Interview: A Vans Van by Mr. Cartoon

Travis Farrell

It was December 2012 at The MoonEyes Xmas Party at Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale, California. I was vending at the Rolling Heavy Magazine booth along side the giant gaggle of custom vans at the Van section of the show. A lot of show attendee’s were stopping by the booth asking about the vans and telling their stories of vans they owned in the past or how one played a fond role in their life while growing up. It’s always a blast to hear those stories.

Well, one of the guys that stopped by, Victor Carrillo asked us, “have you seen the van Mr. Cartoon did for Vans shoes”? (Cartoon is a well-known tattoo and graffiti artist based in L.A.) We hadn’t heard anything about it. He gave us his card and said to give him a shout if we wanted to check it out. Maybe we could do a story on it or something. Friggin’ cool, right? Shortly after Mooneyes, we started getting emails from readers asking us if we had seen the “2013 Vans Brand Anthem Parade” video with the Vans Van in it. We had not.

All these things seemed to be happening for a reason, so we did the logical thing and gave Victor a shout. Victor put us in contact with the right people and next thing you know, we were shooting this cool Mid Dodge that Mr. Cartoon and Vans shoes put together. We also got very lucky to get a chance to ask Mr. Cartoon about this Road King he built, and here’s what he had to say:

Vans off the wall van artist portrait
Travis Farrell

MG: Is this the first van you’ve built?

Mr. Cartoon: This was the first van I built. My father had a identical van when i was a kid so it was a reminder of my childhood. California vans like this were the first time I saw collaged mural. They used to mural everything out in the 1980s. It was of inspiration to me and my art.

MG: Growing up in L.A., coming from the car scene, did you see or were you influenced by any of the van culture that was born here?

Mr. Cartoon: I was, and it was a first time I saw a vehicle entirely muralled in my life. Seeing the quarter panel front fender and hood all custom murals, these California vans were inspiration for my ice cream truck that I built.

MG: How did it come about that you teamed up with Vans shoes to build this van?

Mr. Cartoon: These California vans were at the height of popularity at the same time local vans shoe stores made it possible for kids to design their own shoes and color waves. This customization felt the same. I knew vans would be a perfect fit for this passion project that I had been wanting to do for the last 10 years and I had just finished working on a collaboration with Vans OTW and that’s how it all came together.

MG: What was your inspiration for the paint you laid out on this van?

Mr. Cartoon: My inspiration behind the Paint color scheme was to capture and duplicate the graphics my fathers van had. The murals however I wanted to give people a peek into a time period in Southern California. There’s a beautiful surfer girl that has feathered hair like Farrah Fawcett in her prime. Then on the other side is a old surf rat of a guy, full of stories and knowledge. This guy has more knowledge than a 30 year kid with three PhDs, a real character. I also muralled the classic tube wave and a skate park that have become SoCaL icons to the scene.

MG: How did you guys come choose a Mid Dodge to build of all the vans available from the Big 3?

Mr. Cartoon: We chose the Dodge because of the body lines and the shape. It still has the American muscle feel.

MG: When you sat down to concept this van build, what were you using for inspiration as a whole? Or did you have a vision and go straight to paper?

Mr. Cartoon: I went straight to pen and paper and I went into the memory bank from my childhood and growing up in SoCal for inspiration

MG: There’s a lot going on with this van. What’s some of your personal favorite points? Be it paint, model, wheels, etc.?

Mr. Cartoon: The stereo system sets the mood for your vehicle, it has to be extremely loud yet clear. I love that you can plug in a electric guitar to the stereo system and it can be used as an amp.

Vans off the wall van interior rear cabin audio system
Travis Farrell

MG: As far as the interior, what was the goal? Was it client driven or did they just give you creative control to do what you wanted to do?

Mr. Cartoon: Vans gave me all creative control. One thing they did request after seeing the initial sketch was the ability to plug in and play live music from the van.

MG: Has this van given you any inspiration to do another van?

Mr. Cartoon: Not right now. This project was meticulous and I don’t see myself topping this one any time soon.

MG: Have you had any other clients or potential clients say “Hey, we dig that van,” and inquire about future builds for them?

Mr. Cartoon: Even though people love it and I have had plenty of compliments, no one else has had the balls Vans had and stepped up to invest in the past like they did.


Thanks Mr. Cartoon, Steve Zeitzoff from Vans, and everyone else who gave their time to help pull this story together. For more information on Mr. Cartoon or Vans, check out the web addresses below:

Click below for more about
Read next Up next: $2000 Challenge: A low-budget racing bonanza

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *