Artist “Unwraps” Animated Characters to Reveal Their Realistic Forms

Bart Simpson unraveling to reveal an actual boy

Bart Simpson

Oftentimes, animated films give off the impression of perfect, idealized worlds. Stefan Thelen, aka Super A, uses his art to pull the veil off of these fantasies and give a glimpse of reality. He “unwraps” iconic cartoon characters and reveals what is hidden beneath. The ongoing series, titled Trapped, features acrylic renderings of Disney and Studio Ghibli worlds, with a peek at what these subjects would look like in real life.

Well-known characters, like Ariel from The Little Mermaid and San from Princess Mononoke, are stripped from their stylized forms, juxtaposing their cute appearance with a more realistic interpretation. “Working as a sculptor and painter for amusement parks like Warner and Disney, helping them to create a beautiful fake world which in the end isn't that beautiful after all. This made me realize it was time to create my own world,” Thelen explains to My Modern Met. “The Trapped series is a perfect way to show these worlds together.”

In each of these paintings, the cartoon layer is peeled from the subject in a tight spiral. This provides a contrast between the familiar version of the animated characters and the way these people and animals would come across if they were portrayed as lifelike. “The ribbon in the series represents a mask which we hide behind,” Thelen adds. “This space between gives space to peek out and show a small part of ourselves.”

You can purchase prints of Thelen's art via his online store, and keep up to date with his latest projects by following the artist on Instagram.

Artist Stefan Thelen, aka Super A, unwraps cartoon characters.

Bart Simpson unraveling to reveal an actual boy

Close-up of Super A painting Bart Simpson

Bart Simpson unraveling to reveal an actual boy

Bart Simpson (close-up)

Acrylic Painting of Animated Characters by Stefan Thelan

Itchy & Scratchy

Sonic the Hedgehog unraveling to reveal an actual hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog unraveling to reveal an actual hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog (close-up)

The series of acrylic paintings, titled Trapped, reveals the realistic forms hidden beneath.

Garfield unraveling to reveal an actual cat

Garfield

Kermit unraveling to reveal an actual frog

Kermit the Frog

Donald Duck unraveling to reveal an actual duck

Donald Duck

Sylvester the cat and Tweety bird unraveling to reveal an actual cat and bird

Sylvester and Tweety Bird

The artist's ongoing series of unraveling paintings features beloved characters found in video games and animated films from Disney, Warner Bros., Studio Ghibli, and more.

Acrylic Painting of Animated Characters by Stefan Thelan

“The Little Mermaid”

Acrylic Painting of Animated Characters by Stefan Thelan

“My Neighbor Totoro”

Acrylic Painting of Animated Characters by Stefan Thelan

“Spirited Away”

Acrylic Painting of Animated Characters by Stefan Thelan

“Princess Mononoke”

Acrylic Painting of Animated Characters by Stefan Thelan

Buzz Lightyear

Mighty Mouse unraveling to reveal an actual mouse

Mighty Mouse

Acrylic Painting of Animated Characters by Stefan Thelan

Jose Carioca

Acrylic Painting of Animated Characters by Stefan Thelan

Puss in Boots

Acrylic Painting of Animated Characters by Stefan Thelan

“The Adventures of Tintin”

Acrylic Painting of Animated Characters by Stefan Thelan

Mr. Peanut

Super A: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Stefan Thelan | Super A.

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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