Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Frans Vischer "Fuddles" Again

Frans Vischer's self=caricature.
Animator Frans Vischer has a side project that he has nurtured for several years, a comic series called Fuddles. He talked to FLIP about it, as well as his second Fuddles book, A Very Fuddles Christmas, which was released today.

FLIP: You were part of the big Disney animation layoff back in April.  How have things gone since then?
Frans: I’m doing pretty well.  I do miss the studio and the people there, but my immediate reaction was to take this as an opportunity.  My second Fuddles book was long finished and awaiting publication, so here was a chance to focus on kids books.  I’ve been splitting time between my book work and free-lance animation and illustration, whatever pays the bills.  I’ve been working steadily for Renegade Animation, Darrell Van Citters’ company, doing digital illustrations for Scholastic, and I have about a dozen picture book ideas in various states that I’m playing with.
FLIP: Tell us about Fuddles! What sets him/her apart from other cartoon cats?
Frans: Fuddles was inspired by my black & white behemoth cat, Felix.  Cats, unlike dogs, are self-centered.  So I took that a bit further - the family spoils and treats Fuddles like a human family member. Fuddles is delusional, and has dreams of grandeur.  Ignorant of his physical limitations, his adventures nevertheless end well, (through sheer luck, not by his own doing,) thus reinforcing his delusions.

For example, in the new book, he’s again locked out of the house.  He struggles through the snow-covered yard looking for a back entrance when a lump of snow hits him.  Two squirrels in a tree snicker, a call-back from the first book.  Fuddles completely forgets his goal of getting inside, determined to teach the squirrels a lesson.  He clambers up the tree as the squirrels hop onto the house chimney.  Fuddles follows suit, but goes inside the chimney and slides down, landing in the fireplace in the middle of his family’s Christmas party.

He’s bathed, perfumed, and fed a gourmet meal for his trouble, and all is once again well, as if he’d intended it just that way. 

FLIP: You just had your second Fuddles book, "A Very Fuddles Christmas" published. How did Fuddles go from an idea in your head to two published books?
My agent, Paul Rodeen, helped me put a book dummy together.  I started with a more realistic, day in the life story.  Observing Felix interact with my daughter, Mary, gave me the idea of a girl narrating her cat’s daily adventures.  Paul felt the story needed more plot, so I dumped the narration and played with the cat’s personality.  I wanted a real, 4-legged cat who didn’t speak but did have a thought process.  I settled on a sort of droll, descriptive text, somewhat documentary film narration-style, stating Fuddles’ intentions and desires.

I made 5 dummies, each pushing the humor and character further, until Paul felt it was good enough to sell. We got a number of contradicting rejections.  Some felt, (knowing I worked at Disney,) that it was too Disney.  Others said it was too commercial, or the story was too complicated, or too simple.  It was funny getting these conflicting reactions, (not that funny- they were all rejections…) I hadn’t settled on a style yet, and just as in animation, you continue developing the look and story as you go, I was willing to send alternate versions.  But none were interested in a second look.

It took Paul about 6 months to sell Fuddles.  I remember having a blah day at Disney when Paul called, saying he’d made a 2-book deal with Aladdin, an imprint at Simon & Schuster.  That improved my day a bit! I walked 2 feet off the ground the rest of the day. I immediately called my wife, Jennifer, who promptly bought an armoire at a furniture store.  I was coaching Mary’s soccer team at the time.  We had a play-off game that night, which we won.   I had to ref the following game, and I had the hardest time concentrating - all I could think of was the book deal. 

FLIP: Are there other Fuddles ventures you would like to try, like TV?

I’ve thought about TV - though it’s tricky with a character that doesn’t speak.  I’m definitely not doing the Garfield thing.  I’m trying to get Simon & Schuster to fund a book app.  I want to do stylistic, 2D animation with a strong illustration style.  As in the books, Fuddles’ fur should have soft, loose edges instead of the traditional hard outline.  I experimented at Disney animating directly on a Cintiq screen, with interesting results.  Using photoshop-style brushes, there’s so much that can be done digitally these days with textures and shading.  It’s very exciting, and I’d love to try something like that with Fuddles.

And Simon & Schuster is interested in a third Fuddles book.  I have an outline ready where the family adopts a puppy who pees on the floor, so they call him Puddles!

To Purchase your copy of A Very Fuddles Christmas CLICK HERE.

Read about Frans' work on the short Back to Neverland in the old format FLIP here:

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