The Cat Lady’s Cat: A Look Back

After several name changes and seven years, The Cat Lady’s Cat – the other original Fantastic Ballad – is revised, refined, and raring to go!

Origin Story

Originally called Mrs Kowolski’s Cat, then Callie the Calico Cat, the Cat Lady’s Cat is the other original Fantastic Ballad that I worked on with Josh. The story is of Callie, and how she’ll go to any lengths to keep her Cat Lady Dee from finding true love – because if she finds true love, Callie thinks, Callie and the other kittens will get kicked to the curb.

Like the Gingerbread Man’s Last Stand (the first ballad), this story has series of mishaps and a nice twist that, to me at least, have aged nicely. In tandem, these stories laid the foundation for what a Fantastic Ballad could be.

Concept Art

Concept Art by Josh EngelConcept Art by Josh Engel

Per usual, Josh did an incredible job capturing a devious and adorable protagonist. In taking these sketches and turning them into sepia-toned illustrations, he captured the essence of an intimate story worth hanging on the wall.

To be honest, he did too good of a job. Whereas with the Gingerbread Man’s Last Stand I was comfortable separating the art from the background and adding little animated movements, it felt sacrilegious to interfere with what he worked to create.

The Ballad, Version 1.0

Our original ballad was in four parts, with five framed pictures per, all hung down a wall with a flowery wallpaper. I enjoy looking back at these pieces now because they show just how much revisions have affected the story. The character’s names were once Eleanor and Rob (a nod to my grandparents), the illustrations more directly reflect the text here, and the meter isn’t great, despite some fun turns of phrase.

Taking this ballad and animating it was a simpler process than the Gingerbread Man’s Last Stand, as I set out to capture the feeling of the original ballad, rather than transform it entirely into a cartoon. I recreated the scrolling look and feel, though I did add cat wallpaper, which, while a little on the nose, was too delightful to pass up.

Additionally, the first cut had the frames going down, one after another… but I realized (with some wifely help) that there aren’t too many homes with the space to display 20 frames vertically. I made the proper adjustments, and the piece is all the better for it.

Next Up

It’s been edifying to be able to practice with such charming characters  (it certainly makes my efforts look more impressive than they actually are) as I get a better handle on the functionalities of the Adobe suite. For better or worse, none of the other original ballads have nearly as much artwork as these two, and later ballad-related collaborations and commissions resulted in four or five pieces of art, which, while they help to capture the tone, are not sufficient for a four-minute video. Going forward, I’ll be writing brand new stories and commissioning illustrations from new artists.

In several ways, this summer has felt like a reboot, both in the “reusing old source material” way and a “getting back to basics” way. As I venture ever further into writing for kids, animation, and storytelling, I love that this project has become my own personal Giving Tree, one that continues to nurture and provide as I grow.


Also published on Medium.

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