Indiana Jones and the Groundbreaking Animation

Turning the adventures of the big-screen archeologist into a minute-long animated homage.

Patrick Schoenmaker

While Indiana Jones has popped up in the media in many forms, there’s never been a cartoon version of the famed archaeologist…until now. Artist Patrick Schoenmaker has been working on an animated Indiana Jones for the past five years, and it will finally be released on Thursday.

Inverse talked to Schoenmaker about releasing his indie Indy cartoon, what he hoped to achieve from it, and why an Indiana Jones cartoon may not work out too well.

UPDATE: You can watch Schoenmaker’s all too brief animated Indy adventure below. Here’s hoping this turns into an actual cartoon series down the line!

How did your “Escaping the Tomb” piece that was commissioned by Lucasfilm for Crystal Skull come about?

Acme Archives produces prints from IPs from all kinds of movies studios like Disney. They stumbled across some artwork I did for the Indiana Jones fansite TheRaider.net I did in about 2005, because I previously posted some artwork on a message board for artist J. Scott Campbell. He had these monthly drawing jams on his message boards that he was personally involved in, and he’d always contribute artwork himself. He’s a huge Indiana Jones fan and suggested Indy as a topic for that month. Then Acme asked me to do “Escaping the Tomb.”

'Escaping the Tomb' by Patrick Schoenmaker.

Patrick Schoenmaker

What was the process like creating that?

They didn’t ask me to do a print in an animated style, but it was just the natural approach for me. My background is in animation, and the seed for how you’d translate the Indiana Jones character into an animated style was already somewhere in my mind. The print was the best chance to explore that.

The preliminary sketches I had were really cartoony, and I felt that it broke with the Indiana Jones world. If it’s too much of a cartoon, it loses the danger and thrill. It becomes too slapstick. Each draft, I started over with what worked in the previous attempts to keep making it better.

Teaser poster for 'The Adventures of Indiana Jones'

Patrick Schoenmaker

What made you want to expand it into an animated cartoon?

I already had the idea for an animated teaser for a movie I liked from my teen years when I worked on my version of an Army of Darkness animated cartoon. But, I was too inexperienced, and it didn’t go anywhere. That made me understand what translates into animation and what doesn’t, and the Indy print set that idea in motion again.

Environment concept art from 'The Adventures of Indiana Jones'

Patrick Schoenmaker

What did you want to accomplish with The Adventures of Indiana Jones?

Certain websites make it look like there’s a full feature film coming up, but it’s more of a proof of concept. My main idea was not to make a trailer that would have just been an excuse to take some random scenes and edit them together to look cool. I wanted a story, but I didn’t have the time to make it a full short, so instead, I came up with something like the intro to the Batman animated series.

It boiled down the feel and essence of any Batman story into a one-minute intro. It’s a great short film by itself because it makes you hungry for the episode, so I took that approach.

Tank concept art from 'The Adventures of Indiana Jones'

Patrick Schoenmaker

What are the visual ingredients of an Indiana Jones story?

I took what could be iconic scenes from Indiana Jones but not from any particular movie or story. There’s a scene in a temple that’s collapsing and he swings across a lake with crocodiles, but it’s not from Raiders of the Lost Ark. There’s another that’s on the back of a tank, but it’s not from Last Crusade.

I also wanted to included scenes where you haven’t seen Indy before, so there’s also a polar snow scene. There’s another where he’s at college too.

Shoenmaker's temple designs for 'The Adventures of Indiana Jones'

Patrick Schoenmaker

Was there a conscientious decision to make it hand-drawn animation?

It’d just feel weird for Indiana Jones to be anything else. It’s set in the 1930s and should be old-fashioned. I struggled to find what influence I would give the style. The movies are from the 1980s and refer to 1930s serials. So would I go for an ‘80s influence or maybe something like the Fleischer Superman cartoons or Popeye from that 1930s period?

In the end I opted for the ‘80s influence because it fit with the darker, horror elements of the story.

Schoenmaker's Indy design sketches. 

Patrick Schoenmaker

There’ve been many Star Wars cartoons, but why do you think there hasn’t been an Indiana Jones cartoon yet?

When you think about turning Star Wars into an animated series for a younger audience, you can include things like the Force and lightsaber battles without it being a problem. But if you take the main things from Indiana Jones, like people melting and heads exploding and Nazis, it’s trickier.

Some Nazi bad guys and recognizable ghosts in 'The Adventures of Indiana Jones'

Patrick Schoenmaker

What’s your favorite Indiana Jones movie?

Temple of Doom because it appeals to the types of things you like as a kid. Of course there’s Short Round, but there was also a lot of out-there crazy stuff like the heart-ripping scene. It was whimsical and strange, but there was humor in it too.

The Adventures of Indiana Jones unleashes on the world September 29.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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