It’s a familiar scene for many people who live with cats: You just want to sit down and watch your favorite television show, but your kitty will NOT leave you alone. She meows at you relentlessly. She claws the couch. She kneads your pants and your sweater before arching her back and sticking her butt directly in your face. You pick her up and move her away from you; she returns seconds later, purring and rubbing her cold, wet nose on your cheek.
Exasperated, you wonder what on earth your feline friend could possibly need so desperately. The answer, of course, is the one thing that seems to make the average cat’s world go ’round: MORE FOOD. NOW. Yes, right this minute; no, it cannot wait.
As the proud papa of four cats, British animator Simon Tofield is all too familiar with this scenario. His cats’ single-mindedness when it comes to getting attention and being fed inspired his now internationally known animated cartoon series, Simon’s Cat. In the series, Simon’s cat is curious, perpetually hungry, oblivious to his owner’s suffering, and ridiculously adorable — qualities to which every cat owner can relate.
Tofield created the first Simon’s Cat episode, "Cat Man Do," in 2008. Using simple black-and-white illustrations, the film’s humor was largely physical, depicting Simon lying in bed, the posts and mattress shredded and the floor strewn with cat toys. Meanwhile, Simon’s innocent, wide-eyed kitty resorts to increasingly desperate measures to wake his slumbering owner, including but not limited to kneading, poking, and a baseball bat to the face.
This strip was inspired by Simon’s own life with his cat, Hugh. As the proud mama of two cats, one of whom wakes me each morning with sounds that fall somewhere on the spectrum between Marge Simpson and the Most Annoying Sound in the World from Dumb & Dumber, I can honestly say Tofield nailed it.
"I have always loved cats from an early age, and so when I sat down to make a short a film, a story about my cat Hugh waking me up in the morning was my first thought," Tofield says. "Hugh always wakes me up in the morning by climbing all over me in bed, telling me it’s breakfast time."
"Cat Man Do" went on to win Best Comedy at the British Animation Awards. Following that auspicious start, five years later there are six books featuring Simon’s Cat, as well as a cartoon strip in the Daily Mirror and a series of shorts released by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Simon also embarked on a seven-city U.S. tour in November to support his latest book, Simon’s Cat vs. the World. He received a warm welcome from his American fans.
"My favorite part was seeing the overwhelmingly kind and supportive response from all my fans that I met while doing the shows and signings," he says. "It is always nice to swap cat stories and meet other cat people. I usually learn quite a lot!"
Despite all of the touring and Tofield’s growing fame, the cats are still at the heart of his endeavors. In addition to Hugh, Tofield has a tortoiseshell named Jess, who is always meowing for food; a big striped tabby named Maisy, who is "always up for fuss and attention"; and Teddy, a fluffy, black fellow who is "always scratching at the back door to be let in." Like many cat parents, myself included, he is consistently in awe of his furry companions.
"I am still amazed at how rewarding it is to live with cats," he says. "Every night they make me smile with their antics. I am still astonished at how all of my four cats have such different personalities and characteristics."
Tofield’s cats’ antics give him plenty of inspiration for Simon’s Cat — and other cat owners can relate. In fact, anyone who has ever tried to decorate for the holidays with cats in the house has already lived the recent "Christmas Presence" episode, in which Simon’s cat encounters one of those noise-activated dancing Santas and simply cannot contain his confusion and enthusiasm. Tofield continues to be pleasantly surprised by how many people see their own cats’ behaviors mirrored in his comics.
"A lot of people always say, ‘My cat does that,’ which is nice, because it means they can see their own pet’s behavior in the films," he says. "I am very surprised about how many people have taken the cat into their hearts."
Good news: We can expect a lot more of Simon’s Cat in the new year.
"I have a small team now, and together we are working hard at producing more and more content and videos for our fans!" Tofield says.
Photos courtesy of Simon’s Cat: ┬® 2013 Simon’s Cat Ltd / www.simonscat.com.
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