Chaos-causing criminal cats have created some commotion in the indie animation scene.
It’s not often that we see small indie films really gather the same kind of attention that blockbusters do, but “Lackadaisy,” a 30-minute animation perfectly described by the creator as “1920’s gangster cats,” has been soaking in the limelight since its debut. The 30-minute pilot has garnered nearly 7 million views within the first two weeks of its release, securing it a snug spot in the hall of fame of indie YouTube animations.
So, what is “Lackadaisy” all about? To say it in short; it’s about cats, guns, and alcohol. Set in St. Louis during the prohibition era, we follow Rocky, Ivy and Freckle, our cast of criminals who all play the risky game of finding and retrieving beverages for the Lackadaisy speakeasy, a shady underground bar. The group encounters some less-than-friendly opposition from rivals in their alcohol-obtaining escapade, resulting in an action-packed shootout that eventually leads to wrecked vehicles and lots of dynamite.
There’s actually quite a long history behind these cat-like characters; “Lackadaisy” has been an independent webcomic since 2006, created by artist Tracy Butler. Butler had many interests and inspirations for the setting of “Lackadaisy,” with extensive research on 1920’s fashion, crime and history. Butler also drew a lot of cats in her younger days, which influenced the anthropomorphic feline characters we see in the series today.
“In our everyday mythos, cats effortlessly walk a narrow line between villainy and charm – a talent you might find in the flashy gangsters of yore and, likewise, the types of characters who inhabit the underworld of Lackadaisy. As such, felines seemed a natural fit,” said Butler.
Butler had the idea of an animation in her head for a while, too. The stars finally aligned in April of 2020, when publisher Iron Circus Comics opened an animation branch and offered to help create the Lackadaisy pilot.
“It’s a bit surreal, honestly. I’ve dreamed of working on a traditionally animated film since I was a wee artling of maybe 10 or 11 years old. Now, I not only get to do that, but I’m animating my own long-time labor of love, Lackadaisy. I’ve definitely wandered into dream-come-true territory here,” said Butler.
The style of the characters and animation itself are definitely some of the most noteworthy things in the short film. The body and face expressions are exaggerated and lively, expertly playing off the personality of each individual character. Looking closely, you can also see artifacts of rough sketches and construction lines, which is a detail that is 100% intentional.
“Draftsmanship is a core component of hand-drawn animation, but it’s impossible (and sometimes unwarranted) to excise the ‘flaws’ that make that hand obvious. Rather than hiding it, I embraced it,” said Fable Siegel, the director for the film. “That’s the distinction between hand-drawn and any other animated medium, cousin to the approach in stop motion where thumbprints and fabric ripples are retained.”
After receiving $330,000 from a successful Kickstarter campaign, and work from over 160 artists around the globe, the “Lackadaisy” animation is truly a testament to both the artist’s and fans’ passion for the series. If you’d like to watch the film yourself, you can find it completely free at @LackadaisyComic on YouTube.