Lauren Faust on Her Favorite Childhood Toy and Pitching Animated Shows for Girls
For this year's L.A. Weekly People Issue, I interviewed Lauren Faust, the fabulously talented artist and writer who has worked on top-notch shows like The Powerpuff Girls and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Now, though, she's best known for developing the TV series that launched the Brony phenomenon, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. More recently, Faust led the team behind the DC animated short series Super Best Friends Forever.
We talked about a lot of things in the interview that didn't make the final version of the story. Below are a few outtakes.
On the first toy she loved:
It was a stuffed Snoopy. I remember this from when I was 2 years old. My brother pulled off the nose and my mom had to sew it back on.
On the first cartoons that made an impact on her:
I think the biggest thing that hit me early on were Disney movies. I remember my grandparents taking me to drive-ins in the late '70s and stuff. I think that's what really pulled me into animation first.
I watched The Smurfs. I watched Super Friends. I didn't watch Scooby-Doo as much as other people did.
On how Super Friends influenced Super Best Friends Forever:
In one of the shorts, we're featuring Solomon Grundy, and I very specifically wanted to channel the Solomon Grundy from Super Friends because he's kind of weird. He's funny. He's really funny. He's this big guy with this really silly accent and this kind of nonthreatening voice that I thought was funny.
On growing up in a family of boys:
I wasn't so much a Barbie girl, but Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony, I was obsessed with those. But my brothers were into Transformers and G.I. Joe. My older brother was a rabid comics collector. I was just as fascinated by that stuff and it was there for me to play with, I didn't have to go after it myself.
I've always looked at my work feeling like I was trying to make stuff for girls and then accidentally getting guys interested as well. I think that it was because of growing up with my brothers and being exposed to these more boy things -- boy shows or boy comic books -- stuff that's typically considered for boys, I think I might somehow be smooshing them together. I liked Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony, but I didn't like the shows or the books for them. I liked the shows and the books for the stuff my brother was into.
I wanted to see girl characters in what is considered these typical boy situations, saving the world or more kind of action adventure-y kind of stuff. I wanted to see Strawberry Shortcake doing that kind of stuff. They didn't do it that way.
On Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends:
I think I really grew as a storyteller on that show and found that I have a knack for more emotional storytelling, really telling the stories about what the characters are going through and telling it in an amusing, funny way. I also discovered that I liked the longer format. Powerpuff Girls episodes were 11 minutes long. Foster's were 22. We did a couple that were 44 and I really liked those longer formats. Everything that I learned from Foster's about storytelling -- about getting your audience to feel emotion while they're watching the show -- it's my favorite thing to do now. I think it's my biggest strength.
On pitching animated shows for girls:
If you talk to the people in charge -- the people looking to invest in these things and, unfortunately, the people who usually tell you no -- they'll tell you that girl things just don't get the numbers. It's a business and you need to make money. The girl books don't get the ratings, the girl books don't get the sales. Unfortunately, a lot of people will tell you that this is because girls aren't interested in cartoons or girls aren't interested in comic books.
I don't think that's true. I think the reason that might be is because most of the stuff for girls isn't hitting them in the right place. All too often, "for girls" means "for little girls." They won't target an 8-year-old or a 10-year-old. An 8-year-old isn't going to be interested in something that's aimed for a 5-year-old. And, when they do gear stuff for 8-year-olds, it's all about combing your hair and clothes. I don't think girls are interested in that kind of stuff. I think they're interested, but I don't think that they're interested in stories about it or characters whose lives revolve around it. I just don't think that enough people have made stuff that was good enough or compelling enough to bring the girls in.
Girls' stuff doesn't get the same kind of budget that the boys' stuff gets. It's usually lower quality and kids can tell that stuff. Instead of blaming it on the quality, they'll blame it on the gender. They'll say the stories are for girls. That's what's making it not work, where I feel that it's the quality and the content that's making it not work. I'm hoping for people to put a little more faith in girls. Too much stuff for girls is about tea parties and holding hands and skipping down the lane.
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