Getting back to how Sunnyville Stories came to be, the years went by and I drew on an on/off basis through high school and college. It wasn’t until my final year of college in 2002 that I started drawing on a regular basis. I was not a natural artist – I was NOT a childhood prodigy and wasn’t from an artistic family. Knowing that many people were so much better than me and had the advantage of going to art school, this made me more determined to improve my drafting skills and show everyone how good I was.
It was sometime in 2003 that I came up with an idea for a comics series called “Animal Pens”. I’d later retroactively title it “Bleu’s Forest”. In fact, the old page is still up – I’ve since abandoned it. The story was influenced in part by a 1980s cartoon series from Canada I used to watch called the Raccoons. The comic involved the adventures of a young red fox named Bleu who lived with his childhood friends, a married couple named Warren and Lori. They had various adventures in a big forest filled with magic and mythical creatures.
You can see here an early example of my work. While my writing was solid and the humor was definitely there (I had practiced writing jokes and do have a creative writing degree), my art was abysmal. Undaunted by the poor drawing and the poor reception I got, I kept at it.
I eventually ceased work on that comic but kept working on ideas. It was in 2005 that I started to put the ideas together for Sunnyville Stories.
It was thanks to the World Wide Web that I rediscovered Maple Town, the 1980s anime series that I used to watch on Nickeoldeon and in syndication years ago. I described Maple Town and its sequel, Palm Town, a bit more in my Origins of Sunnyville II post so I won’t rehash it here.
Having rediscovered the series and researching it some more, it was fascinating to me how this world could exist. It was set in the mid-to-late 1980s (no surprise since Maple Town was released in 1986 and its sequel Palm Town in 1987) but at the same time, it seemed that time stood still in that town. Everyone dressed like they were from the early half of the 20th century. Instead of being up on the fashion trends of the 1980s like legwarmers and headbands, the ladies wore skirts and dresses. They listened to old-fashioned music like classical and swing which I found odd in the era of “I Want My MTV!” There was also a noticeable lack of modern technology. There were no computers, no televisions, and no video games. Technology that did appear such as cars and radios were old-fashioned models, again as if it was in the early part of the 20th century.
The idea fascinated me so I began to conceive this setting similar to Maple Town. I pictured a remote village surrounded in all directions by wilderness accessible by few roads and a set of train tracks. This village was isolated and the inhabitants were anthropomorphic animals. Their wardrobes were very traditional. I pictured the females wearing dresses and the men wearing suits.The
The world was there. I had the concept clearly down in my head and as a few notes on paper. Then again, I didn’t know what to do with this world. It’d be nice to have these various people in their old-fashioned clothes walking around, but they had to be more than that. They had to be actual characters so that I could reel in readers.
I thought back to the source material that inspired me. The first episode of Maple Town dealt with Patty Rabbit and her family arriving in town on board a steam train. I started to think back on my own experiences of moving down south back at the end of the 1980s. There had to be some sort of character in the story for the readers to identify with and to follow. I conceived a few possible ideas and then conceived of a cat. I made up a story that this cat, a teenager, had moved into this strange new town and that it was unlike anything that he knew back home. The name of Rusty was chosen out of thin air. I just thought it was a cool sounding name.
From there, the idea started to come together some more. This was back in 2005 however. There’s a reason why it took so long to become a reality. But that’s for next time.