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David Burroughs Mattingly
Biographical information





June 29, 1956





Behind the scenes

David Mattingly is an American illustrator the primary cover artist of K.A. Applegate 's bestselling Animorphs series.


David Mattingly was born in Fort Collins, Colorado. David began drawing and painting as a small child, influenced by comic books, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and a wide array of artists from Jim Steranko, to N.C. Wyeth, to Jackson Pollock. After high school, he attended the Colorado Institute of Art , Colorado State University and later transferred to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. David has produced over 2000 covers for most major publishers of science fiction and fantasy, including Baen, Bantam, DAW, Del Rey, Dell, Marvel, Omni, Playboy, Signet, and Tor.[1]

Work on Animorphs[]

Mattingly's web site states that he painted 54 covers for "Animorphs" for Scholastic Inc. However, in a later interview he clarified that the number is actually closer to 60 because he also did the Megamorphs covers, some student planners, and several merchandise illustrations.[2] He was contracted to do the covers bi-monthly before moving to a monthly schedule.

He achieved the iconic "morphing" effect by by using a digital editing program called Elastic Reality, taking real photos, and painting over the images to achieve a blending effect. He would take photo shoots with actors, and then for the animals, he would either find a reference or do a photo shoot with the animal. For The Stranger, for example, he went to a zoo and photographed a bear. He took many of the animal shots at the SpaceFarms zoo in New Jersey.

He did not talk to K.A. Applegate much during the series' run, due to the nature of the way the illustrating process works. He says "When we were doing the series, she was really nice, she sent me some Christmas gifts, and was always very complimentary about my work. But it's funny in book illustration, it's highly dependent on the fact that the author needs to understand that sometimes the book company has different goals for the cover than the author does. And the author will sometimes get very caught up in a specific scene or a specific look for a character." 

For the Animorphs Aliens, Mattingly had an easy time designing their look because Applegate's descriptions were so detailed.

Authors have different levels of specificity as to the look of their characters, and she was very specific. So, Ax was blue, he had the sabre tail, he had the two eyes on stalks on the top of his head; It was kind of hard to get that wrong because she was so detailed in her description.


  • He has never talked to Kate Applegate, but she sent him Christmas presents every year during the series' run.
  • He never read the books during the series' run, but read them after the books became popular.
  • In November 2011, during the time of the Animorphs re-release, he posted 5 of the 6 Animorphs Sanctuary screensavers, and 5 flipbook animation videos of the cover morphs (one for each character except Tobias) to hisYouTube channel. Before this, the screensavers could only be found online at fan site Hirac Delest .
  • He likes to subtlely include pictures or text mentions of his black-and-white cat, Orson, on as many pieces of artwork as possible, including many of the Animorphs books inside covers. This includes book 5 (graffiti on the wall says "Orson", book 13 (the framed picture of Tobias's cat Dude is also Mattingly's cat Orson), book 18 (while Orson didn't make it to the final image, the sketch of the inside cover includes a framed picture), book 24 (Orson is in the crowd of people watching the anteaters), book 35 (one of the tv screens shows Orson), book 38 (the license plate on the VW bug says 'Orson'), book 39 (Orson is on the police officer's badge), book 41 (Orson shows up on a futuristic billboard for cat food), book 46 (one of the pilot's names on the jet is 'Orson'.


External Links[]


Behind the Scenes
Authors K.A. Applegate | Michael Grant | List of Ghostwriters
Artists David Mattingly | Romas Kukalis | Chris Grine
Actors Shawn Ashmore | Brooke Nevin | Nadia-Leigh Nascimento | Boris Cabrera | Christopher Ralph | Paulo Costanzo