ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Jeremy Sniatecki is Rochester’s unknown Star Wars connection.
The Disney+ show The Mandalorian, which is based in Star Wars universe, took the world by storm in its first season last year. People fell in love with the show’s look, writing, and of course, the creature that became to be known as “Baby Yoda.”
The show also had a massive marketing campaign, and Sniatecki helped created a series of promotional posters for the smash hit.
We caught up with him for this special 1-on-1 ahead of the second season’s Friday release.
Are you a Rochester native?
No, my wife and I are from Niagara County and we don’t know how we met. We were friends in high school and we met back up in Rochester years later. We got married six months after that. So we’ve been here since ’97.
It’s a good place to be. We always joke that it’s like a little slice of New York City, but with better parking.
Well, we’ll come back to more on the Flower City in a second, but we’re going to go back to Niagara County. What was it like growing up there?
Yeah, my mum was an art teacher in Williamsville, and my dad was a diesel mechanic, but they both supported the creative inclinations.
My mom was too cool. She saved this (below) in the first day of kindergarten. 1978, the first day of kindergarten. It’s a C-3PO poster, my first Star Wars poster, which is fun because now I’m getting paid to do Star Wars posters — so that’s pretty fun.
That made my day, I needed to see that. Was there sort of a moment when you and your family realized that you are an artist? Was it that C-3PO poster? Or was it something after that?
It was before that, when I was 4 years old, my dad took me to see the original Star Wars movie. It’s like a supercharge with a little imagination and then I was drawing stuff.
And then of course the action figures showed up in the world and I would make little scenes and draw those. I guess about 4 years old when it really kicked in. It’s funny though, all the toys helped me think three dimensionally playing with a moving. That helps with drawing tremendously.
You’re from Niagara County, I assume you went through like primary school there. Did you go to college? If so, where and what was that experience like?
I came up here, and shortly after graduating — like a lot of folks, I really liked this area — so I stayed. And here I am
What was your first foray into the art world? Was it doing posters?
No, I’m technically a graphic designer; commercial illustrator guy, and I went full freelance in 2007. These days, it’s mostly 20 industry-like licensed toys and collectibles. I do packaging and product design.
I tend to lean toward nerdy nonsense and I really enjoy it. Knowing the subject matter so well, it helps me do a better job for my clients.
The fun part is I’ve got, I’m in my little house here in North Winton village, in the Rochester area and the upstairs bedroom here, I’ve done work for clients all over the world. I’m really grateful that I can do that.
It’s just a fun, little thing I like to share with the community now: “Hey, there’s something cool happening in Rochester, along with all the other cool things happening in Rochester.”
I know it’s hard to answer this question sometimes. I actually grew up on Star Trek, to the point where, which the first time I saw reading rainbow with LaVar Burton, I explained to my parents, “Oh, look, it’s Jordy.” I still love Star Trek and, in sort of in sort of a weird way, it’s kind of informed how I view the world, and sort of my ethical compass in some ways. When you’re that young and you see Star Wars, can you really remember? What about it captivated you so much?
I think just the visuals and it felt like a real world. It’s widely known that they tried to make it look used. It wasn’t flashy, shiny, everything. It felt so real. And there was such a cast of different creatures and characters.
And those were all works of art by the props department and the creature shop and the whole thing. It was a giant artwork in the sense that they put together to tell a story from the models, and even the writing and the music, the whole thing. It’s a big creative collaboration.
And I, some part of me caught that even as a 4 year old and, and throughout the years, I just … I got it. That was just, there was a giant fireball of creative stuff right in front of me on a big screen. I just ate it right up.
What was your first Star Wars project? It obviously wasn’t these Mandalorian posters. So what was the first Star Wars project? I would probably faint if I got a call from Star Trek and they said, “we want you to work on something or we want you to like play a bit part or something.” So what was your first official Star Wars project? And what happened when you got the call?
I was actually working at a design firm here in town and we got the call from Hasbro because they wanted some outside with fresh influence.
One of the owners had a relationship with somebody that has grown professionally. I got put on the team, which they knew from my desk that I needed to be on the team, for the Star Wars project.
They wanted some new, fresh concepts for how to make that look for toy packaging. That’s like 15 years ago now. One of my designs was semi-chosen in that somebody within Hasbro chose it for their rounds, they had something pretty much what I had done.
So it’s what the poster stuff — is it OK to jump over to that?
Read my mind. That was the next thing I was going to ask about.
About four years ago, a friend over at Factory Entertainment, California, I’d done some product design and packaging stuff with them. They said, “Hey, we’re doing a series of vintage location, travel poster, style designs for universal monsters for universal studios.” They said, “you don’t want to take a crack at that. Do you?”
They didn’t really know me for my illustration side. So I started doing more of that kind of work. I’d done other Universal properties and Jaws. And I did a bunch of them now, and then did one for HBO, which I can’t talk about yet, which is kind of cool to say, it’s like, I’m a really lame version of a spy, you know?
I just ended up doing some more. I did some just for fun for when favorite actors would be coming to Flower City Comic Con in town. I do have a poster just for fun. You have one of them and have the monograph one for me in the family here.
When it came to Mandalorian, I saw there was a flood of “Baby Yoda,” which is, I don’t know if I’m legally allowed to call it — that’s “the child,” but everybody knows that this “Baby Yoda.” So I was talking to my one son and I said, “I want to do a poster.” Mandalorian was fantastic. I want to do a poster design. And my son suggested the guy at the very beginning with the flute for the speeders and this guy:
What a cool idea, you know, we love us some “Baby Yoda,” but let’s do something different. And so I showed it to a few contacts and sure enough Acme Archives said, yes, do it, we’re going to do a whole series. This is just one of three so far. They’ll be out in a few weeks.
That’s kinda how I got from this to this, and it’s still going strong. They’ve got other projects for me. It’s that weird thing; I signed a nondisclosure agreement, so I can’t talk about any further cool stuff at the moment.
I was going to say, that’s how you know you’ve made it when you’re doing an art project and you have to sign an NDA. That’s a “made it feeling.”
It’s kinda cool. It’smaybe it’s a bit lame to still still get excited about a non-disclosure agreement with Lucasfilm. If I could show my 10 year old self, what I’m working on now and getting paid to do for a living, he’d probably faint temporarily or do a little dance.
I look at that guy on your poster and I think to myself, “Oh, that’s so Henson-esque.” That’s like right out of his workshop, and it’s half Farscape, but it’s part of Star Wars. And in a way that makes it feel more real and less alien. And it’s a weird thing now that I’m older and I’m looking at that like, “Oh, like this is clicking now in a way that it did when I was younger.” And I’m sure you can appreciate that too.
Quick note, that it’s really funny. The guy who played him, the flute guy, he played a few different characters in the background. He was that scary black droid in the prison break episode. He’s C-3PO in anything. That’s not in the movies and the actual films. And he appearances on shows like Lego Masters or award shows, it’s Chris Bartlett.
He’s a friend of a friend. It turns out and my friend said, “Oh, can I show it to him?” So I did. And so we got to talking, he’s a graphic designer by day for the video game industry. We kinda struck up this great conversation for a bit.
So the guy who this thing is, is now sort of a friend in the world out there, and I think that’s kind of fun, very meta.
I know you do a lot of other stuff, but I can kind of tell from us talking about it, that posters are different, because even if you’re not paid to do them, you do them. What about doing posters clicks for you and what do you love about doing posters?
I always loved movie posters. It’s like encapsulating the story in a thing. And it’s got that magic sense of like extra nostalgia when it’s got that, that hint of vintage travel poster stuff. It’s something about that. I always loved that style. Back in the day they did it all by hand. Of course, these are a vector art, which is kind of like digital cut paper with little shapes.
This is all made up of tiny little shapes, which you can be able to see when I send you the image. And the fun part is that one of those shapes is the “Baby Yoda” head that I always hide it in the whole series.
And I’m sorry, I can’t show you all three so far, but there’s a tiny little “Baby Yoda” head hidden in the details of the poster somewhere.
It’s pretty amazing to see my name, my name of the certificate next to the Star Wars logo. It’s just kinda, you know, my internal 4 year old is skipping around.
As an adult, can you pull back and like sort of recognize what this means that you’re connected to this company and you’re doing it?
It’s wild to like, we were talking about earlier, it’s signing the non-disclosure with Disney Lucasfilm, like this is kind of really happening.
This is pretty cool, you know, and, the inner inner child is dancing around and a current modern day self is still, I can still just appreciate that. It’s a career and a goal, and I could say all kinds of big words that sound fancy and grown up, but it’s just cool. It’s very cool.
That excitement from my younger self, it shows up in the work and that’s really key. So my office has a lot of nerdy junk and action figures and whatnot. That really does help get that extra little emotional “oomph” when I’m creating these designs. That helps a lot too, to keep that inner kid skipping around and happy.
Here’s the Big Three. What about growing up in Niagara County really helped you become the artists you are today?
It’s sounds silly, but it was just the, it was the local library. Niagara County is a beautiful place, beautiful place. And from our little ranch house on it summer day, you could see the mist of the falls way out in the horizon from Niagara Falls. They call it rainbow country because a lot of mist. It’s a beautiful, beautiful part of the state.
It was support from my parents support from teachers, which they’re not geographic specific, and then it was the North Tonawanda Public Library. My dad and mom always took us, and they had tons of how-to-draw books. One of those books was the art production art from Return of the Jedi.
I like it. So we’ve talked a lot about the theme of big accomplishments and what they mean throughout this interview, but if you could accomplish one thing that you haven’t yet, and you think that would be a crowning achievement. What do you think that one thing would be?
I’ve checked off my list of cool things to work on in terms of different licenses and properties. I’ve done Lord of the Rings. I’ve done Star Wars now, which was, you know, that’s the big one.
I guess to be, to be contacted by, uh, by Lucasfilm to work on some concept art, further up new stuff, to just be a one other concept, or to be one of artists that they tap to submit ideas about things like that would, that would top it for sure.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Treat people respectfully turn in work on time, and keep on practicing.
I love it. Question 3B… Who shot first?
Oh, Han shot first. Why even ask?!