Kellie Lewis:
An Animated Life

18 August 2016

Kicky Brand started as a cartoon strip from the horses’ point of view...

...and evolved into the addition of t-shirts, sculptures, art, greeting cards, wrapping paper, and other equestrian related gifts.

 

Headquartered in an Airstream near Hansen Dam Trails, Kicky Brand proves it's a brand as diverse as its audience of horse lovers that is upending the way people show off their passion.  It can be sweet enough for baby, trendy enough for teens, or wicked smart enough for folks who live, eat, and breathe horses.

Kellie, a pleasure to meet the face behind those great cartoons at last! First thing I need to know, why not Kellie Lewis Cartoons? Where does Kicky Brand come from?

 

I am actually a really big introvert. Naming the company after myself seemed like the fastest way to put me in the spotlight, so that was out. Most of my humor comes from the point of view of the horse who, in my world, just wants to do as little as possible (like my real horses). It's easy to poke fun at humans as we are always doing things that horses surely don't understand. Kicky Brand's tagline is "Mind where you stand."  To me, that means think about what you do with your horse, or you might just get kicked, or end up in one of my cartoons.

 

Tell us about working for Disney? You worked on Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Mulan, Lilo and Stitch amongst others.

 

Working for Disney was one of the greatest experiences of my life during one of the most impactful times in traditionally drawn animation. I contributed to many films which will surely outlive me and have collaborated with some of the most talented artists alive today.

    
  

Why did you decide to stop this kind of work and focus on horses instead?

I was fortunate enough to start my career during the second golden age of animation, beginning with Beauty and the Beast as an inbetweener and then moving through the transition to CGI and ending with selling an original idea to Disney which would later become Zootopia. 

 

Making films is all consuming. I didn't see much of my family or my horses. As the industry changed, so did I. I wanted it to be a part of something that brought a different kind of joy and camaraderie. It took a while before I thought to combine the two.  I became a children's book illustrator and did a lot of freelance work on things like the Kung Fu Panda shorts and Family Guy. I once had an online cartoon called Wild Unknown and I really missed doing it and so I started making a cartoon about myself and my friends in my riding group.  Bam! Joy was found and it took off from there!

 

Who are your inspirations for humour in your cartoons and products? Who makes you laugh?

 

Who makes me laugh? I tend to like really childish comedy like from Will Ferrel, Pee Wee Herman (Paul Rubens) or Tyler Perry as Madea.  Melissa McCarthy, Amy Sedaris, and Stephen Colbert for something a bit smarter.  Cartoonists? Gary Larson - The Far Side and Bill Waterson - Calvin and Hobbes. I have artists that I admire for style and technique and work ethic; Aaron Blaise, Chris Sanders, Byron Howard all of whom I know personally and many others out there on Instagram who are too numerous to list.

 

How long does it take you to draw a cartoon? What is your creative process?

 

My creative process usually takes place in real time with my mind running an inner monologue while things are happening.  However, often times jokes flood my mind while I am in the process of going to sleep or waking up. When I read them later I am surprised that sometimes they are not as funny as they were while I was half asleep! It usually takes me 2 to three days to fully render a cartoon and it can be a week or more for the more realistic stuff.  It all depends on how much I am doing with my own horses at the time.

  
“I did a lot of freelance work on Kung Fu Panda shorts and Family Guy.”
  

Are you a rider yourself?

I have had horses for 18 years and have moved all over the United States with them. There's no better experience with a horse than to travel with them. 

I have spent time with all kinds of people who pursue all kinds of passions from the Tevis Cup to pony parties! I, personally, enjoy trail riding and teaching horses skills for competitive trail events.

 

What’s so special about horses? Whydo some folks have such an attraction to them?

 

I'm going to sound cliche, but you really meet yourself out there in the round pen. We don't train horses, they train us.  It becomes a spiritual journey if done correctly.  I think that's the draw; we seek the acceptance of their pureness.  I just adopted a wild mustang and named him True as a reminder to do it right. 

 

What advice would you give to folks reading this that haven't tried any equestrian sports? Where do you begin?

 

I  have had a lot of different animals in my life, dogs, cats, parrots.  Not one of them has EVER come close to producing the partnership available through horses.  It's supposed to be about the journey, not the result, so if you are looking for a partner who can bring out the best in YOU, choose the horse. Oh, remember - you can never have too many horses. 

 

You can check out all of Kellie's work on her website at www.kickybrand.com