Disney touches all of our lives in one way, shape, or form. Want to know how I know that? Well, you are reading a blog on a website dedicated to Disney, aren’t you? Clearly, Disney has a special place in all of our lives. Being part of the different Disney inspired communities on social media I took a good look around and realized there are some insanely talented people sharing their passion for Disney in creative and unique ways. I thought about how these people were embodying Walt’s quote “If you can dream it, you can do it”, and I wanted to find a way to give these individuals a platform to share their work and passions with like-minded Disney fans. So after discussing it with the Mousekaboss Michele, I came up with a plan to bring the TMSM family a monthly interview with a different “Dreamer”. Let me introduce you all to the artist, Topher Adam.
A little about Topher; I may be partly because of his subject matter, but his work is literally off the walls wonderful in the most genuine way. I came across Topher’s portfolio through a page dedicated to fans of the Haunted Mansion, no surprise there. After looking at some of his stuff, I contacted him about an opportunity to help with a project he was working on, and a friendship blossomed from there. I knew immediately talking to this gentleman, that he shared a love of Disney that drove his inspiration to explore different mediums, including some outside the world of Disney. Aside from being a gifted artist and creating some impressive Disney art mash-ups, he’s an excellent photographer, vocalist and motivational speaker folks. I got the opportunity to interview him as he returned from a convention where he exhibited some of his creations. Check it out below:
Erika (E): When did you first become a Disney fan?
Topher (T): “As long as I can remember Disney was the ultimate place for me to relive a childhood I didn't get to have. My first trip to Disney was when I was 4 years old. My mum told me the first time I rode the Haunted Mansion, I stood up against the rail of the Doombuggy with my eyes wide open looking back and forth in amazement. She didn't know if I was afraid or amazed. Go figure, I guess I was born with this crazy Disney passion; loving amazing Disney magic that is.”
E: Did you always know you wanted to create art?
T: “When we are young, we're asked "what do you want to be when you grow up?" I always responded, “I am going to be an artist." that has never changed, it was something I knew deep down was my mission in my life. I still say it, "I want to be an artist" of course not a starving one, but I want to be a signed and valued artist. I think it's important to understand your strengths, your weaknesses, and what you can offer the world. I'm not saying, offer like giving something for free, but offer meaning to participate in. I'm a firm believer we must participate in the world with our true born nature and talent. I have never diverted from doing exactly what I know life had planned for me. So, I didn't pick this life, life picked me. It's not an easy one! So much saturation in the world with technology at our fingertips. So many think they are artists by automation. Yes we can create, yes we can do things that seem like art, and sure it's easy. But can you tell stories through your point of view, with the things you see, your surroundings, and capture these moments for someone to relate to? Or are you just mimicking something, or someone? That's not art, that's basically being a production artist spitting out process, and formula, and expectations out of an art form. Art is deep, it's soul based, it’s painful, it's happy, and it’s an emotional roller coaster of ones trials and tribulations. I have never understood the process of selling out as an artist, it’s like breaking apart of your soul to give what the world expects rather than doing what your heart aches to do.”
E: Can you tell me a little bit about what you make?
T: “What a fun question! I do a lot of different things. There have been times in my life I have been told: “Topher Adam focus on one thing." <rolling my eyes> What does that mean? I understand what they are trying to say, I just think it's such a funny expectation of a creator, or creative mind to only do one thing. That’s impossible "Focus on one thing, do it the best." I believe I do, even though it may not seem like it as I have so many facets to what I actually do. It's all focused on one thing that I love. That thing would be, I create! I have several mediums, but I focus on creating, being true to my heart, celebrating the things I create, and making sure that when I do these things they all have my touch, or signature to them, or a feeling that says, that's a Topher Adam creation.”
“But if I were to answer the question like others, I'd say, I create magical images that help others who love and adore the Disney quality of work to smile, reflect, or adore their loved classic characters in mashups that involve the Haunted Mansion and the classics. Example, I'm working on a new mashup with Ellie, Carl, and Russell from Pixar’s “UP” inside the Haunted Mansion halls. (Just wait and see) it's something that makes me laugh when I think of these characters visiting the Haunted Mansion. What would they be doing, or where would they be, how will it end up looking, what's the story behind the piece? That's the joy of what I do. I create the humor behind these characters in one of my favorite rides at the parks. So, what if these characters could exist in the HM. Why not, if so, why and what's the reason. I spend a lot of time creating a lot of scenarios of these storylines inside their visit to the Haunted Mansion reality in my head before starting my project.”
“My work can be seen on a Tee-Shirt, a print, a photograph, or digitally online for the world to see my crazy fun points of view and love for Disney classic characters visiting the Haunted Mansion. which is why I call myself “Imafoolishmortal”
E: What steps did you pursue to hone in on your craft?
T: “I think I just allow my imagination to run-a-muck. Each night I head off to sleep, I give myself a task. My number one task is The Haunted Mansion. Then I start thinking of the Disney Classics and characters and how they could be in the Haunted Mansion. I start to consider the characters that pop into my mind then start placing them in each of the areas of the Mansion to see if I can come up with something funny, or memorable. If I can, then the process begins. It's always important for me to make my mashups make sense to the characters that are in the mansion. The art must have humor and must maintain the Disney feeling. I scour the web for the characters I'm in search of, and the area I think the storyline works best in the mansion. Then I start to create the character first, then the atmosphere and location, then mashing them up with colors and finalizing the magic with that Topher Adam look and signature. Mine seems to be light, and magical mist, and the essence of ghostly spaces.”
E: Did you always want to create Disney inspired art? If so, what sparked that, if not, what sparked the change?
T: “Yes, and always yes! When I was young I remember drawing Mickey Mouse all the time. I never knew that there were careers one could work towards becoming a Disney artist. That kind of information wasn't something that was available to me growing up. I never had that encouragement from my family or friends. I only knew that when you grew up, you had to work, I had no idea you could be an artist making money doing what you loved with a studio like Disney. I wasn't sure how to become an artist that would sell his work. I always figured drawing and making art would just be something I did for myself. Something to fill that burning desire of being creative. No one ever said you should do this, go here, and talk to these guys. So, I just created, in my free time from school, I was drawing, from work, I was painting, or taking photos, wasn't always Disney inspire art, it was just art, painting, drawing, making, sculpting, or whatever came to me at that moment I was creating something to help me be me. I didn't have that guidance otherwise, I never had that inspiration or encouragement, or even the tools to say reach further, contact Disney. It wasn't something I wasn’t aware was a possibility growing up when I did. I just did what made me happy, what I could create to give as gifts, or hang on my walls to decorate.”
“Creating Disney art just kind of hit me one day, I felt like there were too many times I would think, oh my Goofy would be awesome here, or Mickey Mouse should do this, or . . . the story goes on. I love the park so much, the ideas kept hitting me each day, and every time I was in the park I had more ideas. I started meeting others keen on creating Disney art, I have met several Disney artists now and something started biting at me. The passion to create and develop these fun mashups started burning within me. I had this drive to do character-driven pieces in my own style visiting the Haunted Mansion, it was something I couldn't stop thinking about or drawing, and still can't stop thinking about or drawing. First I started creating through photography, then through illustrating these ideas, and now through 3D and making environments, and now digital art. I’m a madman fan on a mission of creating my own original Disney inspired mashups and art that celebrate my love for the mouse and the Haunted Mansion.”
E: What is your favorite Disney inspired subject to draw inspiration from?
T: “It's the Haunted Mansion as you may have guessed already, DUH! There is something whimsical, dark, alluring, and mysterious that I find my mind and heart gravitate towards. I had a very painful and dark childhood. I found myself drawn to the darker nature of the world and what was beyond the veil of life and death. (I know, not so Disney <giggle>) The Haunted Mansion and the Tower of Terror have these otherworldly qualities about the spiritual life of Ghosts and goblins. They are magical and mystical, and transparent, and so obvious, and hilarious to me. Rolly Crump and Marc Davis created these humorous characters of the spirit world that just speak to me. I want to know more about them, and why they are there, and what's their backstories, I want to create more, I want to “be a part of their world” ~ Little Mermaid <turning red>. So, I dove in head first and have never regretted creating my silly mashups since. Yes, of course, other parts of the park touch my heart and I do my best to bring them together in a way that causes me to smile and laugh and be a child within each time they materialize. So, I do my best to bring them together in the best way I know how, together in the Haunted Mansion. <big smile>”
E: What’s your favorite type of project to work on?
T: “Ghost, apparitions, zany, silly, magical, spells, Hocus Pocus, the dead, mystery, and magic of them all. Space and time, and the paranormal. It's funny I know, but put me in a haunted house, where spooks, and ghosts and goblins exist, and I thrive. Every day is Halloween in my life. Why, I don't know, but when I live in the thought that magic is real, you will find me there. I always say, "there is more light in the dark, because that's where your imagination sparks." It's the chance to see things and places within our minds that bring the joy and happiness into our living lives. The imagination is so powerful and so important in our lives. It's what helps us get through the madness of the living world of trials and tribulations. It's not easy to live in a world full of hate, full of governments wanting to control others and their choices. It's important for us to break free from the reality of our daily struggles and celebrate the moments we can to live in our dreams and hopes. You will always find me there living in hope, and creating from passion. My art helps me fight the hate, helps me celebrate our differences, helps me forget the heartbreak and downfalls we are reminded of daily by those who don't want to see us win. I do my best to just submerge myself in my own passion and love for Disney and The Haunted Mansion, and the ability to help create that magic come to life for others I remind myself and others who we truly are within. The child will always live in the heart of an adult, no matter how old you are. We just need to let that drive us so we all can celebrate daily. Now if Disney would see that in my work and invite me to be a licensed Disney artist, my dreams would come true.”
E: What kinds of requests do you get?
T: “I get a lot of requests when it comes to my photography. Many people want to be a part of my 999 series. I am photographing Haunted Mansion characters in their mortal corruptible state. I'm keen on creating photos of the Marc Davis portraits using real people/fans instead of paintings. I am finishing up my Stretching Portrait series now. Honestly how fun is it to work with fans so excited to be immortalized in my body of work while helping bring their dreams to life by photographing them as Disney Haunted Mansion characters. I have a lot to photograph, 999 happy haunts is a huge number. Let's just hope I can come up with a lot of amazing characters that fit in the world of Marc Davis and Rolly Crump. Fingers crossed.”
E: Anything new, fans and readers should be looking forward to?
T: “ Yes, I have a few amazing ideas in the works. I'm exploring creating pop-up-books, some shadow boxes, and something I can't give out yet. But I think it will bring smiles to many fans. I am always doing something fun, creating whatever I can to bring the attention to the Disney Wonderground Gallery. I have a dream, been wishing on that star my whole life, been waiting for them to come true. They say dreams come true, I'm still waiting for that to happen.”
E: If you could give anyone some advice to Do as Dreamers Do, what would it be?
T: “Find that spot within you that has a voice, a child's dream, and the drive to celebrate life doing what you were born to do. Never let that spark fade, if you are working for someone, find a way to make your dreams come true by doing this on your own, leaving your mark in history. It's not easy, it's a huge mountain to climb, and many will tug on our way up, but never stop believing that it's possible. I am by no means close to realizing my dream, but I will never let anyone or anything stop me from trying. I have always said I would be an artist. It's a tough career choice, the world wants to stop you, and the government wants to take art away from you. But never allow their limitless thinking to cause you to stop trying. Art reminds us why we are here on this planet, creating is the reason we are where we are. Without the creative minds of yesterday, tomorrow isn't possible. So, never let art die, never overlook the Artist who spill their life on a canvas, never give in to the broken ideas that it has no value. Who are we without our creative nature? I want to live my success, I want to be celebrated and valued for my efforts and hard work. I want to have my dreams come true and continue bringing the magic home to all of you and to have Disney pick me up and see that I care about Disney, Walt’s mission, the passion of bringing that bit of spark and hope to all the hearts and minds wanting to live in the magical moments. We must value each other while celebrating our differences. Life is too short to allow others to use you as a stepping stone to their success. Just hold their hands and do it together. That way we all can live in harmony, and peace. This life was meant for you and me to win together, to love together, and to be part of this experience together. No better or worse, always equally.”
“So, if I can give you one thing to help you accomplish your dreams. It would be this. You are the only one sitting in your car (mind and body) driving to your destination. Share the road, get there safely, respect all on the same journey, and remember if we all do this together we can all achieve the same goals. Dreams do come true, just keep swimming! What do we do, we swim!”
I thanked Topher for his time and for allowing me to take a peek into his life and his process. It really is fascinating to understand what drives the people who share the same love of Disney you do. I truly encourage everyone who reads this interview to look into Topher’s work, and if you know of any other people in the Disney community who are sharing their gifts and inspire you, let us know! We would love to feature them on the site. You can find Topher’s work linked below.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheGhostHost - www.facebook.com/999happyhaunts