“Boots,” the 2nd GO! Cartoon released on Cartoon Hangover, introduces us to a pudgy kitty with a void in his soul that only his neighbor’s thrown-out chair can fill. He’ll squeeze right into that hole in your heart you won’t know exists ‘til you meet him. We sat down with dynamic dad & daughter duo David and Alison Cowles to talk cartoon-making, dumpster treasures, and malicious sock monkeys.
Did either of you guys study animation?
David: Does self-taught count? I’d been an illustrator for years before I began self-producing animations on Photoshop, around 2000.
Alison: With character voices readily supplied by me and my brother. I first did a voice for him when I was 6 – he raised me to be his unpaid talent.
You guys have worked together a lot before?
David: Oh yeah. She’s did a lot of puppeting and character design on the music videos I’ve directed for They Might Be Giants –
Alison: And I wrote the music for the projects he’s directed for “Sesame Street” and Sesame Workshop.
Just what sorta artists ARE you guys?!
Alison: I mostly work in graphic design! But I’m also a musician, and illustrator, and character designer, and I guess a writer now too –
David: Of course you’re a writer!
Dad moment! Had to be one. So how’d you split the work on ‘Boots’?
David: We developed the story together – Alison storyboarded and designed Boots’ character. We pulled a lot from characters that we’d came up with over the years while just messing around and having fun. Alison was always Boots’ voice.
Alison: My dad directed, and got to fit in his little references, like the choreography from “Singin’ in the Rain” in the final number. And I wrote Boots’ song in the course of an afternoon – it was divine intervention.
What inspired “Boots” and his character?
Alison: Certain antics were inspired by our cat Mittens, who looks nothing like Boots. Mostly, Boot’s hoarding was based on my dad’s… habits.
David: I’ve taken a chair or three off the street in my time. I have no trouble tossing out food (unlike some, cough cough Alison) but when it comes to perfectly good street treasures, I have a soft spot.
Alison: I may hold onto food too long, but at least I didn’t fetch a fake door from a play off the side of the road- that’s in our garage right now. It’s not even a real door. “Boots” is what would happen if my dad felt shame for hoarding.
David: I do not.
How’d you guys come up with Chad, Boots’ belittling monkey neighbor?
Alison: It’s actually a good example of how my dad and I come up with most of our characters together – just goobing around. We were at the huge Toys R’ Us in NYC when I was a kid, and I couldn’t choose a toy – with the pressure on I just grabbed a sock monkey and checked out.
David: It wasn’t until we got to dinner after and she pulled out the sock monkey that we saw the sinister expression on its face. We named it Tad, after our waiter, who was a perfectly nice guy. But Tad the monkey was always a douche.
Alison: I used to make him dance around on my dad and make fun of him during work calls – one day my dad actually ripped his arm off and threw him in a pond. We fished him out, but Tad didn’t change.
David: Tad will never change. We’ll see if Chad can change, if “Boots” goes to series.
What cartoons do you guys love?
David: I’m especially inspired by Tex Avery – he’s one of my all time favorite cartoon directors, and a big influence on “Boots”. I grew up in Hanna-Barbera time, so my favorites were always “Jonny Quest”, “Scooby Doo”, and “Yogi Bear”.
Alison: He raised me on “The Simpsons”, and was bent on making me love “The PowerPuff Girls” – it grew on me. I was always a fan of “Dexter’s Lab”, “Spongebob”, “Catdog”, and “The Fairly Oddparents”; and these days, I watch “Big Mouth”, “Adventure Time” and “Rick and Morty”.
Was having your own cartoon always a shared dream?
David: It was definitely something we wanted to do. For a while I was developing a show with Playhouse Disney, but it never came to be.
Alison: I dreamed of working at Pixar, and the last time I visited there as a young adult, I remember gazing out the window on the plane home, thinking how great it’d be to have my own show. Two weeks later we pitched “Boots” to Frederator.
David: Working with Frederator is great because they actually listen to the artist’s vision and want to make it happen for them. And all of Eric’s notes made “Boots” better – we’re not Hollywood folks, but we’ve learned enough to know that’s rare.
We like to think we’re okay at our jobs! What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?
Alison: I’m thankful for my dad’s sense of humor, and to be able to save all of his great ideas that he inevitably wants to dump. And really, all of the happy accidents that let “Boots” become what it is.
David: We have a lot of fun. I’m thankful that after 3 and ½ years, the wait for “Boots” has come to an end – but it’s only the beginning.
D’aww! Last up: any Thanksgiving dishes to recommend?
Alison: We make squash apple sauce in our house. If you were looking for a Thanksgiving dish with the consistency of baby food, search no further.
Thanks for the great talk, you two! Excited to keep up with all of your awesome endeavors.
Bumpin’ for Boots’ belated bday!