Interview: Morgan Taylor (Gustafer Yellowgold)

GUS and MORGAN 2010 #79170B.jpgI tend to think to think of Gustafer Yellowgold as a real character, with thoughts and feelings just like any other person. Which is a mistake, of course, because as most readers of this site know, he's actually from the sun and he's a fictional, animated character. Credit for this feeling really goes to Morgan Taylor, the musician and animator behind Gustafer, who in three DVDs has imbued his yellow creation with a three-dimensional character space via song and animation that exceeds many cartoons.

The fourth Gustafer DVD, Gustafer Yellowgold's Inifinity Sock, will be released on March 1, and in addition to letting us see the DVD cover, Taylor recently talked to us about AM radio, Gustafer's origins, and how evidently I'm not the only person who thinks of Gustafer as being real.

Zooglobble: What are your first musical memories?
Morgan Taylor: I remember the A.M. radio always playing when we were getting ready to go to school in the mornings. It's funny, when I recall the mornings, I remember it being cold. This would have been spanning around 1974-1980? The radio was a safe and constant home thing. Besides that I remember that before I could read, I knew which songs were which of our old 45s that my older brother and sister had collected. I knew from the designs on the paper rings, what song it was. I used to love playing, and drawing and making stuff while listening to records.

Were you an artist or a musician first?
I think my artist side emerged earliest. But by the 4th grade I knew I loved singing and started getting singing parts in school and church musicals and stuff. I spent the following 20-plus years doing one or the other in some form. But it wasn't until 2004 that I figured out the effect of combining the two. Plus, my mom has now finally stopped saying "I wish you would do more with your art..."!!

FAMILY 2010 72DPI photo credit Erin Patrice .jpgWhat was the inspiration for Gustafer? Did you (do you) come up with the songs separately and fit them into Gustafer's story, or were they (are they) written specifically with him in mind?
He was just a doodle at first, really. I drew him two or three times on some marker boards in a record shop in Dayton, Ohio back in 1997, and he stayed in the back of my mind until I started a book & CD project with my wife Rachel, many years later. It was backwards, because I wrote all these first-person, absurd story-songs with no one specific in mind. Then I realized the old doodle was actually "the guy".

Do you think of him as I have just there -- as a character that you actually know?
I've made enough content and material now that the aspects of his personality are all quite established now. At first I was just pulling together these random, weird songs and making the world fit the music I had already written. Basing the world ON the music and lyrics. Now it's the other way around. He exists. He has favorite foods, hobbies, wants and needs and aspirations and influences.

Has the animation/DVD production process changed since the first DVD?
Yeah, when I started, I was just drawing one flat image per lyric line. But now I understand the animation process better, so I can give the animator an image file with multiple layers. I want to stay within a certain set of bounds, because the limitations of the animation are what gives it much of it's feel. We want to keep that intact, but take new steps creatively at the same time. We're just finishing the fourth DVD and now have it down to a pretty calculable process. Some of it is creativity on a deadline, but I secretly love having the pressure to create.

What's been the coolest thing a child's said to you/written to you about Gustafer?
Just hearing kids talk about Gustafer as if he's real, and say their own creative thoughts about what Gustafer could do. We've also gotten some flat-out inspirational letters from fans/families who thank us and tell us they enjoy how it brings the family together. Mind-blowing for us, because we never really think about that side of it while we're making stuff. We see the people at the shows who are having fun, but for some folks it goes even deeper.

GY_InfinitySock.jpgWill future Gustafer DVDs have somewhat more of a narrative arc than the initial disks?
Yes, the next DVD called Gustafer Yellowgold's Infinity Sock is a full, real story. With (hopefully) suspense and everything! [Ed: That's the cover right there, folks.]

What's next for you?
Considering the length of time it takes to create content, my mind is already on DVDs #5 & 6! I feel blessed to be able to do this for a living and I hope we can keep it going for a long, long time.

Photo credit of family: Erin Patrice O'Brien