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Watch How This L.A. Animator Brings His Cartoons Into Our World

Picture of Juliet Bennett Rylah
Updated: 21 December 2017
Los Angeles-based animator Marty Cooper imbues the real world with cartoonish whimsy via his augmented reality animations.

Cooper, who goes by the handle Hombre_McSteez on Instagram, was always a serial doodler, even in high school. He attended San Jose State University for illustration, where he soon fell in love with animation when he realized it was a medium in which his drawings could come to life. He took an apprenticeship with Blue Sky Animation Studio in NYC and went on to find work as a storyboard artist.

About four years ago, however, Cooper took some time off work to try something new: inserting cartoons into real-life backgrounds. Cooper finds a background—which could be a city street or a room in his home—then reports to his sketchbook where he begins conjuring up characters. “I’ll brainstorm in my sketchbook with four or five pages of just random doodles and drawings until I draw something that makes me laugh,” he said.

Then, he animates the character on clear, acetate cells, frame-by-frame. He takes these frames back to the real-world background, then holds each one up in front of his phone and takes a picture, stop-motion animation style. When the photos are strung together, “it looks like the 2-D characters are interacting with the real world,” Cooper said.

This could result in a bag of groceries taking a shopping cart dog for a walk; tiny birds dripping out of a bathtub faucet; or a cartoon arm reaching out of the top plug of an electrical socket and unplugging the cord from the socket below. His animations are usually short and good-humored, and some his characters—like a helpful, but clumsy (and intoxicated) elephant—make repeated appearances.

Cooper’s been able to make a career out of his curious cartoons, collaborating with various celebrities and brands. He’s even worked with TV host Adam Savage (Myth Busters, Tested) on a custom cartoon, and with the band Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs for their music video, “Talk 2 Her.”