Matt Busch And The Aladdin Gang

As artists, we all know about struggle, humility, hunger and humble beginnings. Some of today’s great artists and authors came from gravel backgrounds; JK Rowling lived in her car and on welfare while creating Harry Potter; Stephen King started as a school teacher and had to borrow money to clothe him and his wife; C. S. Lewis was rejected 800 times before he sold a single piece of writing; and then there’s Matt Busch, the rock star of illustration, who started in kindergarten with simple construction paper, markers and a big imagination. Ok so he wasn’t eating chalk and crayons or living under a bridge, it’s still gravel.Jason (creator of all things MarsDust) and I got to know Matt when we did a feature on him July 2007; when we were old formatted planet. He invited us to his gorgeous house for a casual and intimate interview.

Beginnings, we all have them and in kindergarten, he was a big Star Wars freak like most boys. When his school handed out one of those Scholastic book order leaflets, he noticed that one of the books available was a Star Wars pop-up book. He brought the leaflet to his Mom after school and asked her to order the book.

What a very cool mom.

“From that age,” Matt said, “ I learned that if you put 110% (into your dreams), mathematically it can’t not happen.”

Taking this drive and talent through grade school, high school and into college, he kept busy, outside of homework, creating comics, magazines, dolls (opps pardon me) action figures, and other art work. At the age of 30 he’s created multiple images for 23 motion pictures, 17 books, 23 television shows, 37 magazines, 19 comic book titles, 12 different trading card lines, 12 rock stars and a huge list of advertising clients. On top of all that, he’s an illustration professor at Macomb Community College, acts in independent films and develops screenplays for film and television. He even puts together large shows of his work that bear more resemblance to rock festivals than gallery events.

He’s even worked with people such as Poison’s Rikky Rockett and supermodel LeeAnn Tweeden on the Coven 13 comic book, drew dirty comics for Hustler, worked with L.L. Cool J to design the opening credits for the television sitcom In the House, did posters for the movies Con Air, The Devil’s Own and Hard Rain.

He worked hard while in Los Angeles and then moved back to Michigan and set ground here. He’s done out-of-this-world work for just about everyone under this planet’s sun. Recently we caught up with Matt, at the filming studio, to see what is keeping him activated since then.

“I haven’t quit my day job as an entertainment illustrator, but more and more I’ve been immersing myself into the world of filmmaking and animation, he started, “It’s the next logical step in my visual art storytelling. Each project I’ve taken on, whether a How to Draw Star Wars video or concept design or writing project has really paved the way for the Aladdin movie I’ve been planning.”

Aladdin? Hasn’t Disney already beat that to a pulp? Please continue.

“Well, the release of my first Independent feature, Conjure, was a huge game changer in my career, he continued, “it was a mixed bag critically, and it wasn’t a huge commercial success, but the amount of mileage I got off of a quick low-budget movie I made with a Sony HandiCam is crazy. The movie was entirely made up as I went along, no script, and filming myself all by myself with a flimsy tripod. And yet, that movie secured national and international distribution. I actually made some money and made new fans in new circles.”

My gaze was fixed on what he was saying or it was his beautiful bald head; having my imagination take me to a different place filled with many bald headed men, treasures, fragrant oils, beautiful clothing of magnificent colors, and space ships?

“So I started to wonder what would happen if I really put my all into a movie and really tried to make it special,” he said, “the other great thing that has helped has been all of the Online videos I’ve done since then, in particular the How To Draw Star Wars episodes. Each one of those was so vastly different in terms of tone. It was the ultimate film school!”

What have you been doing since that article about 10 years ago?I haven’t quit my day job as an entertainment illustrator, but more and more I’ve been immersing myself into the world of filmmaking and animation. It’s the next logical step in my visual art storytelling. Each project I’ve taken on, whether a How to Draw Star Wars video or concept design or writing project has really paved the way for the Aladdin movie I’ve been planning. Hide message history

What’s gone on that’s help lead up to this project?Well, the release of my first Independent feature, Conjure, was a huge game changer in my career. It was a mixed bag critically, and it wasn’t a huge commercial success, but the amount of mileage I got off of a quick low-budget movie I made with a Sony HandiCam is crazy. The movie was entirely made up as I went along, no script, and filming myself all by myself with a flimsy tripod. And yet, that movie secured national and international distribution. I actually made some money and made new fans in new circles.

So I started to wonder what would happen if I really put my all into a movie and really tried to make it special.

The other great thing that has helped has been all of the Online videos I’ve done since then, in particular the How To Draw Star Wars episodes. Each one of those was so vastly different in terms of tone. It was the ultimate film school.

They all fans of superheroes.

Matt: I wanted to make a whole science fiction epic. I was in college I came up with this story that was kinda, kinda about this little band of thieves that had this little world outside. On thief in particular that had this kind of robot side kick. It’s this long story where basically, he’s a street rat, falls in love with a princess and I drew this comic book, literally, drew probably 12 pages of it and ah, in the middle of working on that comic I got this job from a magazine called Fan Magazine, back in the day. But I got hired to do an illustration of Aladdin(excitement in voice when said name) this was back probably in 1994. So I’m working on this illustration, but I was thinking about a book that I’m working on. Suddenly it dawned on me, this comic book it’s the story of Aladdin, but on another planet or something. (pause breath in) Ah so I completely abandon this sci fi thing. But later I really like the story I had and I wanted to make it into a graphic novel, and I ah, and I was thinking maybe I could make it into a movie and trying to change the story a little, but I really liked, every time I changed it, it didn’t have the flavor I had, I was trying so hard to move it away from Aladdin, but finally it dawned on me, about (pause) five or six years ago that Aladdin was public domain and if I wanted to make another movie, that I could and then it was just like (light bulb goes on, his face lit up), what a minuet! Why am I fighting so hard to not make this Aladdin , why don’t I just make this Aladdin? Then that brought new problems because my story then didn’t have the genie and I thought that was kinda cheesy, and then uh, now, everyone’s gonna want the genie to be in it and all this other stuff. And then morphing all these ideas together and making it my own and then, uh, um, (long pause) that’s kinda it in a nutshell. It was a little balance of everything. Influenced by the Disney cartoon , the original story is a little bit more where this springs off of and we can’t copy what Disney added to it. We can’t have a monkey named Abu. The princess in the original doesn’t have a name, so uh, we can’t call the princess Jasmine. We can’t have a bird that talks name Iago. (lightly chuckled) We can’t have the tiger named Raj. You know little things like that we had to make our own. In my mind, the story we have, I think is much better. Even thou I love the Disney version, there’s no moral to that story, basically you walk out of that and what have we learned? We learn that if you find a genie, you can do anything you want. I think this story is much, much, there’s a lot more, there’s more stuff that when people watch it, they’ll get more use out of it. A lot more martial arts

It’s a future within it’s own universe. It’s like Aladdin has returned. It’s the future of it’s own world.

Tony: I’m Tony Mielo and I play Harshad. I’m a stay-at-home dad. I ah, I ah, (sounds like a light jersey accent there) and that’s kinda how I got into the art thing. I started taking commissions to make money and I started getting jobs. I’d do a comic book cover for a publisher. Now I’m not just doing comic book covers, I’m doing advertising art, I do fine art stuff for local galleries. I have one son, four years old. He’s into the whole uh, (long pause) not so much the art stuff, like he loves when were at a comic book convention, he loves being able to tell his friends his dad’s in a movie. He’s into the whole………….whole…….into.

Sandee: You’re his hero.

Tony: Yeah, (shook head in proud agreeing) We’ll be watching a movie together and you can see him thinking about stuff. He’ll ask, “hey dad, when you’re filming your movie, does this stuff go on?” He likes to make movies and is interested in how he could edit things at home.

Sandee: What would you like to do more with this?

Tony: I’d love to do more acting, I love acting. I find it very artistic and compelling on a completely different level for me. To be able to pretend and make-believe; it’s kinda like being a kid again. I’d really like to play a horrific villain in a horror film. I’m about doing things that bring me pleasure. I really like superheroes. I can remember sitting and coping pictures out of coloring books. Before I had comic books, I remember having a Spiderman coloring book. I remember seeing Stan Lee on a kids show, uh when I was six or seven years old; and he’s talking about how he wrote the Hulk, he’d growl and when he’d write Spore, he’d talk in old crazy English, or whatever. He’d get just so enthusiastic about it and I thought, wow! I want to make comic books when I grow up. And from that moment on, everything I drew was comic books, superheroes and things like that. I can remember, um, my parents told me, um, I think my mom still has it; when we came back from seeing the first Superman movie and I sat down and I wrote my own sequel to Superman.

“Damn” was whispered from someone in the room’s background.

A Superman sequel feature in the future for him and his son? I think I hear Oscar buzz.

The costumes continued to russel and un-recognizable noise came from behind the closed door where they were doing shooting and lighting.

“Ready,” was hollered to start filming again. Everyone lowered their voices a bit and started talking over each other about superhero comparisons between the movies now and originals. I sat back and let the conversation roll, not really adding to the conversation; I am new to all this comics and superhero venue. I did enjoy watching 4 grown men talk about things that excited them to animated kid-like body language and semantics. It was like me watching a cartoon comic.

Matt: (to Jason) And I hear you’re moving to Los Ang…Seattle?

Jason: Yeah, yeah we are. Well I’m out there number one being family and..

Matt: Number two being Starbucks headquarters? (low groans were shared throughout the room, and a few eye rolls)

Jason: Number two being Amazon and Microsoft.

Me: Since you all, since you were younger, being fans of comics and super heroes, what are you thoughts on the recreation of superman over the years? As far as actors go and consistency of story lines?

(busy, muffled noise is heard behind the door, it’s hard to understand what is going on)

Tony: I love it! I’d stay pretty consistent. I mean, the character’s the character. I think that the recent movie and others have stayed pretty true to who the character was and what the character has done.

Hot conversation cooked about Superman, the new movie and the comic, that was hard to keep up with; I can’t write that fast. It’s amazing to watch the animated body language of these adult men talk about this important icon they’ve carried though their lives.

Me: Where are you at in the process and what is the premier date look like?
Matt: We are definitely in the thick of it all. We are building sets, sewing costumes, drawing storyboards, shooting scenes, editing and compositing, making music, and promoting every way we can. We are really doing it all. It’s so big that we are really just moving forward doing what we can when we can. We are probably 1/3 into the actual shooting process. We were originally eyeing a 2015 release, but as we stand now 2016 is a better bet.

Me: How has this project affected your life? Talk about it in whatever way you want.
Matt: It’s been the most gratifying thing in my career. To do what I’ve always wanted to do, and the way I want to do it. It’s my Magnum Opus. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of some pretty awesome projects, but this is the one I think I’ll be remembered for.

Me: Why that year?
Matt: The bottom line is that I just like the sound of it. But 3477 actually originated from my being an Honorary Member of the 501st Stormtrooper Legion. My number is TK-3477. I got to pick my number, and the best I could come up with is taking the letters MATT and turning them sideways to create the numbers 3477. There are some interesting things about the Aladdin movie taking place in the year 3477 specifically, but you’ll have to wait to see the movie to find out what it is!

Me: What do you hope comes from this or happens because of it?
Matt: Ultimately, I want to make something I’m proud of. So I’m trying to please myself first. I want to make the kind of movie I know I’d camp out for.

Second, it would be silly to not try to make something others would like as well, so obviously we are hoping to find an audience and give them a fun roller coaster ride.

Lastly, because we all have invested so much into this, both financially and with our time and energy, of course it would be nice for it to come out as a commercial success. But make no mistake, it really is the art and craft that we are passionate about. Everything else is gravy.

Me: What’s been your families involvement and support of this?
Matt: Amazing. Not only their verbal support, but our parents and families have really stepped up to the plate to help out with everything from building sets, to making costumes, to even playing a role! Lin Zy and I could not have done this without our families, that’s for sure!

Me: What’s your next project after this?
Matt: I have so many ideas, and every now and then I get really excited about what’s next, but I need to keep my focus on what I’m doing now. That said, I’m sure this won’t be my last movie, although I can’t imagine working on a more ambitious one!

As my career evolves, I’m finding myself more and more interested in experimental animation. So I expect you’ll see more of that as an expansion of my illustration.

Me: What website of your would you like with this article?
Matt: www.Aladdin3477.com

Me: Is there anything else you’d like to add that you want to make sure gets read?
Matt: “Remember, if you’re gonna make a wish, make sure it’s a good one.”

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