Today I want to tell you the story of how a toy became a cartoon that became a book, and then became an app and how we got here. This is a story serendipity, perseverence and how believing you can do something can make it come true, it’s also the story of how this Kickstarter came to be.
The original Jörgits
The story began four years ago when I first shared some of the writing and sketches of the Jörgits with my sister Eliza. Since we were both in the creative field we routinely shared work with each other, but I still wasn’t quite prepared for her reaction. She absolutely loved it! and moreover so did all the fabulous folks at the company she helped start, the Animaboutique. They suggested that we should develop my concept into a cartoon show. I was quite flattered but also a little worried. I had never written a script before and let alone any professional creative writing. I had begun writing the story simply to give my toys a home. But I happily agreed, after all, it was an opportunity too good to pass up. We quickly began working on scripts and concept drawings together, we we’re planning on showing the concept at the Annecy Animation Festival and we had no time to loose.
A Scandinavian color palette
In developing a style for the illustration my sister and I both looked to the Moomin Troll books by Tove Janson. Like most Finnish children we had grown up reading them and as adults we were still in love with them. Since the Jörgits was set in Finland we were conscioulsy trying to hit something similar to the whimsical, magical, but slightly melancholy style that Janson had captured so well. The character design came quickly, Eliza subtley improved upon my designs by simplifying the lines to make them animation friendly and more iconic.
Eliza’s designs, simple and elegant
The color palette took a bit more time. The first drawings came back feeling a little too colorful for my taste, I wanted something more melancholy, yet sweet, something that would accurately represent how I felt about Finland.
First animation sketch by Animaboutique
We sent drawings back and forth across the ocean until one day we finally captured what we were after. When I saw it I almost cried, it was perfect.
The drawing that clinched it
Though our collaboration went well we both decided to put aside the idea for the cartoon for the time being, it was simply too costly and time consuming to produce on our own. I decided to move ahead with a new plan, to write a full length novel about the Jörgits but it would have to wait. Michelle and I had just moved to India, where I was teaching for the first time in my life, and I also wanted to concentrate more on developing the toys. After the first year of teaching was over and I had done a first exhibit of my toys, I picked up the story again.
The Apartment, my first solo toy show in Bangalore
I spent a month and half in Finland that summer writing feverishly. I would wake up everyday and write for 4-5 hours straight before my mind just went blank. Creative writng is the only task that I’ve ever done were you can only manage for five hours before you have to quit. Your brain stops working, it’s like your imagination just runs out.
Finland during the summer
I become an illustrator too!
After I finished a first draft of the novel, I had to set the project aside yet again, I was starting my top secret Toy Lab at Srishti and planning a wedding in Greek Islands ( yes I know, I have tough life). A year later I returned for round three, newly married, but stranded in Mountain View(that story will have to wait for some other time), by now I knew that I wanted to create an app, the iPad had just been released and it was perfect for children’s books. But I had one problem, my sister was up to her ears in work and had a newborn son and no time for extra drawing. So we did the next best thing, we began to draw together. Well, I did most of the drawing and Eliza helped fine tune my skills. This was quite challenging for me, I had never illustrated professionally before, but I had spent a year half of taking design drawing classes at the Academy of Art, so I pulled up my sleeves and went to work.
I used a number of drawings that Maria had created as a style guide, but I also searched far and wide for new inspiration. To understand Maria’s style,I began to look at all the illustrators that inspired her, but I also found favorites of my own:
The style began to evolve into a new direction, the color palette expanded, texture and pattern found its way into my drawings. I’ve chosen a small number of drawings from the book to show some of the stylistic changes along the way.
This was the first drawing that really captured the mood that was I was after. I was striving for something that felt beautiful but also a little sad.
The bad guys were too cute in my first drawings. After seeing Dracula again, I decided to emphasize their lankiness and height.
This is the first drawing where I consciosly incorporate pattern to give the illustrations a fun mood.
The Way is in Training
I began to bring my illustrator drawings into photoshop and digitally paint them after a workshop with my sister while Teemu watched after Rufus. This discovery gave my drawings more texture and atmosphere.
The KPP - Kaisan Puiston Porukka
Learning to draw characters has been the hardest part of this process, I still don’t feel I’m all that great at it, but with the KPP at least I finally began to feel more comfortable.
The End of Winter?
All that I learned comes together in one drawing, architecture, multiple characters in action, and some rough brush strokes to give the drawing atmosphere and depict the wonderful winter weather that the Jörgits find themselves in.
You never know where a project will take you, this project took me from a toy to a cartoon, from cartoon to a book, and from a book to an app. And that app became this Kickstarter. Crazy but cool!
The Author & Publisher