By Coco Mault
The Twin Cities metro area has hundreds of permanent art displays and mini historical exhibits around town. Just take a walk through the miles of skyway and it’s a veritable art museum; among countless artworks are Chihuly glass vases, a massive hanging sculpture by Loren Madsen and a painting by Sol Lewitt. Many of these displays go unnoticed, however, blocked from view by crowds who only walk the skyways when everyone else does — during the lunch rush. And then the goal, besides buying lunch, is trying not to collide with other bodies rather than taking in some culture.
But there are plenty of permanent art displays outside of the skyways and various civic buildings throughout the cities and one of them is quite unique from all of the rest. For just over a year now, a company named Puny Entertainment has been putting some of their own work on display in northeast Minneapolis.
After a small store called Robot Love left the space they shared with Puny about a year ago, Puny inherited a massive lighted display case consisting of 18 large partitioned cubes. Here was the chance to put some of their own creations on display. As a primarily digital company, many of their projects exist solely in the digital world. But in some instances, their projects do still begin on paper. And that’s especially the case for Vincent Stall, an owner and creative director at Puny Entertainment.
“I still draw with a pencil,” Stall says, going on to say that his co-workers tend to draw via digital means. “Everybody’s like ‘OK, we have to wait for the old man.'”
The permanent display shows the seeds of ideas, and in some of the displays an evolution can be seen. It’s fun to see something at its initial conception and how the creative process hones it.
“It’s definitely the thinking out of the projects,” said Stall. “This shows the process. To me this is like looking through the curtains at the wizard.”
Puny is named as such because their initial goal was to create for small, digital screens. But shortly after the company formed, they ended up taking on a much bigger project.
“I want to make it clear that Yo Gabba Gabba! is not our show,” said Stall of the popular children’s show, which features live action as well as animated segments that Puny creates. The show has been successful, too — Puny has worked on the first three seasons and is just now beginning work on the fourth. It’s because of bigger opportunities such as these (they’ve worked on projects for Disney, too), that Puny has been able to get to the task of creating their own projects quicker than they had anticipated.
Visitors to Puny Entertainment will see realistic and abstract drawing styles, portrayals of people alongside monsters wearing backpacks. In fact, there seems to be a lot of monsters.
“I had mumps when I was five and I had to stay home from school,” said Stall. “But both my parents worked, so my mom set me up on the couch and said, ‘Do not leave the couch.’ She brought me a stack of comics with the how-to-draw pages in them and that’s what I did all day. I don’t remember ever not drawing.” He said that he would draw while watching the creature features on TV too, mentioning the Creature from the Black Lagoon and challenging himself to draw as fast as he could what he was seeing on the screen.
There are a few crumpled pieces of paper in the display as well — but they aren’t balled-up mistakes. A closer look will reveal that the ball of paper has eyes, maybe a mouth, and various other features drawn onto it. A 3-D monster creation. As an illustrator who creates characters for other people to animate, Stall talked about what he’s learned about the animation process along the way and pointed out some of his foibles that are now on display. He pointed to a couple of his early drawings, which feature many small details, such as numerous buttons on a character’s jacket.
“That’s just not fair to an animator,” he said. “That would have been mean.”
According to Stall, Puny Entertainment is not just an animation studio.
“It’s whatever you need us to be,” he said. And though that may sound a little salacious, it’s really just a mark of the talent working behind the Puny name.
“We’re not just an agency, not just a production company, not just developers or animators. Sometimes we’re everything, and we have just a really talented group of people. All of the classic disciplines are represented here.”
After about four-and-a-half years of a continuously growing creative company, they haven’t defined themselves yet. But what he does know is “everyone likes drawing, so this display is a really good ice-breaker when people come in to see us.”
507 East Hennepin Avenue