An interview with Margaret Petrie
by David Cleary

DAVID CLEARY: Margaret, welcome! First tell us a little about yourself--the basic personal goodies such as where you live, where you work or go to school, things like that.

MARGARET PETRIE: Well, I live in Reston, Virginia, a rather non-descript town 20 minutes outside of Washington, D.C. In fact, I think the thing that Reston is most known for is that there's a strain of Ebola virus named after it. ;)

Right now, I find myself waiting tables and grabbing temp work as I can find it--not the most fun or exciting work in the world, but it keeps me in Lion King plushies. ;)

I also do quite a few art commissions, which helps out when things get tight. I'm not currently in school; it would be extremely hard on our finances if both of us attended school (my fiance is pursuing a veterinary career), so I opted out.

DC: You know your town's not too thrilling when an Ebola virus strain is its claim to fame. Did you always live in the Washington area, or did you grow up elsewhere?

MP: No, I grew up in New York, across the street from the Bronx in Yonkers. I wouldn't have gotten into half the trouble I got into as a kid if I grew up in Reston. ;)

DC: So it's safe to assume you were a bit of a handful as a youngster?

MP: Much to the chagrin of my mom and the delight of my grandmother. I remember the day I shaved the sides of my head and dyed the remaining hair a bright magenta; my mother's jaw dropped and my grandmother laughed. I was a little monster that liked heavy metal, drinking, trying any substance that was thrown my way, and doing weird and terrible things to my hair. Strangely enough, though--through all this I managed honors classes and a part-time job. It was a kind of controlled chaos. I was a complete terror on the weekends and after school. ;) My mother let a lot of things slide because she trusted me to keep things together, and I did. I'm glad I never ended up like a lot of the people I hung around with, though.

DC: When did you first see "The Lion King?"

MP: I first saw TLK the second week it was out. I went to a matinee show and it was just me and a few kids with their moms. I always go to see animated films by myself for the first time.

The kids were really cool; they got so into it. A couple of them cried during Mufasa's death and cheered when Timon and Pumbaa came to Simba's rescue (apparently, most of them had seen the movie before). It's always a neat experience to see these sorts of animated films with kids around.

DC: How many times have you seen the movie, both in the theatre and on video?

MP: I ended up seeing it in the theatre about 6-7 times. It would be one of those things like, "Well, I have nothing to do this afternoon--think I'll go see TLK."

As for watching the video, I think I've seen it in its entirely about fifteen times. I really try not to wear the movie out. I can't count the times I've just watched certain parts of the film for one reason or another. "Be Prepared" has been played many times while trying to learn how to draw Scar. ;)

DC: Which parts of TLK do you like most? The least?

MP: The stampede ranks up there. It's such a perfect blend of music and animation; it's very easy to get caught up in it. My heart was racing the first time I saw it. Perfect.

I also very much like "Be Prepared" for obvious reasons. The look of the piece along with the very witty singing job Irons did put Scar's slick and cunning personality across wonderfully. I usually don't like it too much when characters just spontaneously burst into song, but in this case I'll make an exception.

What I really don't like and wish they could redo is the final fight scene between Scar and Simba. It's just so incredibly cheesy and feels out of place. It really should have ended with an out-and-out brawl like the kind we see between Simba and Nala. Instead, we're treated to this slow-mo, Rocky-type fight with the lions smacking each other in the face. Ugh! What were they thinking?

I also get chills at Scar's unfortunate demise. It's just such a horrible way to go and even if you hate Scar, it's hard to see how anyone could feel happiness at a death like that.

DC: Are you generally a Disney film fan? And what makes TLK a meaningful movie for you?

MP: Not especially. I had seen Aladdin in the theater when it came out, but before that, I hadn't seen a Disney film in the theaters since one of the reissues of Bambi.

When I was a teenager, I was more interested in animated films like "Watership Down," "Secret of NIMH," and the films of Ralph Bakshi. To me, Disney was syrupy sweet kid's stuff, nice to look at, but with nothing to really grab hold of--and while I enjoyed Aladdin, I still felt it fell into the category of cutesy kiddie stuff.

TLK changed the way I look at Disney. For one thing, I loved the way it handled its animal cast. The characters were very lion-like, but also very convincing in their human emotions. It also handled its subject matter in a very mature manner. I remember watching it for the first time and during Mufasa's death scene thinking, "I can't believe they showed his body." That scene in and of itself gave the film a dark tone of the kind I've never before seen in a Disney film.

The animation itself was stunning and turned me back onto drawing after a long time away from a pencil. TLK gave me back the imagination that I had done a good job of stomping on over the years. The movie also exposed me to other people who loved animation and anthropomorphic animals. Aside from that, it's a really great story. All the elements are there.

DC: Interesting--you mentioned having "stomped on your imagination over the years." I'm wondering what you mean by that. It's a statement that's both curious and a bit frightening.

MP: I gave up drawing after realizing I was never going to be able to afford the art school of my choice (which was the School of Visual Arts in New York City). Pursuing art as a career was pretty much frowned upon in my family (it was like "Well that's nice, honey, but what are you going to do for money?") and I was persuaded to give up this art stuff and try to get a nice comfortable job in an office somewhere. I didn't want to press my already overworked mother on the issue, so I agreed--and that night took my portfolio to the overpass of Metro North and tossed it over. It was a huge blow; it was something I really wanted, but I couldn't (or didn't want to) stand up to the pressure from my family. After that, I just stopped drawing. From 1990 to 1995-ish, I didn't pick up a pencil. I enrolled in the local junior college and took all the courses needed to become an office drone. I graduated and worked for a very short time in that area and found I couldn't stand it. After quitting the office scene, I just waited tables. It was great money, and I wasn't sitting around an office thinking how much I hated being there. But drawing didn't enter my life again until I saw Brian Tiemann's TLK web site and decided to send him some TLK art. He later sent me a very nice letter saying he enjoyed the pictures and, well, that got the ball rolling again.

DC: What a tragic image, thinking of your artwork fluttering away from an overpass! How wrenching and distressing it must have been to do this. It's like something out Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.

MP: Truthfully, I had numbed myself so much by that point that it was just so much paper being tossed. Unfortunately, it became clear to me at a very young age that we often don't get what we want in life and sometimes it's better to come to grips with that and move on. It was what needed to be done at the time. I might look back and regret not being stronger in the face of opposition, but that's a waste. Better to run to catch up now instead of looking back and crying over it.

DC: I'm glad you had the courage to finally go back and do what you love. I've always felt life's too short not to do what you like most.

Getting back to animation, you mentioned Ralph Bakshi earlier. Which of his films do you like? And are you a fan of Japanese animation?

MP: "Fritz the Cat," "Coonskin" (renamed "Streetfight," for obvious reasons), and his "New Adventures of Mighty Mouse" series spring to mind. I've liked parts of most of his films--he definitely has a vision that's very unique--but the "rotoscoping" trick he does is a turn off. Just take a look at "Lord of the Rings" and you'll see what I mean.

I've never really gotten into Anime. It may have something to do with the bad dubbing that's usually done on the films, but the stories often seem incoherent. The drawing style is also not to my taste. That big-eyed, quivering-pupil thing gets old to me after a while. I have seen some films that I liked ("Graveyard of the Fireflies" is one), but overall it doesn't appeal to me in the same way animation from other countries does. Maybe I have yet to be exposed to the right films.

I was a fan of "Kimba," though, when he was on TV when I was a kid. :)

DC: Interesting that you liked "Kimba." I personally didn't care for that cartoon much. Was it the animal characters that you liked?

MP: "Kimba" (and later "Leo") was a really cool cartoon for a number of reasons (remember, I was around seven at the time it was on TV). Kimba was a really cute cub who got into a lot of fights. :) He appealed to the tomboy in me. The cartoon that preceded it, "Leo the Lion" (grown Kimba), was great, too. I used to draw him all the time.

It was, as you noted, the animal characters that did it for me. Remember, I grew up at a time when animation on TV was horrible. "He-Man" was the big show along with all that terrible Hanna-Barbera crap on Saturday morning. Compared to them, "Kimba" looked like TLK. ;)

DC: So, do you like animated films in general?

MP: I love them. :) My video and laser disc collection is primarily made up of animated films.

DC: Which non-Disney ones are your favorites, and why?


1. "Watership Down"
This film and the book hold a very sentimental place for me. The book was read to me first by my older sister every night before bed (we shared a room) for nearly a year. It was a ritual of sorts. The two of us would lay in our beds across from each other, waiting to hear my mother's car come up the drive as my sister read the story a chapter at a time every night.

It was one of the few times we wouldn't fight.

The film was introduced to me later on by my favorite uncle while he babysat one night. The movie was on HBO and we just sat quietly and watched together. He liked it just as much as I did, which I thought was really cool for an adult. The movie was also the first time I had seen any sort of real-life violence in animation. I was a bit disappointed the story wasn't more like the one that was read to me, but it still stayed with me a long time.

2. "The Nightmare Before Christmas"
It's just a lot of fun.

3. "Allegro non Troppo"
An Italian version of "Fantasia." I especially like the part that shows the evolution of sludge from a Coke bottle set to Ravel's "Bolero."

4. "The Last Unicorn"
You know, I completely forgot this one when you asked about Anime, but I do like this movie quite a bit. It's so melancholy. I only watch it when I'm in a really upbeat mood, otherwise it gets to me.

That's the short list. :)

DC: Did you have a favorite Disney animated film before TLK (you mentioned Aladdin specifically above)? And is it safe to say that TLK is your favorite Disney film of this type? Have any of the post-TLK Disney movies struck your fancy?

MP: Before TLK, I would probably count either "Sleeping Beauty" or "Fox and Hound" as my favorites.

TLK is still my favorite of the post-Mermaid films. "Hunchback of Notre Dame" has some moments that rival it ("Bells of Notre Dame" comes to mind), but the story doesn't hang together very well after multiple viewings. There are too many negative things that stand out like the gargoyles and Quasi's deus ex machina rescue by Phoebus that keep it from being as satisfying as TLK is to me.

"Pocahontas" totally missed the mark for me--in fact, I couldn't watch it straight through it was so boring. The trailer for "Mulan," however, looks very promising. Let's hope they do it as well as it looks like they will.

DC: "Sleeping Beauty" and "Fox and Hound"--that's a really unusual pair of favorites. What impressed you about these two movies?

MP: "Sleeping Beauty" has Maleficent, a really cool evil fairy if there ever was one. I remember seeing the film as a kid and the part where she turns into a dragon impressed the hell out of me. I really wanted her to eat the prince. ;)

"Fox and Hound" had a lot of the blood and guts feeling "Watership Down" had (which was my very first animated obsession). The fight scenes between Todd and Copper were very exciting, and again, it was an animated feature that had animals as its center.

DC: Like Amy Guranovich, who I interviewed for Issue 4, you're a big Scar fan. Tell me what you like about him.

MP: It was love at first sight. The design is what first made me pay attention to him. I love that long, lean, dark look. He's the type of character I would have designed if I had the talent Deja [Scar's designer] has.

The voice also plays a big part. I can watch TLK and not picture Irons in my head as Scar speaks. The voice and animation are so well matched.

Like Amy and many other fans of Scar, I do feel empathy for the character as well. Although I do take exception with people who paint Scar as a cute and cuddly character whose paws are clean of all wrongdoing. He's bad, but do I think he's that way just because--or does he have a real motivation besides a raw lust for power?

There's a saying, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." Personally, I think the reverse is true many times. Powerlessness corrupts as well and gives people the feeling that no matter what they do, they're not responsible because they come from a position of powerlessness. This is where I think Scar lies. He's convinced of the rightness of his behavior because he perceives himself as powerless. It doesn't justify his actions, but it also doesn't make him a force of pure evil. It makes him the same as many petty tyrants one comes in contact with on a daily basis. Of course, most of them don't kill off family members, but I think you get the idea. There's much more to him than the one-dimensional villain I think that many people see. Sorry--the sociologist in me just popped out there. ;)

Plus, on top of all that, Scar is a character with a lot of potential. I can see him playing a lot of different roles aside from the one assigned for him in TLK. He's become more than the "villain of TLK;" he's taken on a life of his own. Not just for me, but for many TLK fans.

DC: The sociological discussion you mentioned in relation to Scar--points which I agree with, incidentally--seems to say something about TLK's characters in a larger sense. I've always been of the impression that they're more multifaceted and complex than most animated movie characters.

MP: They are--which is why I think people so easily read things into their characters that may or may not be on the screen. Whether or not this was intentional, or just a by-product of the talent that worked on the film I don't think we'll ever know.

DC: And I guess it's safe to assume that you find Scar to be, well, quite attractive in the way a Nalaholic like myself finds Nala fetching?

MP: Absolutely. If I were a lioness, Scar would have a very close friend. ;)

DC: You at one time had a TLK merchandise collection of staggeringly large proportions. I'd be interested to hear more about that.

MP: Hee hee--the TLK collection of doom. :) It started harmlessly enough with a Scar PVC purchased at the Disney Store next to the theatre where I first saw TLK. Then I got a plushie here and a poster there until I found myself with well over 100 little TLK items scattered all over the house. I had every plushie made by every company that produced them. Cups, plates, lithos, games, PVC figures, figurines, snowglobes, ornaments--yeesh, I even had Scar roaring at Shenzi painted onto the side of my Chevy. ;) I've since trimmed things down to a humble Scar collection. ;)

DC: The TLK collection of doom--I like that! :) Seems to me you once mentioned that your bed was so covered with plushies you couldn't see the bed anymore. :) What prompted you to lighten your load of stuff?

MP: Heh, well that's the way it was referred to by my other half. It finally got to the point where it was becoming almost ridiculous. I also wanted to buy a few things (Scar things) that I couldn't have afforded without selling off some of the stuff I owned. The Scar maquette was a big purchase that I financed partially with sales of my Simba plushies. The collection is still huge, but now it's a sea of black manes wherever you go. ;) I'm amazed how much and what kind of stuff Scar is on.

DC: Which of your TLK merchandise items do you consider the most unusual?

MP: The Scar infant socks rank up there. They're socks made for a tiny baby with a really angry-looking Scar on them. That might not sound so strange, but they don't strike me as something someone would put on a baby. Well, I might, but I'm not normal. ;)

DC: The Scar maquette you mentioned--that's a really major item, yes? Would it be safe to say it's your favorite piece of TLK merchandise? What other things do you count among your favorites?

MP: The maquette is my favorite. It's such a nice piece of artwork; they put so much detail into it that you can count the ribs on Scar's side. I'm also partial to my Scar plushie. I looked for it for so long--it took over a year for me to track him down for a reasonable price. Surprisingly, I don't spend very much on my TLK collection. I just hunt a lot and find some great deals.

DC: Are you involved with the TLK MUCK, #IRC, or similar ancillary fandom entities?

MP: Nope, I'm not good at MUCKing or #IRC. Too quiet I guess. I do fan art and write fan fiction as I find the time and maintain a small online shrine to Scar.

DC: Ah yes! I've seen your fanart, and it's excellent! As one might expect, it's very Scar oriented. Which of your TLK fanart pieces are you especially fond of?

MP: I still have a soft spot for the ones on Brian Tiemann's site. They were the first pics I had put online, and Brian's encouragement drove me into other areas with my art.

Of the current stuff, I like the Bogart-style Scar and many of the pics that reside on the second and third archives of mine on Mike Ponce's site.

I'm finally able to handle the character in a way that doesn't require me to look at a picture.

DC: What's the address of your web site? I'm sure people who don't know your work will want to see some examples.

MP: Well, there are a few places to check: for my Scar page. for my furry work. for a ton of my TLK fan artwork.

DC: Tell me about your TLK fan fiction. What have you written over the last few years?

MP: I wrote "Taka's Song," which is undergoing a rewrite at the moment. The first time around, I let Scar off too easily--this time he's got to work for it. The story will follow him around from the end of TLK to his death and will probably be pretty danged long. ;)

Aside from that, I've done a couple of little pieces like "Scar's Journey" and I'm working with Dave Morris on "Father Knows Best," which presents a storyline not yet approached by any other fanfic. It's a daunting task working with such a talented writer, though--it's a little intimidating.

I've also been working on a rather lengthy essay about the TLK fandom in general.

DC: Any previews you want to give about the TLK fandom essay you're writing?

MP: It will basically cover what the fandom has done to me as a person, with a broader overview of its evolution. I came into the fandom after the first big surge and right before the explosion and I find it very interesting the way it moved from a small group of people talking about a movie to a large group of people with a language, culture, and norms of its own.

DC: The fandom essay idea sounds fascinating. The inner workings of such a community strike me as most interesting, almost like doctoral thesis material (but in a good way, not the dry-as-dust way).

MP: I'll try not to sound like an uptight scholarly type. ;)

DC: How did you discover the TLK fandom base?

MP: Aside from stumbling upon Brian's site, I found the TLK newsgroup and lurked for a while. The subject of heated discussion at the moment was "Scar: Villain, or Cinderella with an attitude?" I didn't pipe in until the very end of the discussion. I was a newbie to the 'net and am pretty quiet around people I don't know, so I was intimidated at first. It seemed very much like a closed society. But after joining a couple of discussions, I realized you all were such a friendly bunch. ;)

DC: TLK fanart is of course only a small part of the visual art you do. I'd love to hear more about your other artwork.

MP: Since discovering the TLK fandom, I've also discovered the "furry" fandom (it's based upon art stories about anthropomorphic characters) and have found a comfortable niche in which to work. I'm also trying out other things as well--it's never a good idea to get painted into a corner. My current furry artwork can be seen at:

I'm still learning quite a bit, but I think I've improved since I first started showing my art online.

DC: Tell me about the furry characters you've drawn. Some furry artists have favorite signature characters that they draw repeatedly. Do you?

MP: Not especially. I do have a series of characters that make quite a few appearances in my art. They're North American animals which represent Native American ideas and beliefs. They're a wolf, coyote, bobcat, and cougar.

I do draw myself in a furry persona, but since I don't MUCK, I don't have much occasion to use her.

DC: Do you do non-furry, non-TLK art as well?

MP: I haven't done any recently. I used to do a lot of strange paintings that would border on the surreal. It was art very much influenced by the work of Ralph Steadman and Gerald Scarfe. Very loosely drawn and somewhat disturbing stuff. It's something I would like to take up again in the future.

DC: From what you wrote earlier, it might be easy to assume that you didn't do much art study, that you are largely self-taught.

MP: Mostly. I went to a "magnet" high school for kids gifted in art and took commercial illustration. There, I learned to air brush and mix paints. The basics were also taught. After high school, though, that was it. Everything from then on was trial and error.

DC: Having lived in New York and been a visual artist, you must have hit the art museums frequently. I'd think the Big Apple would be a goldmine that way.

MP: It was, and there was so much variety, too, from legitimate museums to murals painted around the city. I miss going to shows and galleries and having access to art house theaters. Virginia is very conservative, and the only artists' group consists of housewives who paint with the Bob Ross videotape. ;)

DC: New York in fact is a mecca for visual artists of all types. Do you see yourself returning back there in the future for career reasons? Or do you like Northern Virginia enough to call it home permanently?

MP: Ye Gods! Bite your tongue! ;) Seriously though, while New York is a wonderful place and there's so much that I miss (good food, good shopping, blues bars, and Broadway), it also has too much that I don't miss (crime, drugs, high rents, pollution). I do travel back there quite often enough.

I'm very interested in moving even further out into the country. If I could afford it, I'd be living in the Shenandoah Valley. I love the quiet. We spend a lot of time there in the summer and I could envision living among the tall trees and mountains of Virginia. That would be ideal. :)

DC: How is the art scene in Washington, D.C.? I'd bet you've gone to the National Gallery of Art a time or two. Do you know much about the local artists, the smaller galleries, art clubs, and similar things in the area?

MP: The National Gallery is a good bet to see something new. They host a new artist every few months or so and we usually go down to see it. As for local art, it's mostly of the craft nature--people who make jewelry, wreaths, and things like that. Not my scene. I find the online community very exciting when it comes to art, though. I've been exposed to more art and in different styles since coming online than in any time in my life.

DC: Whose artwork do you consider to be most influential on your own? Besides these, which visual artists, either of today or distant history, are among your favorites?

MP: Of furry artists, Ken Sample stands out as one of the most influential. His characters have a very warm, plushy feel to them--almost like you could touch the art and feel the soft fur.

Of classical art, I enjoy Picasso during his Blue Period. They had a show of his work at the National Gallery not too long ago. What a treat--there was so much to look at! I don't know how much influence the classical artists have had on me. Unfortunately, probably not much directly. I was poisoned by pop culture a long time ago. ;)

Art Spiegelman is a favorite of mine when it comes to pop artists. He's counted by many people as a comic artist, but he's more than that. I highly recommend "Maus" to anyone interested in World War II history or just looking for a really moving story.

DC: What did you like about Picasso's Blue Period works?

MP: The sombre feelings that just fall out of them. Picasso is there, he's just all over those paintings. When an artist opens their head like that in their work, I feel it and respond. Which is why I don't like much "modern art" (if you can call it that, in my opinion). To me, there's nothing there; there's nothing I'm walking away with after looking at it. Those pics of bright splashes of color and little patterns just leave me completely cold.

DC: Any pre-20th century art favorites?

MP: I do like Van Gogh and Rembrandt (I have his portrait hanging in my living room). There's a certain sadness to Rembrandt's work that I find appealing. It's a running theme in many of the things I find interesting. Which is why I find the work of Andy Warhol very unappealing. All of it that I've seen is very superficial. Art, music, and writing really need to touch a nerve for me to enjoy it, which is why I tend to like individual pieces of art instead of artists as a whole.

My favorite pieces include:

Picasso: "Guernica" (a very disturbing and painful work), "The Tragedy," and a piece I can't remember the name of which depicted the ascension of his friend to heaven.

John Singer Sargent: "Street in Venice."

I also like a lot of folk art--African and South American art. I have these masks I got in Mexico. They're of these horrible, leering demon heads and they're supposed to be worn for some holiday in Mexico when they celebrate death. I've seen the influence of these fellows creeping into my art.

I'm very drawn to dark works and works which may even disturb me. Art has to do something to me. A work can be technically brilliant, but just not do it.

I've tried to do this with my own work, but it's not coming through as it used to. I find that some of my most unusual work comes through when I'm in a bad state of mind. Life's been pretty peaceful, and so....My own work these days tends to be very straightforward.

DC: Of course, I've heard it argued that an artist needs to somehow distance oneself from turmoil, distress, and tragedy before being able to depict it properly--that one cannot, for example, be suicidal when writing a book about a suicidal person. Is it enough to know the "dark side" from one's past experience and then depict it at just enough distance so that one is not ovewhelmed by it? Might it thus be possible to create the dark art you want even though your life is not so dark right now? Thoughts and comments are welcome on this idea.

MP: I've tried, but it never seems authentic to me. I seem forced. I'm not sure why this is--maybe I've just convinced myself that I can't do it without having some sort of unpleasantness going on.

If I do get more personal, I can produce some stuff that I think works. But I'm a bit uncomfortable with letting the "audience" get that close to me.

DC: Interesting that it works this way for you. For me, I'd have guessed that "going for broke" in the sense of taking that ultimate risk (letting the audience see my raw guts) might produce my best art work.

MP: It does produce some very good work. But it also opens you up to examination by other people. Being an introvert of sorts, I'm not always willing to let people get that close.

DC: What media do you work in with your visual art? Or do you try most everything--oils, watercolor, charcoal, colored pencil, etc.? Any media that you prefer?

MP: I like inks and brushes for my black-and-whites, and acrylic paints and computer color for my color work. I'm not very good with watercolor; it always looks sloppy after I've finished with it. Colored pencils can be fun, but they don't always give me what I'm looking for in terms of depth. I need to learn more techniques before I can work with them to my satisfaction. Acrylics are my preferred media for hand coloring. They're very versatile and cheap.

DC: Where do you see yourself with your artwork a number of years down the road? What would you consider to be your dream situation in this regard?

MP: I'm hoping to find work on a steady basis with a company, as an illustrator or storyboard artist ideally. Competition is fierce, however, and there are a lot of talented people out there.

DC: Do you have any interest in working as an animator--doing cells and the like?

MP: I have an interest, but not the confidence in my talent. I don't have a degree from an art school, and in animation that's a definite disadvantage.

DC: You mentioned going to blues bars. Sounds like you're a big fan of this genre. What kinds of music do you enjoy most?

MP: I'm very eclectic when it comes to music. I can listen to a Metallica album and then cry when I hear Beethoven. The only music I can say with conviction that I don't like is dance music, Baroque classical, and rap. They just don't do a thing for me.

The jazz clubs and blues bars in the city were fun. You'd pop into a place, order a drink, sit in a smoke-filled room, and listen to anything from a woman with a harp to a wizened old man playing a beat-up acoustic guitar. I think living in the city is what gave me my taste in music; there were so many things going on and a lot of it was really good.

I got my taste in harder music from hanging around friends who played instruments and would do shows in the small bars and clubs around the city. You'd tag along, listen to all the acts going on before them, slam around, be loud and obnoxious. It was a great time, a hell of a way to spend adolescence.

DC: Do you listen to music while you do your visual art? Many artists I know do so.

MP: Not usually. I find it distracting sometimes. I'll get so into the music that I start getting sloppy.

DC: You mentioned "The Simpsons" and "Law and Order" as favorite TV shows. What do you like about them?

MP: I was a fan of Matt Groening's "Life in Hell" strips. They were a regular feature in the Village Voice, which I bought faithfully while still living in New York. "The Simpsons" has a lot of that off-kilter humor that the strip has. It's the one comedy show which always gets a laugh out of me.

"Law and Order" in its first four seasons was just a really interesting show. I don't watch the current season--the characters have changed quite a bit and it has that nighttime soap opera feel to it. I hate soap operas! But when it first came out, it was just so good. The writing, the characters...I don't watch much prime-time TV, but I used to be glued to the TV on Wednesday nights.

DC: Chocolate as your favorite food? I'm sure many folks can relate to that. Given your preferance for gutsy rather than mushy animation, I'd guess you prefer semi-sweet chocolate. What's your ideal chocolate munchie?

MP: European chocolate wafers, mmmmm.

DC: Your movie favorites are excellent ones (at least in my opinion). What do you enjoy best about "Slingblade," "Dr. Strangelove," and "Schindler's List?"

MP: "Schindler's List" is one of those movies that sucks you in and makes you feel as if you're in that time and place. The characters are all given three-dimensional personalities. Too often when you see films about this time in history, they play the script like a "Star Wars"-style good-and-evil thing. Spielberg reminds you constantly in this movie that these were people doing these atrocities, which of course makes the horrors of the Holocaust all that more frightening and sickening. What's going to hit you harder, a Darth Vader-like Nazi who is a caricature of evil, or a real human capable of ruthlessly torturing and murdering innocent people--who then goes home to his family as if all is right with the world? Very powerful and very frightening.

"Dr. Strangelove" is a really funny Orwellian satire done by one of the greatest talents in film. What can anybody say about any of Kubrick's work? I love political satire, and this is one of the best.

"Slingblade" is another one of those movies that draws you into it. It was a funny and sad movie at the same time. I really liked it, ummhummm.... ;)

DC: Speaking of which, I noticed you mentioned Ralph Fiennes as your "pin-up" of choice. He's a lean, dark type like Scar, isn't he? Would it be safe to guess that your fiance also fits that description? :)

MP: Hee hee, six feet of olive skin, black hair, and green eyes. He's a lot like me in some respects, but much more grounded. He keeps me level-headed. He's also a very interesting person who after six years can still surprise me.

DC: Do you have other hobbies and interests? I've heard you have a rather large menagerie of real-life critters at home besides the plushie ones. :)

MP: I fish a lot in the summer. I'm on hunt for that mythical 15-pound bass. I haven't got him yet, but he's out there...waiting....I also like diving when I get the chance, as well as camping.

And you're right, we do have quite a few animals sharing our home. Our two cats, Grissellfritz and Pyewacket, are our kids. We got both of them from the local animal shelter. Pyewacket is a tiny, graceful, nutty cat whose favorite game is fetch, and also trying to run me and my fiance down as if he were a tiger and we were a couple of water buffalo he's laying in wait for. It's very funny when a six-pound cat ambushes you from under the table, grabs your pant-leg in his teeth, and tries to pull you down. ;) Grissellfritz is a huge Maine Coon Cat whose hobbies are: eating, sleeping, eating, sleeping, and eating and sleeping, in that order. ;)

We also have two Jackson's chameleons (Popeye, named because he caught a jaw infection which made his face puff out like Popeye's--it's gone away, but the name stuck--and Mrs. Smiley. Guy Smiley, her mate, passed away from old age a few months ago). We had a clutch about a year ago--sixteen little chams crawling around the house. They've since grown up and left home, and now live in California as part of a captive breeding program.

We both love animals, and if we had the room and time to give them, we would love to have more of them around us.

DC: Margaret, I've really enjoyed our discussion. I must admit, I found you to be a fascinating person to interview. I very much wish you all the best in your art work, in all things TLK, and with life in general. Thank you so much for your time and candor.

MP: Thank you, Dave--I did too. It's not often I get the chance to talk someone's ear off like this.

Back To The Interviews Archive