- Planters, the nut company, introduced a new mascot named Baby Nut during their much-talked-about 2020 Super Bowl ad campaign.
- Artist Nina Matsumoto created a viral moment by reimagining Mr. Peanut and Baby Nut as tragic figures of Greek mythology.
- She was inspired by Spanish romantic artist Francisco Goya and his painting “Saturn Devouring His Son.”
- She went viral.
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Nina Matsumoto didn’t watch the Super Bowl, but the Vancouver-based artist still managed to create one of the most viral Twitter moments to emerge from this year’s game.
The idea to parody Goya’s nightmarish oil painting came to Matsumoto after midnight, having just returned home on a red-eye flight.
“The image of a glass-eyed Mr. Peanut chomping down on Baby Nut’s head, complete with peanut butter gore … I had to put it down on digital paper,” Matsumoto told Insider via email. “Once I actually painted it, though, I thought to myself, ‘This is horrifying and unpleasant to look at and I’m going to lose followers as soon as I post this.’ But I posted it anyway. I tend to make (what I consider to be) lower-quality posts late at night so that fewer followers see it.”
I quietly posted this at 2 in the morning yet look what happened
— nina matsumoto ???? (@spacecoyotl) February 4, 2020
Morbidly fascinated by the “death of Mr. Peanut” narrative Planters had been touting on Twitter in the lead-up to Super Bowl Sunday, Matsumoto was already expecting the brand to replace their bespectacled mascot of more than a century with a younger, hipper iteration.
What she wasn’t expecting, however, was the flood of likes and retweets “Mr. Peanut Devouring His Son” would go on to receive overnight.
“I love Goya’s ‘Saturn Devouring His Son’ painting,” Matsumoto explained. “It’s based on the mythology of Saturn eating his children out of fear they would grow up to overthrow him. I know Baby Nut is more like a reincarnation of Mr. Peanut and not his actual son, but Baby Nut is his successor, so it was perfect.”
“Plus, some art historians think Goya painted his piece as an allegory for the Spanish autocracy devouring its citizens, particularly the younger generation,” she went on. “Mr. Peanut is clearly part of the wealthy elite – I mean, look at how well-dressed he is – so there’s something to be said about that, too.”
But “Mr. Peanut” isn’t Matsumoto’s first brush with internet fame. In 2007, she landed her first art job after posting a semi-realistic, anime-style fanart of “The Simpsons” – fittingly titled “The Simpsonzu” – on deviantART.
“I had never been published before that, but the piece went viral and it landed me my first art job: drawing official ‘Simpsons’ comics for Bongo Comics,” she wrote. “I’ve had a few more pieces go viral since then, but nothing’s come close to the power of ‘The Simpsonzu’ until ‘Mr. Peanut Devouring His Son.'”
Now, Matsumoto is releasing limited edition prints of “Mr. Peanut” for purchase, in collaboration with Bottleneck Gallery, a pop culture art gallery in New York. The prints will be available for purchase through the gallery’s website starting Friday, February 7, 2020 at 12 p.m. Eastern.
“Planters has yet to reach out to me,” Matsumoto added. “I would like to be paid in literal peanuts.”