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Cute Pop Culture Characters


Sacramento, California-based illustrator Jerrod Maruyama has a way of taking our favorite pop culture characters and turning them into cute and cuddly creations. He uses the term “kawaii” which he tells us is the Japanese version of cute. “The Japanese culture uses characters for just about everything,” he says. “There is a real appreciation for cute little mascots and you see them everywhere – on signs, on packaging, on clothing, etc. I think of kawaii as a general term that encompasses all sorts of cute styles. But again, it's a very Japanese version of cute, which I think differs dramatically from, say, an American idea of cute.”

Inspired by Disney and Pixar characters Maruyama says, “We see these characters so often that it's fun to try and do something different with their designs. It's a bit of challenge to see how far you can push a design and still have it be recognizable. That's really the fun of it for me. Many of these characters' personalities and designs are so strong that sometimes just a color scheme can make it identifiable.”

When asked which one is his favorite? He says it's the Toy Story image of Woody and Buzz (immediately below). Why? “The image got a lot of attention and was sold on t-shirts at the Pixar Studio store in Emeryville. It's had a huge impact on what I do. So that's probably my favorite image simply because it's been the most influential.”

How did that lucky break come about? “Someone forwarded a link of the Toy Story image to Pixar director Lee Unkrich on Twitter. This was back in February of 2010, a few months before the release of Toy Story 3. He liked the image and contacted me right away. It was pretty amazing. At the time I thought it was a trick or a fake. But much to my surprise, it wasn't. It's been so great seeing people wearing that shirt. I will always be grateful to Lee for that gesture.”

Toy Story

Calvin and Hobbes

Princess Leia

Snow White


Harry Potter

Mr. Miyagi

Ernie and Bert


The Little Mermaid

Kill Bill

The Shining Twins


Donald Trump



Jerrod Maruyama's website and Flickr

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