fD Interview

gustafer yellow gold, morgan taylor, Gustafer yellowgold cartoon
Photo: Annie Schlechter

fD Interview: Morgan Taylor

August 08, 2008
by Isabel Cowles
FindingDulcinea’s weekly feature offers interviews with intriguing people on the cutting edge of business, the arts, technology and journalism. This week, we talk with Morgan Taylor, musician, performer and creator of cartoon character Gustafer Yellowgold.

Morgan Taylor grew up listening to 70s rock and watching cartoons. As an adult, Taylor harnessed both of these childhood interests, turning them into the animated sensation Gustafer Yellowgold: a mellow character whose narrative unfolds along with Taylor’s music.
fD: How did you get involved in music?

MT: I’m the youngest of three, and my sister and brother collected 45s through the early '70s. There was a nice big stack for me by the time I was 3 or 4 years old. To me, putting on the records was a way of playing. Whatever I was doing, I had to have music going. And my mom always had the radio on. So I have this comfort food-type relationship with all the '70s AM soft rock stuff. I seem to be constantly chasing that feeling with my own music now.

fD: What made you interested in doing animation?

MT: I was raised in front of a TV and loved my cartoons. “Looney Toons,” all the great Tex Avery stuff. Then in the '90s, “Beavis and Butt-Head,” “Ren & Stimpy” and “The Simpsons” showed just how out there and smart and stupid you could get with cartoons. Gustafer animation has the unique style is does because it all started out as picture books; it all has a very flat and mellow feel. Like looking through a book.

fD: What do you enjoy most about working with children?

MT: Their open minds. They’re not thinking about anything else while they’re watching and listening, and they so readily come along with you. But you can’t take any of that for granted. It’s still hard work to keep them.
fD: How do children and adults respond differently to your music?

MT: I think maybe it affects a same part of the brain in both. Some grown-ups get a nostalgic feeling from Gustafer, and the kids are experiencing something brand new, while they’re trying to figure out the whole world as well. Many families are all fans together. It’s a great bonding thing for them, and the folks have something just for them in much of the humor.

fD: Do you feel that it’s possible to communicate a universal message through a character geared towards kids?

MT: Absolutely. They’re sitting there wondering if the Eel is going to come back, and the parents are getting entertained on a whole separate level. But the message is the same for both. Slow down to look at the small, beautiful things. Don’t take them for granted. I really write for the adults, but keep it simple, funny and colorful so that it’s accessible to everyone.

fD: What were some of your favorite animated characters growing up?

MT: Woody Woodpecker, Bugs and Daffy, Foghorn Leghorn, Pink Panther and Ant and Aardvark. Of course, the original, 1960s, animated Spider-Man I adored.
I was first into the paper comics, though. Richie Rich, Little Lotta, Little Dot, all the old Harvey Comics stuff. Sunday funnies. I had my brother’s Mad magazines from the 1960s, too.
fD: How did Gustafer first come to be?

MT: The visual character I had been doodling since the late '90s became Gustafer when I started making picture books in late 2003, using the lyrics of some of my most whimsical songs. Peppered throughout my “normal” music, I had been writing these crazy, fictional, first-person songs with no connection between them. When I went through my back catalog of songs, I found that I had an entire cast waiting to be joined. Gustafer’s biographical song, Slim the Eel, Forrest Applecrumbie, the band of bees with a crying leader and Sisson the Worm. Also, Gustafer’s lifestyle, relationships and hobbies were already established. It was as if it was all scattered around on cassette tapes, waiting to be assembled.

fD: You make all of the Gustafer products yourself. Do you think you’ll eventually have to hire people to help you create and market Gustafer clothes and toys?

MT: It’s a ton more work to do it all yourself, but ultimately we realized we have to maintain the creative control throughout the entire process.

fD: Who are some of your musical influences?

MT: I love all the '70s soft-rock stuff, and the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, T.Rex, Kiss, Neil Young, to name a few.
fD: What was it like opening for a band like Wilco?

MT: A complete blast. There’s nothing like disarming a theater full of Wilco fans, asking them about their favorite dinosaurs. At first they seemed a bit confused, but then they enjoyed it once they realized where the humor was coming from and got it on the right level.

fD: If Gustafer were to become hugely famous, do you think that part of his mellow appeal would be lost?

MT: No way. The only way it will become hugely famous is if it stays true to itself, which is quite mellow at times.


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