A Disney illustrator explains all.
SEPHORA COLLECTION is collaborating with one of the most classic beauties of all time: Disney’s Minnie. The seven-piece collection features a two-in-one clutch and 20-pan eyeshadow palette, a red lipstick embossed with her ears and bow, and more—all adorned with her signature polka dots.
To get a deeper dive on the iconic cartoon character who has captured our hearts—and now our beauty bags—The Sephora Glossy chatted with John T. Quinn III, Director of Character Art at the famous animation studio. JESSICA VELEZ
Tell us about the first time you drew Disney’s Minnie.
“In 1996, I began my career at Disney Consumer Products as an artist. I have always believed that Minnie is central to the history and success of the company and wanted to be a part of her world. I spent many nights learning to draw her. It’s not easy to capture her look and charm. Twenty years later, I’m still learning!”
What’s your first memory of her, before joining the Disney family?
“In 1976, when I was 11-years-old, my parents took our family to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. We drove from New Jersey and headed to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. The campground has a great tradition of hosting screenings of Disney movies under the stars. These were the days before the internet, DVD, Blu-ray or VHS, so Disney movies were a rare and precious event. Before the feature film they screened ‘The Nifty Nineties’ which is a beautiful animated short film starring Minnie set in the 1890s. It was the first time I had ever seen that short and it’s still one of my favorites. I’m certain I have seen Minnie before that night, but seeing her in that cartoon was the moment I truly became a fan.”
How would you describe her personality, and how does it come through when illustrating?
“It’s one thing to create an image of Minnie which captures her likeness; it’s a very different thing to get the real Minnie to come through. It has to ‘feel’ like Minnie. Minnie is a style icon embodying femininity and charm. She is so dynamic and is so full of personality! So, when I’m drawing her I want to keep all of that in mind.”
What do you love about illustrating Disney’s Minnie?
“Minnie offers such a great range of stories to tell which provides a full spectrum of colors and graphic and illustration possibilities. I’ve been very fortunate to work with Minnie on many different stories and styles. I love her silhouette. When I have the right balance of her ears, her cute little nose, and then add a bow or perhaps a fabulous hat, it’s fun and very satisfying.”
What’s your favorite project that included Disney’s Minnie, and why?
“In partnership with the Disney Store team, I worked on a Minnie Signature Collection. I painted a portrait of Minnie in a beautiful couture dress with a big red bow. We launched the collection at D23 Expo in August 2015. The Disney Store team did a great job developing a focused collection including apparel, stationary, and a limited edition collector doll. It was a long process. I worked closely with designers who offered specific direction on design and fabrication of the dress and bow. I did many paintings as we developed the program. It was a great deal of fun to work with Minnie on such a beautiful collection.”
How would you describe her beauty style?
Minnie’s style is timeless and classic. She has truly become a global icon inspiring trends and influencing pop culture globally.
What’s the significance behind her classic polka dots?
“Minnie is known for her trademark polka dot dress. This classic and iconic look has been reimagined by the fashion industry through the decades and continues to drive trends today.”
How has she changed over the decades, and how has she stayed the same?
“Fashion, graphics, and trends are in a continuous evolution. Trends are like a choppy sea and Minnie is the captain of a steady vessel riding smoothly across its surface. Many artists have created images of Minnie over the years. Many fashion and graphic styles have influenced her appearance, but those influencers have always served to present Minnie as she is. Disney artists use these images to share her stories, her interests, where she is and what she is doing. The graphic presentation evolves. The subject remains Minnie.”
What’s your favorite decade where you think Disney’s Minnie really shined?
“Minnie continues to shine. Each time I see her I discover something new! However, I love the adventure stories in the Floyd Gottfredson comic strips from the 1930s. Those stories are graphically beautiful, filled with compelling suspense and comedy, and are a joy to read again and again. I also love the animated short films of the 1940s. ‘The Nifty Nineties’ and ‘The Little Whirlwind’ are particular favorites.”
Why do you think she continues to be adored in the modern age?
“She’s multi-dimensional and has a versatility that makes her highly relatable to females of all ages. She constantly is evolving, but always stays on trend.”
Why do you think Disney’s Minnie is so iconic?
“Walt Disney was an extraordinary man. I don’t think we can separate what Minnie Mouse means to the world from her relationship to Walt Disney. She has a unique personality and an iconic style, but I believe in some small way when we see her we remember where she came from and how big a part she has played in the extraordinary history of creativity and storytelling coming from Disney.”