The world would be a poorer place without Mark Mothersbaugh in it. The Devo frontman did more than just write “Whip It.” His visual art has exhibited in over 150 galleries, he’s taught kids to draw on Yo Gabba Gabba!, he’s scored music for TV and movies from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse to the Wes Anderson oeuvre to The Lego Movie. And with Devo, he introduced poststructuralist ideas of art to a culture that was very ready for them in the mid-70’s, ensuring that there would be a place in punk rock for the arty, intellectual nerd as well as the aggro, angry youth. All of the arty, intellectual nerds doing great things across all areas of culture–whether it’s Anderson or Paul Reubens or Phil Lord and Christopher Miller–owe Mothersbaugh a debt, which is probably why they all clamor to collaborate with him (read our interview with Mothersbaugh here).
But Mothersbaugh’s journey to icon-status was a circuitous one, and it might not have happened if his eyes hadn’t been tested in second grade–when Mothersbaugh learned that his myopia was so severe that he was legally blind. Those famous glasses he wears? Until he got them, he didn’t know what a tree looked like. That’s just one of the anecdotes that comes across in the latest “California Inspires Me” short from Google Play, agency BBH L.A., and California Sunday Magazine. The series has famous Californians talk about growing up in the Golden State in a voiceover, as their childhoods play out in animated form on the screen (watch a previous edition with Jack Black here). Mothersbaugh’s youth unfolds in an animation style that involves line art, xerography, and bold colors, created by Barcelona-based studio Manson. It’s a lovely tribute to someone whose influence on pop culture is often understated, and the power of what you can accomplish when you overcome your myopia.