Jirka Väätäinen -“having gone ‘viral’ has given me a huge advantage”

January, 2013
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Image © The Interviewee

Interview with the über talented chap behind the real-life Disney phenomenon, Jirka Väätäinen

In 2011 Jirka Väätäinen, a Finish student studying in the UK published a project on the Behance network which envisioned well known Disney characters in real life. The project was a whirlwind success, gaining over 1.3 million views on Behance alone, with the characters being featured on creative blogs across the internet.

Having long past one million views, Jirka may not be in the realms of Gangnam Style but still has the most appreciated project on the largest creative network in the world (when measured on the viewer/appreciation ratio).

In the wake of the phenomenon, Creative Chair caught up with Jirka to find out a little more about the project and the effects of such rapid and overwhelming exposure.

See more from Jirka Väätäinen on his website.

Hi Jirka Väätäinen, what attracted you to the Arts University College at Bournemouth?

I am from Finland, and when it came to higher education, I kind of had set my mind on studying abroad – just because I wanted to experience something different for a change. I did a lot of research online, and the graphic design course at AUCB seemed to be everything that I was looking for. Also, it was very well acknowledged. Not to mention the beach…

Arts University College

Who from the creative world do you particularly admire?

I have never had just one particular person or company that I looked up to. The creative world is so vast, and there are so many talented people, and endless amounts of inspiring stuff out there, meaning there are a ton of creatives I really admire. Different people inspire me at different times. But I admire anyone who has a strong, unique vision of their own. Steven Meisel, Digital Kitchen, Quentin Tarantino and Fabien Baron have definitely made a lasting impression, to name a few.

Steven Meisel

What kind of things have happened as a result of your Disney project?

The whole exposure has really been overwhelming! I get a lot of people leaving me comments and contacting personally. It feels great to know that so many people have been able to appreciate what I have done and that I have inspired other creatives as well. I have done quite a few interviews and been lucky enough to be featured on a bunch of great sites, blogs and print publications. I have also received some interesting job opportunities, but since most of these occurred while on my last year at University, it was difficult to go along with most of these. But all in all, having gone “viral”, has definitely given me a huge advantage, since people are more likely to have seen my work. And I can tell that all of this might have helped in me getting noticed when it came to applying for jobs as well.

“ a lot of people have shown interest in buying prints of these. But sorry to disappoint guys – I don’t want to get sued!”

Real Life Disney

The Real Life Disney Characters project has had a lot of attention, at any point did you think ‘oh crap Disney is gonna sue my ass?

Oh yes, that did cross my mind. But since this was only a project I did for fun and never used any of my Disney inspired stuff for commercial purposes, I was not actually worried. But surely it’s a shame having to play it safe like this, since a lot of people have shown interest in buying prints of these. But sorry to disappoint guys – I don’t want to get sued!

Real Life Disney

Behance has been a great tool for you but how do you feel about the recent takeover by Adobe?

Oh, I did not even know that! I have not been the most active member on Behance as of late, and have not paid attention to these kind of changes. But perhaps this will make the platform even more accessible – which I hope will be a good thing.

The 4th 366 Award goes to Jirka Väätäinen for his outstanding creative work.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

Still working in the creative industries, most definitely. Where in the world, I do not know. At the moment, I am happy with doing what I do, working in an advertising agency here in Helsinki, Finland. But I do still see myself looking for new challenges and pushing myself as a creative designer. So career-wise, I definitely hope I am working on even bigger and more inspiring things.

And finally, if you died and were reincarnated as a song, what would that song be?

Well, this is tricky! I don’t think there could just be one song to capture the essence of someone. And again, different things (and songs) inspire me at different times… Abel Korzeniowski’s “Stillness Of The Mind” from ‘A Single Man’ really rings true with me at the moment.

Stillness Of The Mind"
Stillness Of The Mind (2010)
Abel Korzeniowski
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What began as a fun question to end an interview, has now become a wonderfully eclectic collaborative playlist by 161 people (and counting).
Jirka Väätäinen
Our Forest