cover based on The Ascent of Man – seen as an escalator.

Via Synergy Creative.

5 responses to “TED Talk by Bruce McCall (the New Yorker, The National Lampoon) about retrofuturism and humor
Thalia says:
April 30th, 2011 at 12:10 am

Oh he did Zany Afternoons, didn’t he? That picture of the winning catch at the 1939 World Series is seriously I think the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, the moment and gesture of it are just so perfect. That and the Bulgemobile back seat picture, holy cow. Guy’s a freakin’ *genius.*

Bradley W. Schenck says:
April 30th, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Yep, that’s him; I didn’t link to that one since it’s hard to find. Apparently I was just too lazy to do this: Zany Afternoons, by Bruce McCall.

Scott Conner says:
June 2nd, 2011 at 7:15 pm

I love Bruce’s work. Another person that worked in the same vein (but in a less visual manner) was Bruce Weller, who did Culture Made Stupid and Science Made Stupid.

Scott Conner says:
June 2nd, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Errr….Tom Weller, not Bruce. Egads. Replies Made Stupid! ; )

Joel C says:
June 28th, 2011 at 11:07 am

The people behind the animated version of Bruce McCall’s “Ascent of Man” cover for the New Yorker, have created a Kickstarter page to fund another short based on his work.

From their Kickstarter page: “Three of the other animation shorts we have produced based on Bruce McCall’s work can be seen at http://www.babelgum.com/browse/search/Bruce%20McCall LOVE IN THE TIME OF DENDUR is the 5th in this series and, while these shorts have won accolades, this is not a commercial enterprise. So we need your help to finance them!”

More information can be found here:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Webomator Blog is powered by WordPress.
Down in the Basement. Where it Strains Against its Chains and Turns a Gigantic Wheel of Pain, for all Eternity. Muahahahahaha.