In the new web series Bee & PuppyCat, Bee is a young women with employment issues. PuppyCat is a feline-looking creature with a canine smell. Together, they go on fantastic space adventures. But, there's more to the Frederator-produced show than that. Bee loves food. She's a little immature. She screws up a lot. She's a bit like Usagi Tsukino, the clumsy teenager who became Sailor Moon. Much as Usagi's life changed when she encountered a magical cat named Luna, Bee's world is altered when she finds her own familiar, PuppyCat. Instead of saving the world, though, they take on odd jobs.
The similarities between Bee & PuppyCat, which premiered early in November on Cartoon Hangover, and Sailor Moon aren't exactly a coincidence. Natasha Allegri, who created the former, grew up watching the latter. Allegri was in elementary school when she first saw the Japanese series dubbed into English. “The Sailor Moon dub is slow and awkward and paced very oddly,” says Allegri. “I feel like that spoke to me on a certain level.”
Eventually, Sailor Moon ended and Allegri moved on to other things. Years later, when she was working on the hit cartoon series Adventure Time, she saw some cut-outs of Sailor Moon characters on a table of freebies. When Allegri got excited, another artist questioned her taste. “I remember being really ashamed that I liked something like that,” she says, “but, I'm very stubborn.” Allegri dove back into her childhood interest and realized that she really missed the adventures of the Sailor Scouts. “I wanted to make something that was kind of like an homage,” she says. With Bee & PuppyCat, she's done that.
Raised in Phoenix, Allegri is part of a generation of artists that honed their skills online. Back in her Sailor Moon fan days, she would search for images and wait minutes for them to load. By high school, she was making journal comics and posting them on the web. “That's how I made all my friends in high school,” she says. “I didn't have many real life friends.” Instead, Allegri spent her teen and college years connecting with people through networks like LiveJournal. One of the friends that she made was a guy named Pendleton Ward. “I started emailing him to find out how he made journal comics,” she says. Ward ended up creating a cartoon series, Adventure Time. When that happened, he asked Allegri to test for a job as an artist on the show. She was hired and dropped out of University of Arizona during her senior year to head to Burbank for work. “I was really young. I was stupid, so I was still kind of brave without thinking too much about the choices I made,” she says. “I totally wouldn't do it now because, now, I'm scared of everything.”
Adventure Time worked out well for Allegri. She spent a few years working as a designer and then a storyboard revisionist, learning a lot about animation on the job. She also made her mark on the show by creating the characters Fionna and Cake, gender-bent versions of protagonists Finn and Jake. Allegri was inspired by “Rule 63,” the name of a half-joking truth of the Internet that holds that every male character will spawn a female version of the character and vice versa. Fionna and Cake, in turn, inspired a ton of fan art, loads of costumes and then went on to star in their own comic book series, which Allegri wrote and drew.
Eventually, Allegri was invited to start pitching series. Initially, she was asked to come up with an idea geared towards 13-year-old boys and carefully considered that option. “You can't really escape your job when you're in animation,” says Allegri, adding that, if she were going to throw herself into a project of that scale, she would have to love it. Trying to write for young, male teens wasn't the right path. Allegri asked herself, “Do I want to go to sleep thinking about if a 13-year-old boy is going to like what I'm working on?” The answer sparked her decision to pitch a show about an adult woman.
The pilot for Bee & PuppyCat was an instant hit. In fact, it was so popular that Frederator, who produces the show, ran a Kickstarter to get the funds to make more episodes. That too was a success, ultimately earning more than $870,000. The show hit a chord. For one, it's a cartoon about a grown woman. Those are incredibly uncommon. Moreover, Bee & PuppyCat is written with a slice-of-life honesty that's even more rare. Bee is flawed, but she also tries really hard to improve the bizarre situations at hand.
Allegri talks about maybe someday going back to comics. That was her original ambition and she is still is passionate about the medium. For now, though, she's drawing storyboards as the Bee & PuppyCat team heads further into their production schedule. “I just pitched what I thought I would like,” says Allegri about the show. With the first two episodes garnering over a million YouTube views a piece, and a new installment premiering on Dec. 4, it looks like there are plenty of others who like it too.
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