The Art of Mondo

Who are Mondo and how did it all start? In 1997, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain was founded and opened its first cinema in Austin, Texas. The building was located in the warehouse district and at the time was being used as a parking garage. To distinguished itself from all the other cinemas they offered a food and drink service inside the cinema, including cold beers. The seating was arranged with rows of cabaret style tables in front of each row of seats, with an aisle between each row to accommodate the waiter service. Customers would write their orders on slips of paper, which are then picked up by black-clad waiters.

Tim League Quote

In July 2004, Tim and Karrie League sold the brand, including the brand name, intellectual property and rights to all future Alamo Drafthouse expansion to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas CEO Terrell Braly, John Martin, and David Kennedy.

The current CEO and Founder Tim League then opened a t-shirt printing business in 2004 and called it Mondo. As the Drafthouses became more popular, Mondo became involved in printing the various posters for events being shown. Soon, the posters became more popular than the t-shirts and that part of the business became irrelevant and Mondo grew into what it is today. In the words of Chief Operating Officer, Jessica Olsen, Mondo is a company that “specialises in limited edition screen-printed movie posters by contemporary artists.”

Tim League

Mondo has a very loyal following, you call it a cult following with enthusiasts eagerly awaiting the latest releases. The release dates and official photographs are released through the company and various blogs, but no time frames are ever given, which helps to build a hype and hysteria among enthusiasts resulting in people around the world being glued to their computers, waiting for the link online to purchase. Mondos official Twitter account (@MondoNews) is manned by Mondo Creative Director and CEO, Justin Ishmaelby where the links are released. Once that link goes live the race begins: the eternally long 60-second sessions of pressing F5 and fumbling to add that print to the cart, then checkout before it’s too late. If you miss it you can be sure to pay exponentially more in the secondary market.

The Art of Mondo BookNow the Mondo team have moved into galleries and have recently opened their own gallery space, which means, even more, high-quality prints and original artwork from some of the best artists in the world. We have trawled through their impressive back-catalogue to compiled some of the most-wanted, most-beautiful and hardest-to-find Mondo prints produced so far.

In partnership with Insight Editions, Mondo have released a book highlighting the best Mondo art produced in full-color and features a look back on the history of Mondo posters with foreword from director Brad Bird and introductions by Alamo Drafthouse founder & CEO, Tim League. The book was released in October 2017, is available now to order on Amazon. It is currently #1 Best Seller in Graphic Arts Posters section.

Definitive, visually stunning, and filled with art that celebrates some of the biggest and best-loved properties in pop culture, The Art of Mondo is the ultimate book for cult art fans everywhere.

Some of my favourite artists who feature prominently in the book and as regular Mondo artists are Ken Taylor, Laurent Durieux, Olly Moss, Rory Kurtz and Phantom City Creative. In a 2013 interview Mondo’s Chief Operating Officer, Jessica Olsen, revealed the process for creating a poster, how they match an artist to a particular film, why there are variants of a poster and how they obtain the licences for the films.

What’s the process of creating a Mondo poster?

Justin and I handle the legwork of obtaining the rights to older titles, or negotiating with the marketing teams at studios on newer properties. Once we have a title, Justin, Rob, and Mitch [Putnam, Mondo Creative Director] spend a good amount of time brainstorming who the right artist would be for the property. Mitch contacts the artist and once assigned, Rob directs them from there. Once the design is done, we circle back with the studio for any revisions—if any; the studios typically have guidelines, usually for legal reasons, that they give us in advance to follow. They vary from title to title and studio to studio—and then move to print. It can get more complicated than that at times, and we all wear a lot of hats, but that’s the general process.

Once you have a license for a particular film, can you create a number of posters for that film, or just one?

We can create more than one. On some titles we have several artists we think would be a good fit.

Star Wars Set By Tyler Stout
Star Wars Set by Olly Moss
How do you match an artist with a particular film for a poster?

It varies. Sometimes when we first start working with an artist we ask them “Hey, give us the top 10 movies you would kill to do a poster for,” and then match them up from there. Other times, we’ll have an artist we want to work with in the wings for the perfect assignment. For example, Justin really wanted to work with David Peterson who does the comic Mouse Guard. When we added Brave to our list of posters for our Oscars series we spent some time going “hmmmm…” and then all of the sudden it was like “Oh man! Of course.” And that’s that. We like to match artists with movies that they are passionate about so it remains fun and doesn’t feel like a job.

How much collaboration is there in figuring out what the poster will be?

We try to give the artist as much freedom as possible. Because Rob is a designer himself, I think he’s able to act as a sounding board if an artist ever gets stuck or needs some direction. I stay out of all of those conversations though because they typically happen at 3 to 4am while I’m trying to get some sleep.

For some posters, you release variants. Why is that, and how do you decide which posters get them?

Variant posters are part of the established practice of screenprinted gig posters, which is what we stemmed from. They’re designed to be more rare and therefore more collectible. We’ll create a variant copy when both the film and the design calls for it—Attack the Block, for example, with the glowing teeth, or Iron Man II on metal.

Iron Man 2 By Tyler Stout

What licenses have been particularly tough to get?

Taxi Driver was a challenge. We worked over a year to make that one happen. Once we got the approval to make the poster we had to track down Robert De Niro and Martin Scorcese and request their blessing for their names and likeness on the poster. It was an inquisition but worth it. It was such an exciting day when I got those emails back.

What film would you love to see a Mondo poster of, and which artist would you put on it?

I’d really like to acquire the Toho license for Justin so we could do kaiju movies like Godzilla and Mothra. He’s wanted those for a long time. Personally, I really want to make Ghostbusters happen, with full likeness rights. It’s so aligned with what we do and our fan base. We could do amazing things with it.

How often do you have Gallery shows? What do you have on the walls between shows?

Gallery shows typically run four weeks with a week or two in between to prepare for the next one. There’s nothing on the walls in between shows because we’re typically rapidly patching up nail holes and giving the walls a fresh coat of paint, or occasionally an artist will be in town creating a mural on the walls for the next show.

Featured below is some of my personal favourite Mondo far, highlighting the artists work to produce an outstanding and visually stunning piece of art. Do you have a favourite print design, a favourite artist or even a personal favourite print not listed here? Let us know in the comments.

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