Un article de Bill Brownstrein dans la Gazette sur la créatrice de Ponto
Brownstein: Orange cones have been a boon for Montreal comic illustrator
Tania Mignacca has turned her creation of a cuddly cartoon cone character called Ponto into a new career.
Author of the article:
Illustrator Tania Mignacca, creator of orange cone character Ponto, has turned the ubiquitous Montreal hindrance into a profitable business. PHOTO BY DAVE SIDAWAY /Montreal Gazette
Bill Brownstein • Montreal Gazette
Published May 24, 2023 • Last updated 1 hour ago • 4 minute read
There’s gold in them thar orange cones, at least for one Montrealer.
Small wonder that comic illustrator Tania Mignacca has a soft spot for the ubiquitous construction cones that most Montrealers never tire of cursing.
A decade back, Mignacca, then working as a graphic designer for a large retail chain, was looking for a whimsical outlet and fixated on the orange cone. And so came to animated life a misunderstood and, dare we say, cuddly cartoon character called Ponto, essentially an orange cone with two innocent eyes and a fetching red nose.
Ponto has not only provided Mignacca an outlet but a change of career — and one that is becoming increasingly more lucrative.
Mignacca is set to complete her second volume of Ponto comic strips — like the first, available in French and English — and she puts out a weekly Ponto web page, also including the drawings of her artist friends. And then there’s the Ponto merch: More than 100 items, from postcards to keychains to decals to earrings to drawings to bags to plushies, selling from $3 to $40.
All of the above take full advantage of the not-so-comical traffic chaos induced by the orange cones, yet somehow manage to show a little love for the seemingly genial Ponto. No minor feat in itself. In fact, the subtitle to the first Ponto volume is: “Because We All Love Montreal!”
The city in turn seems to be falling for Ponto, whose plushie likeness will be front and centre at the Comic Arts Festival on St-Denis St., May 26 to 28; Montreal’s ComicCon, July 14 to 16 at the Palais des congrès; and Otakuthon, Montreal’s largest anime convention, Aug. 11 to 13, also at the Palais des congrès.
Ponto was even fêted last Saturday at Verdun’s Thésaurus Thérrarium’s High Tea — although some may argue that a stronger libation would have been more appropriate for serving at this occasion.
Mignacca takes it all in stride while working in her tiny studio in a Mile End office building on Casgrain Ave. — which coincidentally appears to be one of the few street blocks in the city without any orange cones.
“Not this week anyway,” Mignacca muses. “But there were some last week.
“I totally understand the frustration Montrealers feel about the orange cones, but they really don’t bother me the same way, because I don’t drive. I’m a walker.”
Mignacca took the name Ponto out of the blue … er … orange.
“It doesn’t mean anything, really. I just liked the sound of it. But what’s funny is that now people are calling orange cones, Pontos,” she says. “I started doing this at the time city construction scandals were all over the news. I thought Ponto would have a short life, but then with the explosion of orange cones around the city, Ponto took on a new and long life, and business just keeps growing, because I don’t think the city is ever going to be completely fixed up.”
With no sign of an imminent demise of road work, there is not likely to be any end in sight for the orange cones, in spite of the penalties supposed to be imposed on those construction crews who allow them to linger too long on our streets and sidewalks.
Mignacca notes that when Quebec Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault announced in April that her department would seek to reduce not just the number of cones on city streets but also their size, Ponto’s legion of fans were upset.
“I did an April Fools’ joke on my web page, showing a skinnier Ponto. People really believed it and were sending me messages: ‘No, no. Ponto! We don’t want you to change.’
“Of course, I want the city to do better with construction. But I always hear people complaining about the traffic cones, which seems to prevent many from seeing the more beautiful aspects of the city. After all, we do have bigger problems in the city than the cones. So I decided to turn the cone into a unique city symbol with a different perspective most might have, like a cute Montreal mascot, inspired by similar Japanese mascots. I see Ponto as a child who sees the city with wonder. That’s why I try to incorporate in my drawings with Ponto some city landmarks, like that other great orange creation, the Orange Julep.
“Let’s look on the bright side here: the orange cone is something else that makes us so distinct.”
It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that Ponto has a strong following on Facebook and Twitter. Even Mayor Valérie Plante is apparently a big fan — as she acknowledged to Mignacca when they met — and follows Ponto on social media.
But despite a request from one cynic, Mignacca plans to refrain from titling yet another comic volume Ponto Meets Planto.
For more information about Ponto and related merchandise, go to pontomontreal.com.