Five Inspirations is a series in which we ask directors to share five things that shaped and informed their film. Dash Shaw's Cryptozoo is playing exclusively on MUBI starting October 22, 2021 in many countries in the series The New Auteurs.
I decided to highlight five books that inspired Cryptozoo:
Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art by Susan Aberth
I got the Carrington NYRB prose books too, but this art book stayed on a close shelf in my studio during the years of making Cryptozoo. Each picture is its own world, orchestrating a network of relationships. Their incomplete areas activate the imagination. To say something is "dream-like" is overused, but it applies here.
Walt Disney Imagineering by the Imagineers
I got this when it first came out. If you're a kid growing up loving comics and cartoons, everyone really shoves Disney down your throat. My childhood dream job was to be an Imagineer. I'd draw imaginary theme park maps on big poster boards. In Cryptozoo, I was interested in the moment Disney died, 1966, and how his dream for Epcot as an actual city where people would live, his utopian dream, was executed as just another amusement park after his death. Cryptozoo is like an exploded view of that moment.
The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges
Each chapter is a short description of a different imaginary being. The original title is "Manual de Zoologia Fantastica."
Jasper Johns by Michael Crichton
I have too many thoughts about Crichton, Jurassic Park, Westworld, and his whole body of work to fit in here. I was always fascinated by this book. These are two of my favorite artists. I hope Crichton's ghost approves of Cryptozoo.
China Miéville's books
When I think about Miéville, it's almost like he's not a writer. He's an imagination. He's a world-builder. I hope to adapt one of his books one day. He has a perfect blend of the experimental with propulsive, pulp-like narrative. He's obviously on the level of the great visionaries: Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, Ursula K. Le Guin, et cetera.