Origins of Sunnyville – Part 2

Last week, I discussed one of the two sources of inspiration for Sunnyville.  One of them was my move down to the south.  The other one came from the Land of the Rising Sun – Japan!  Yes, I was inspired by anime.
The primary inspiration for Sunnyville Stories was a 1986 anime series created in Japan by Toei Animation.  This series title was Maple Town Stories, known in Japanese as Maple Town Monogatari, or simply Maple Town.  The series was all about a small utopian village called Maple Town.  The main characters were a little girl named Patty Rabbit and how she moved with her family into the town.  Her father was the new postmaster.  Patty Rabbit befriended various characters within the town such as Bobby Bear, Fanny Fox, Roxie Raccoon, Mikey Mole, Susie Squirrel, etc.  These kids would have many adventures within the town.   The series was popular enough that by 1987, it was translated into various languages and broadcast all over the world.  It originally ran in syndication for awhile, which is where I originally saw it, and then it would broadcast on the cable channel Nickelodeon running from 1987 to 1993.  Some may also remember the series for the line of merchandise it spawned, namely small figurines of the characters with playsets.  A sequel series was made in 1987 known as Shin Maple Town Monogatari – Palm Town Hen which means “New Maple Town Stories: Palm Town Chapter”.  This series did run in other countries and in fact, was quite popular in Italy due to Italian pop singer Christina D’Avena performing the theme song.  For some strange reason, Palm Town never made it to the USA.

I’ll be honest – Sunnyville was inspired by anime.  The look and feel of the series largely came about as a result of this 1980s anime series.  What really fascinated me about the series was how archaic the technology and fashions looked.  I did view foreign episodes of the sequel, Palm Town, and it was clearly established in that series that both anime series did take place in the mid-to-late 1980s.  Yet in spite of this, it was fascinating to me that the remote hamlet of Maple Town still resembled something out of the first half of the 20th century.

The females still wore skirts and dresses, rather than following the latest fashions of the 1980s. The characters listened to old-fashioned music such as classical, swing, and jazz in the era of “I want my MTV!” There was a notable absence of modern technology such as television, computers, and video games.  In fact, the tech that did appear such as cars, radios, phones, etc. resembled those of the early half of the 20th century much like the aforementioned fashions. It was intriguing to see this strange setting that was set in the present but still had older technology and fashions.  This always stuck in my mind for some reason and I pondered how could this be.
Maple Town was pretty much dead by the 1990s.  The series was taken off Nickelodeon in 1993 and the toyline was discontinued by 1990-1991.  It wasn’t until the Internet came around that I rediscovered Maple Town.  I then started to ponder…what if such a town existed in the modern world?  That’s how Sunnyville came about. Much of Sunnyville came about from the look of Maple Town.  The old-fashioned wardrobe of the characters, the general store…in fact, Sam Macgregor’s family was partly based on the Rabbit family!


Much like Patty Rabbit, Sam has an older sister, a younger brother, and a baby sister.  In the event though I was ever accused of plagiarism, I did add a fail-safe.  I added an additional older brother, Rolf, to the family.  I’ll be discussing him along with the rest of Sam Macgregor’s family in a future post.

And as for Rusty’s arrival in Sunnyville via the train?  That too came from the first episode of Maple Town as the Rabbit family also travels into Maple Town on a train. Well, that’s it for this week.  Be sure to watch for next week’s blog post, faithful readers.  Until then, bye bye.
If you’re interested in learning more about Maple Town and its toyline, check out this neat website in addition to the above Wikipedia link.  They have plenty of screenshots as well as images of the toys.
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About Max West

I am a freelance artist and the creator of Sunnyville Stories, an independent slice-of-life comics series.
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