While a demo of Lab Zero Games’ action RPG Indivisible was available for people to play in the exhibit hall at Anime Expo 2019, its lead animator and art director Mariel Kinuko Cartwright was exhibiting down in Artist Alley.
She shared a booth with her husband, fellow artist Tyson Hesse. They previously collaborated together on the animated trailer for Sonic Mania. Cartwright’s credits go even farther, including work on games like Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know!, Cryamore, Silent Hill: Book of Memories, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game.
In between promoting her art and selling her work, Cartwright discussed her career with Cliqist.
Cartwright has been with Lab Zero since its inception. She explained that the studio was founded when the original developer of Skullgirls, Reverge Labs, was laid off. Cartwright stayed with the group that became Lab Zero after Reverge’s departure. From there, she became Lab Zero’s lead animator, and was primarily responsible for overseeing all the animation in Skullgirls.
“I animated a lot of it myself,” Cartwright said. (Her work on Skullgirls even included animating taunts.) She added that she also collaborated with contractors and made sure everything was quality work.
Skullgirls has been recognized for its beautiful 2D animation, and undoubtedly players are looking forward to more of it in Lab Zero’s follow-up Indivisible. Cartwright even spoke about the animation in Skullgirls for GDC 2014.
Teamwork and Technical Work
Cartwright’s Anime Expo booth showcased various pieces of her art, like prints, stickers, and comics. According to her website, she’s drawn covers for Invader Zim and The Amazing World of Gumball.
She noted that there are differences between working in comics and in games.
“Working in games is a lot more collaborative,” Cartwright said. She added that working in illustration and comics feels more straightforward.
In contrast, Cartwright shared that there’s a different mindset for games. She said that there’s more going on, with having to figure out what is working, what doesn’t work, and seeing more things come together.
Cartwright added that game work is also more technical in a way. But it’s these differences that make working in games appealing to her.
“I like not just drawing, but being more technical too,” Cartwright said. She added that she enjoyed working with story, levels, and “definitely [the] collaborative aspect” in game development.
“While I like illustrating on my own, [I also] like working on something so complex that turns coherent in the end,” Cartwright said.