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Mata Mata I Choose You

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The mata mata is an aquatic turtle with a funny leaf-shaped head. It hunts by opening its jaws and sucking fish in with a powerful little whoooosh. The water is then expelled out of its nose.

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These illos were made for Phylomon. For anybody not familiar with it, Phylomon is a free trading card game featuring actual animals. It's a cooperative creative project. The goal is to take advantage of the way kids are fascinated by Pokemon, to teach them real animal lore.

Early on when the Phylomon project was just getting started, there was discussion of whether or not cartoon versions should be allowed, and whether or not they should be encouraged. I argued it ought to be discouraged.

On the one hand, a MAJOR part of the appeal of Pokemon is the cuteness factor.

And then again- artists who can make good caricatures are very rare, and not all animals lend themselves to appealing characters.

Also, if the animal being depicted was not a -familiar- one, a major opportunity to show an accurate depiction was wasted.

To demonstrate all of this directly, I made a realistic picture of a Mata Mata. Then I made a caricature version.

I chose the Mata Mata partly because it was somewhat obscure and partly because 'Chelus fimbratus' has a name that I could imagine some little cartoon version saying aloud, a bizarre affectation that seals those syllables deep into a kid's mind.

Pika pika? Mata mata!

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Although there's no way to tell from the bitmap, this picture is slightly unusual in that it isn't "articulated". Generally, I make characters that have virtual limb segments, neck, head, and so on. In a program such as Flash or Illustrator, the character can be repositioned with a minimum of fuss.

Although the cartoon mapa mapa is not so useful for Phylomon, I still think he's got a kind of charm, and maybe some day I'll find a use for him.
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