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Cream Cycle

medium. 2D animation 

date. 2020

size. 9"x13"

by. Michael Pope

location. Dallas, TX

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Welcome to Ice Cream Social, the summer's socially distant group art show, featuring creators and makers from all walks of life, coming together to share their love of the greatest treat known to man. Each week through Labor Day, come chill with new artists as they discuss a wide range of topics spanning their personal journeys, art, pop culture, and, of course, ice cream!

 Visit the gallery to see these and all the tremendous efforts that stayed cool in the spotlight since July 3rd. 

One time I got three scoops of gelato and they were all variants of vanilla.


Michael, Michael, Michael. Holy molies. I asked you to be a part of this beta run of Ice Cream Social, hoping to get a cool animation or something along those lines, and you've basically claimed an entire wall of digital gallery space all your own. Is it safe to say inspiration struck?
Definitely, but not immediately. I had "artist's block" for awhile after you asked me to be a part of this project, but I eventually managed to force an idea into my brain. But when I actually started working on it, that idea morphed into another and another. Then the floodgates opened and even more ideas came in.

I also felt a little pressured, subconsciously, after seeing the fantastic artwork that was already posted. But it was a good kind of pressure. An inspirational pressure.

I know all these feelings. It's deflating and daunting, but also so empowering when you hit on something. We're jumping into the coldest part of freezer right at the start.  I'm putting you on the spot. Which of these pieces is your favorite?
I think I'm going to go with "The Ice Cream Gang". I almost scrapped it. The first version just had the one cone in the middle and felt super empty, and I was having difficulty figuring out how to fill the space. Then it hit me to just add more cones (which seems kind of obvious now that I mention it) and I really like how it turned out in the end.


This one was high on my list from the get-go. There's something so unnerving about pairing dessert and violence. It also really takes the piss out of the latter. There's a big Aqua Teen Hunger Force vibe to it. Was that by purpose or chance?
By chance, but Aqua Teen is a really good comparison. I love stuff like Grossery Gang, and "Love Hungry" is my favorite Tales from the Darkside episode, so my instinct was to anthropomorphize ice cream or make a sort of ice cream monster. Maybe you could still call these guys monsters, or perhaps we're the real monsters for eating them.


Hahaha, I love the philosophical musings here. I snuck some Grossery Gang critters into my daughter's Shopkins collection. Is your appreciation for these kitschy toys born of having kids of your own, or have you never grown up?
I've never grown up. I think my appreciation stems from childhood McDonald's toys, like the McNugget Buddies or the Food Fundamentals; maybe not quite kitschy, but stepping stones to that realm.


So that answers your aesthetic and tonal source, but how about art? What got you into creating?
I've always been creating. Always, always. My first drawing of a person (which I still have) consisted of scribbles that were meant to represent Captain Picard. Then I started drawing my own comics. It was a lot like playing with toys, but there was more freedom; I wasn't limited by the toys I had to tell the story I wanted to tell. Back then it was something fun to do to pass the time, but now I see it more as a form of self-expression. It's a burning desire, cathartic, and fulfilling as you (and every single creative out there) of course know.


So have you parlayed this passion and talent into a career, or is art exclusively a passion?
I'm grateful to be in the creative field as a graphic designer; animation, for the most part, is a hobby.


Wait, hold on. "Hobby" sounds too dismissive or trivial. It's more than that. Animation is a passion. It's like another job or side hustle, only it's not for money – it scratches a specific creative itch. If life is ice cream, animation is the chocolate syrup and sprinkles (and no, I'm not calling them jimmies).

(Another vote for sprinkles. Sorry, jimmies.) There are so many facets to graphic design: illustration, presentation, logos, typography... Where is your sweet spot?
That's like asking me to choose my favorite ice cream flavor! But I'll go with presentation. It's a lot like putting a puzzle together, getting all the pieces and seeing how they fit. I find it really exciting at times, like when I'm trying to see if I can get everything onto one page or figuring out how to best present the information when one of the pieces doesn't quite work - lots of problem solving involved. Sometimes the solution is as simple as moving something to the left by two pixels.


I completely empathize with this puzzle analogy! What's the thing you dread working on? Like, something comes across your desk, and you just groan, ugh, not again...
My instinct was to say something "boring" or something that needs to follow a template and lacks creativity, but even they can be fun. Either because there's the challenge to see just how creative I can push the design within the set parameters and restrictions or because it's really easy to complete and I'm able to quickly get the gratification of finishing it.

Nothing like wrapping up a busywork job! I've asked this of other designers involved with Ice Cream Social – your job requires you to use your art brain, but your free time passions also require the use of the same art brain. Is it ever too much? Like, you leave work only to come home to more of the same, in a sense.
No, it's never too much. Probably because I do different things for the free time passions, like animation and story development. It's like job work is a milkshake, but passion work is a root beer float - both have similarities, but are ultimately different experiences. But even if they were the same, I still wouldn't mind because making things is something I very much enjoy.

I could go for a milkshake right now. What's your top pick?
Probably vanilla because I'm pretty basic when it comes to ice cream. One time I got three scoops of gelato – three different flavors – and they were all variants of vanilla. Did not plan that at all, but it happened.

That's funny. How are there different vanillas, though? Vanilla's vanilla.
I remember one was wedding cake.

First thought: that sounds incredible. Second thought: What does that mean? Third thought, and this highlights my random train of thought: where does the chicken theme come from?

It was probably vanilla and some extra ingredient they added, like wedding tears.

My question for you is, do you consider ice cream, gelato, and frozen yogurt different entities? Or do you consider them all ice cream like I do?

In regards to your chicken question, I believe my appreciation of chickens started with Astro Chicken from the Space Quest games.

Ice cream, gelato, and froyo are distinct personalities that wear the same dopey-pun fluorescent tee shirt at the family reunion. And Astro Chicken/Space Quest... the old computer game?

Yes, specifically the 5th game; the self destruct timer for your space ship was a chicken that popped out of an egg and it would spin for for ten minutes, but you weren't supposed to use it until the end of the game. I thought it was hilarious – I still think it's hilarious.

The first chicken "thing" I made was a character out of K'Nex pieces called Mr. Chicken, and I sang a song about him set to the tune of Mr. Sandman. Do you remember K'Nex? I think they still make it, but no one ever talks about it.

I do remember K'Nex, what with these contraptions and maybe Rube Goldberg machines. Domino Rally was the closest I got to being interested in that world.


Back to computer games real quick. I wasn't much of a PC gamer, but I loved Mad Dog McCree and The 7th Guest. Any recollection of those two specifically?

Yes, I remember but I never played them. I did play Who Shot Johnny Rock?, which was by the same company that did Mad Dog. Funny and charming, but as a game, pretty simplistic. Probably worked better in the arcade setting.

Another game I mentally lump in with Johnny Rock is The Dame was Loaded. It was another FMV game with a noir detective story, but it was an actual adventure game with puzzles and an inventory. I could never beat it because, as in real life, you need money to progress, and the only way you can make money is by playing poker. I didn't (and still don't) know how to play, so I always got stuck and just gave up.

'90s FMV games were really something.

You're defying my Texas stereotypes by not playing Mad Dog or poker.
Is there any stress with eating ice pops in the dead of summer down there? It's a race against time anywhere, and maybe my perceptions are wrong, but it seems like Texas is always hotter.
You've already caught me off guard by saying "ice pop" instead of "popsicle."


There's zero stress if you eat them indoors, of course! Is now a good time to admit that I like my ice cream soft and melty? I take it out of the freezer and leave it out for about 20-30 minutes before eating. I want ice cream, not ice cream, thank you very much.

I know some people like to bite popsicles straight out of the freezer and the thought of it just makes my teeth hurt.

You know, it never crossed my mind that someone wouldn't say "ice pop". What a blind spot! Since we're talking about it, if you had to choose one, do you prefer the fruit juicy flavor of a popsicle, or the milky creaminess of ice cream?
Ice cream. I used to love popsicles, but I've been starting to dislike them as of late. It's not that I hate them, just that the fruity juicy flavor doesn't do anything for me anymore. It feels more like work than pleasure. Like I should get a reward after eating it, not that it is the reward. Have I built up a tolerance? Have I become a monster? Even the kind with ice cream in the middle isn't my style anymore. So, I've just doubled down (or is it double downed?) on ice cream by itself.

I would call Flintstones Push-Ups a happy medium between the two, though.

That's because it's... well, you tell me. Is it "sherbet" or "sherbert"?
Sherbert! Maybe it's wrong, I don't care. Sherbet just feels empty and incomplete, like it's missing something that only an extra "r" can fill. And I understand that sherbert sounds like the name of a nerd in an '80s teen comedy, but I think it makes it more endearing more than anything. The only way sherbet would get any points in its favor would be if it rhymed with sorbet.


I'm getting crushed in this category. The next either-or is so hyper-specific to where I grew up, but I like hearing everyone's reaction, so, sprinkles or jimmies?
Sprinkles. I'd never even heard of jimmies until a few years ago on Twitter, and I find it just plain weird. It doesn't fit at all. I could see a stand alone candy with that name, or maybe you could use it for a group of Slim Jims, but that's it. It feels like it should be bigger than what it actually is, like the main course, not simply an accessory.
I learned that another name for sprinkles is "hundreds and thousands" - I'd love to meet someone who calls them by that name. On top of all the extra syllables, it begs the question: "Hundreds and thousands of what?" but you could ask the same about sprinkles, "Sprinkles of what?" so maybe that's one point in jimmies' favor.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jessica Rothman knows sprinkles as hundreds of thousands, too!)

Whatever you want to call them, though, I generally have no use for them. Is that too harsh? I don't complain if I get them, but I think chocolate chips or nuts are the superior toppings.

Please submit this to TIME or Rolling Stone. I'd read an entire magazine devoted to the ins and outs of sprinkles. And in suggesting chocolate chips are the superior topping – they are, except you can easily get them as uh... an inning? a withinner? – is it safe to say you'd take chocolate hundreds of thousands over the rainbow variety?
I would, but I feel like chocolate sprinkles are only a slight improvement over the rainbow variety. It's like a compromise or maybe even a trap.


Finally, the most important ice cream question of all: cup or cone?
It depends on where I am and what I'm doing, but in a vacuum, I'd go with cup simply to avoid sticky fingers. But I don't mind cones at all, especially the cones with the bit of chocolate on the bottom that you get from the store (you know the ones). It was such a game changer when I first had one of those.

But if I'm in a situation where I'm out and about, I'd definitely go with a cone because it's way easier to deal with, waste-wise. I can definitely tolerate sticky fingers if it saves me from having to look for a trash can! At the end of the day, I think that sticky fingers are sometimes unavoidable. That's the nature of the game.


I think you may mean Drumsticks with that bit of chocolate at the bottom of the cone. My man, thank you for this thoughtful spelunking trip into the caverns of your mind. 
Thanks again for inviting me to contribute to Ice Cream Social! I guess now we virtually stand up and shake each other's hands?


Brain Freeze


The first instance of "chicken" being used to signify someone is afraid came in the year 1600, in William Kemp's Nine Days' Wonder: "It did him good to have ill words of a hoddy doddy! a hebber de hoy!, a chicken! a squib."

According to the National Chicken Council, over 1,400,000,000 (1.4 billion) chicken wings were eaten during the 2020 Super Bowl, 27 million more than the previous year. 


My brother thinks it's a conspiracy of some sort, that we'd either be completely overrun by chickens if the country could eat that many in a single day, or farms are breeding chickens with 10-20 wings apiece. This seems like a valid theory.

PETA says over 9 billion chickens are raised annually for consumption in the United States.

Sorry, Esteban, seems legit.

On September 1, 2020, a Nebraska man, Ander Christiensen (27), went viral for his pleas for the Lincoln city council to abandon the term "boneless chicken wings."

His argument:

“Lincoln has the opportunity to be a social leader in this country. We have been casually ignoring a problem that has gotten so out of control that our children are throwing around names and words without even understanding their true meaning, treating things as though they’re normal. I go into nice family restaurants and I see people throwing this name around and pretending as though everything is just fine. I’m talking about boneless chicken wings. I propose that we as a city remove the name boneless wings from our menus and from our hearts... Nothing about boneless chicken wings actually comes from the wing of a chicken. We would be disgusted if a butcher was mislabeling their cuts of meats, but then we go around pretending as though the breast of a chicken is its wing?”

The first reported instance of Buffalo wings came one night in 1964 at Buffalo, New York's Anchor Bar when owner Theresa Bellissimo made leftover wings with hot sauce for her son and his friends.

The chicken is one of sixty living bird species that cannot fly, penguins and ostriches among them. The ostrich is the largest flightless bird on Earth, and the inaccessible island rail is the smallest.


Chicken parmigiana originated in the United States, and is not an authentic dish from Italy.

The Scoop

Michael Pope went above and beyond with Ice Cream Social, and we could have dedicated the entire summer to his work. Unable to decide what he should have submitted, he sent in all his original ideas.
First up, a funky illustration called "Ice Cream Guy."
ice cream gang.jpg
chicken popsicle ad.jpg
ice cream guy 2.jpg
Next up, Pope shares the hilariously evil "The Ice Cream Gang" discussed in the Q&A. Never has a spoon been so violent.
Finally, Pope gets his not-quite trademark chicken gimmick with this incredible advertisement, "Chicken Popsicle." Each of these pieces were digitally rendered, and highlight a number of disciplines, form Pope's excellent design and layout skills, to several illustration styles that could have come from entirely different hands altogether.

Good Humor

Why did the chicken

cross the road?


To get to the bozo's house.

Wrapping Up

















We didn't even get to Michael Pope's award-winning animated web series, Safety First, which can be found at his website. For more from this gcat-loving über-dextrous designer and artist with a gummy candy weakness, follow him on Twitter.

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