Mr. Milk Bottle happened along at a time when I felt I had very few
interesting ideas. Natural lows like this happen every so often, and after a while, you develop
a way of dealing with them. My plan is to do one thing every day. It doesn't make a whole lot of
difference what I do. I just have to do something.
At that particular time, for no particular reason, I thought to myself that I would do an
animated milk bottle. I remembered a little frieze of animated characters-a bottle and a fork
and a spoon-from a book of poetry I read a lot in the early 70s, so I thought I would try it. I
had just completed the Big Cartoon Series, so I had the yellow shoes. I did a bottle, a red
tongue and a giant nose easily, but the eyes were a problem. It took me three days to come up
with the eyes, simple black rectangles.
Mr. Milk Bottle's design is heavily influenced by early 20th century animation, the school of
rubber hose animation. Choices in his depiction were also made in regards to the contemporary
concern with the artist's body in mind. I thought I would give Mr. Milk Bottle a very partial
body. His hands and arms are not always there, for one thing.
The first work I did with Mr. Milk Bottle was "Ask Mr. Milk Bottle," an interactive computer
animation. In this work, Mr. Milk Bottle claims to be able to answer any question put to him. Of
course, he never knows anything, because he's a milk bottle. He has an incomplete mind. While it
works as a spoof of artificial intelligence programs like the famous "Liza," this animation
actually came about due to a real experience.
In 1988, Lorna and I went with our son, Ben, to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The first
thing we did on arriving was go to the tropical bird island. There, Ben found a mynah bird
sitting on a sign, which said the bird's name was George (?) and would answer any question put
to it. Ben asked George what his name was and he said, "I don't know."
Character is the final element of Mr. Milk Bottle's makeup. With an incomplete body and an
incomplete mind he is more like a child than an adult. But since he is about 150 years old, he
is much more adult than you or I, even though he is given to exaggeration, can't hold a job, and
acts out his burgeoning psyche on Hollywood's silver screen. It is these qualities that make him
the ideal public face for the Badge of Quality Corporation, the giant entertainment corporation
he performs for. But that's the subject of work that came after The Adventures of Mr. Milk
Bottle and his completion as a corporate icon.