Here is Part 1 of my interview with Kid vs Kat creator Rob ‘Boots’ Boutilier. You can catch more info about my role in storyboarding on the show in my Kid vs Kat intro post.
Lucky for my lazy ass, Rob was indeed wonderfully ‘long-winded’ in his answers. Lots of good, juicy stuff! So for ease of reading, I’m going to break it up into three posts.
The second will be on Friday, February 13th (because it’s my birthday and I want a stamp of ’13 Feb’ on the blog). And so you don’t have a to wait a full week for the next one.
Then the last one will be up next week.
So let’s get this ball rolling!
1. Let’s start with all that great, boring stuff about you. Tell us about your background, education and why you got started in the animation business.
I started drawing at an early age with only one goal in mind: I wanted to create a daily comic strip and become the next Charles Schulz.
I started being published when I was eleven, with local and college papers following as I grew older, but since I was completely self taught up to that point I thought I needed to improve myself by taking some kind of drawing course.
Animation seemed a natural fit for me so when I was 25, I packed up and moved from Halifax to Vancouver to take an intensive classical animation course at the Vancouver Film School.
I figured animation would be something I’d just do during the day while I developed comic strip ideas at night. I thought I’d only be in the industry for about 5 years, then move on to something else.
Over 13 years later, it didn’t quite turn out that way.
2. How about a brief summary of Kid vs Kat?
Kid vs Kat is about a 10 year old boy named Coop whose idyllic life is turned completely upside-down when his younger sister brings home a stray cat of mysterious origin.
It’s obvious to Coop that the cat is some kind of alien and is up to no good, but nobody else seems to see it.
3. What was the main inspiration of the Kid vs Kat concept? How long was it brewing in your brain?
I’ve had the idea since I left VFS in late ’96 about doing a short about a kid always defending his backyard sandbox from a neighborhood cat that always used it as a luxury litter-box.
I wanted it to be reminiscent of old Tom and Jerry, or Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons – basically just two characters constantly chasing and evading each other through a series of gags.
I picked at the idea over the years but it wasn’t until my wife and I adopted a hairless cat that the entire concept came together for me. My wife and I think our cat is the most beautiful thing in the world, but most people are just plain freaked out by her appearance.
I thought that would add to the character of the cat in my idea, and I actually wrote the pitch quite quickly on a Sunday afternoon.
4. How did the whole thing get off the ground? Was the short made first, then pitched to the studio? Or was the concept pitched with storyboards and the finished short came later? What was the process?
I pitched Kid vs Kat to Studio B Productions in late 2005 through an internal pitch program called the BHive.
They liked the idea enough to give me a green light to develop, storyboard and direct a three-minute short called “Look What My Sister Dragged In”. We worked out a rough outline of the story first and I storyboarded straight from that.
Working without a script allowed me to change action and dialogue constantly as I went along, but still stick to the basic story structure we had laid out. Once the board was done and approved by the studio execs we recorded straight off that.
After the final animation and sound mix, everybody was pleased with the result and Studio B took it to Mipcom Jr in 2006. It ended up being the 15th most watched property among thousands of shows screened there and the networks started circling it.
YTV came on board to develop it as a series, followed by Jetix Europe. I honestly would have been happy making another couple of shorts, but in less than 12 months after making the original short, we suddenly had a full series order for 52×11 minutes.
Everybody was taken aback with how fast things were suddenly rolling.
5. Did you have to make many compromises on your original vision once it started into production?
I honestly don’t think you can produce a series like this with multiple networks serving as creative partners and NOT end up compromising on something to keep everyone happy.
In terms of story, we had decided in our initial development with YTV that Kat’s alien origin would be left a mystery to both Coop and the audience, with the truth to be revealed slowly and later on in the season.
As so often happens with networks however, there was a change at the executive level and the new person assigned to Kid vs Kat felt it would be better to just let the cat out of the bag, so to speak.
So that required a definite change in our thinking at script stage. Jetix had their own ideas of what the series should be, and once Disney came fully aboard that was a third point of view – and a very influential one – that also needed to be considered.
The voice of Coop was certainly the biggest change made from the short, and I give the networks full credit for being absolutely correct on that call.
Visually the show is pretty much what I wanted, although we compromised a bit to give the networks more of a “summer” color palette than the original short (which was definitely rooted in more of a “fall” palette).
All in all though, I would say that the characters are damn close to my original vision. The one thing we were completely uncompromising on was the idea of Kat talking… I’m so glad we stuck to our guns in that area.
6. How’s the show being received so far? What’s next and what are your hopes for the show in the future?
We’ve been getting good reviews from Australia, and YTV has really thrown its support behind the series.
I’ve received very positive feedback from people of a wide spectrum of ages. A lot of parents tell me they’ll watch the show with their kids because it reminds them of cartoons they watched as kids. Our goal was to give the series a bit of a retro feel to it, so that feels good.
I’m taking a break at the moment as the series starts its worldwide rollout, and then hopefully we’ll start work on season two very soon. I really have grown to love all these characters and the world of Kid vs Kat.
I hope we can continue well into the future!
Where you can watch Kid vs Kat:
In Canada you can catch Kid vs Kat on YTV, Saturdays at 8:30am, then 6 and 6:30pm (check local listings).
It’s also currently on the ABC in Australia.
In the US there will be a sneak peek on DisneyXD (formerly ToonDisney) Feb. 13th, before settling into its regular time slot on Feb. 21st. http://tv.disney.go.com/disneyxd/
The series will also premiere on Jetix Europe then the rest of the world (yes, we are truly worldwide) will follow.
Please tune in!
Read the Storyboard Blog by RSS Feed or by email to catch Part 2 of Rob’s interview where he’ll talk about the good ol’ days of being a storyboard artist.