For people opposed to the Trump agenda, the past two weeks of his presidency have seemed like an absolute fucking eternity.
Ostensibly, the administration has gotten a lot done — you know, in terms of rolling back human rights, depleting national morale and permanently marring America's legacy as a beacon of hope and freedom in the eyes of the entire world — but the opposition has been at work too, creatives in particular.
Here in L.A., aillustrators from studios including Disney, Sony, Nickelodeon and DreamWorks have gotten together to collaborate on the picture book Not My President. A crowdfunding campaign is in progress, and proceeds will support the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and L.A. Justice Fund. The creators are describing the project as a “children's book for adults,” because although the colorful drawings look as if they were created for kids — the color orange figures prominently, go figure — their subject matter is darker than a Grimm's fairy tale and real to boot.
Creative recruiter Alison Mann maintains a vast network of industry contacts, which came in handy when she set out to organize artists. She explains via email, “I was really feeling demoralized and angry about what was happening in our country, and I wanted to channel my energy into something positive. One day I was sitting at home with my husband and our twin babies reading a bunch of different children's books of all shapes and sizes, and thought of a protest book for adults inspired by colorful board books for children. From there I shared my idea with a couple of like-minded friends, Kristine Eckert and Stephanie Perea, who I was hoping would love the idea and want to collaborate on the project. They were both excited about the idea and jumped onboard.”
Together they wrote the book, and then started recruiting talent to produce the images; a dozen artists are working on each spread.
Betsy Bauer, a visual development artist at Paramount, says she thinks it's incumbent on creatives to use their talents to resist the Trump agenda, particularly because so many people in their industry are immigrants. “As far as feeling vulnerable, I think that we do feel particularly vulnerable. While I am a U.S. citizen, a lot of my peers in studios are working here on visas, and are very troubled about the prospect of having to leave their careers, friends and livelihoods,” she says.
“Additionally,” she adds, “a lot of us receive our health benefits through the animation union, and if unions are broken up and the [Affordable Care Act] is repealed without a replacement, I really don't know what I will do about health insurance.”
Nickelodeon artist Ashlyn Anstee concurs: “Artists are often freelancers, lacking company health plans, and are often pretty empathetic types (the nature of storytelling), so it makes sense to me that artists would be speaking out.”
I asked a few of the participating artists whether they fear they'll face retribution from their studios for working on something so overtly political. Illustrator Yehudi Mercado — who's responsible for the drawing of Nazi Trump being carried around by suppliant Pepe the Frogs — was the most resolute in his response. “No. No fear,” he wrote via email. “I'm comforted by the fact that more people in the world oppose Trump and his administration than support him. The numbers are on our side.”
Reserve a copy of the book in advance by making a donation at gofundme.com/notmypresidentbook.