oday marks the first year anniversary of Nyan Cat, the flying pop tart kitten that became one of the most watched YouTube videos last year. Since its debut in early April 2011, Nyan Cat has been turned into t-shirt merchandise, DIY costumes, iPhone apps, online games, YouTube progress bar, just to name a few. To celebrate this day, we reached out to the Chris Torres (also known as PRguitarman) the author of LOL-COMICS and creator of Nyan Cat.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself; Where do you hail from and what do you do online? What do you do when you’re not online?
A: My name is Christopher Torres and I’m a 26 year old Puerto Rican dude living in Texas, USA. When I’m not hoarding folders full of cute cat photos, I usually just frequent my typical daily tech / video game / humor sites and casually browse my faovirte websites or just catch up with friends on messenger. When I’m not busy with work I usually nap and eat lasagna all day. Also, I hate Mondays!
Q: Why PRguitarman? Is there a story behind your pseudonym?
A: This is actually a super exciting story!!! One day back in AOL 3.0 (mid-90s? Maybe 15 years ago? Holy crap, 15+ years ago!) an old buddy of mine and I traveled to a local thrift shop, where we were suckered into buying some old guitars from the clerk there. Blinded by the thought of starting a really cool garage band, we bought guitar amps and changed our screen names to our “Band” names. The “PR” stands for Puerto Rican. I actually have a photo to show just how cool we were (me on the right):
Ladies, contain your orgasms! Either way, a few weeks after creating the screen name, my guitar broke so I didn’t continue down that path. Kept the screen name for posterity!
Q: After 68 million views and god knows how many remixes are out there, how has the success of Nyan Cat affected you as an artist?
A: It’s definitely been one mind-blowing year since Nyan Cat first took flight back on April 2nd, 2011. It’s given me a lot of confidence in my work now that something that I created just for fun has gone from a simple animated GIF to something that has invaded the Internet in a way I’ve never seen a meme do before.
As an artist, it’s gotten me to explore different types of art from what I am usually accustomed to. It’s given me time to learn about pixel art and just how complex and cool the style is. Given the fact that people have taken Nyan Cat and turned it into literally thousands of different renditions shows just how expressive pixel art can be.
I’ve kept an "update when I feel like it” comic blog called LOL-Comics for about seven years or so, which focuses primarily on crudely drawn stick figure comics, and is heavily based on actual events of my life. It’s kept a small, but faithful fan-base through its ups and downs. But since Nyan Cat spread my art to the world, it’s gotten the word out, and now hundreds of thousands of new readers enjoy my work and have given me the confidence to improve on my style. I’m very grateful that so many people enjoy my work!
Q: From an interview back in April 2011, you’ve said people were launching their merchandises and apps based on your artwork and you were in the process of filing a copyright for Nyan Cat. How did it go?
A: The day I posted Nyan Cat on my website, I didn’t think anything more than posting it, resizing it as a Twitter icon, and calling it a day. A week and a half later, I learned it had been paired with Daniwell’s song “NyanNyanNyanNyaNyaNyaNya!!” and featured on some big name media outlets like Collegehumor, G4TV, The Daily What, Tosh.o, all of which pointed to different sources to the origin of the image, and several people were already voicing that they were the original creators of the art. By the time I decided a copyright would be a good idea, the Internet already had big plans with it.
It was a difficult time for me, since no matter how much proof I had of ownership, the sites selling my art couldn’t do anything about infringers without a finalized copyright. However, those issues have since been resolved and I’ve had the benefit of working with some awesome people to get official stuff out there people can enjoy.
Q: So were you able to find any significant benefit from your creation, financially or otherwise?
A: Things began to look up shortly after that. I started up an official Facebook fan-page which people seem to love and was even able to become friends with Huy Hong and Brandon Green. With their help, I was able to turn nyan.cat into something that fit my vision for Nyan Cat. I also reached out and began contributing to charitable organizations such as The American Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, and Child’s Play. Since Nyan Cat was created with helping people in mind, I intend to keep it that way. I also think Daniwell is doing something very similar with his song, I wish the best for his projects.
Nyan Cat’s popularity has also made my presence in high demand at conventions or events. I’ve always wanted to travel, and now that dream is becoming a reality! I was even able to meet up with Sara Reihani (Saraj00n on YouTube, the one who paired the Nyan song to my GIF) and she’s a really cool person to hang out with. We hosted a full-house panel together last summer. Every day I’m thankful for the love people find in my art. It’s a really strange, but exciting feeling knowing people all over the world enjoy something I created and hope they can continue to do so for years to come.
Q: What are your top 3 favorites of Nyan Cat remixes or parodies?
A: Oh gosh, this is really a tough one. There are hundreds of fan-made parodies that I love but if I really had to choose, my top 3 in no particular order would be: 1) Smooth Jazz Nyan Cat took the hyper melody and turned it into something that could be enjoyed at a snazzy jazz lounge. It’s kind of been a constant favorite of mine; 2) Guy Collins created his touching interpretation of the origin of Nyan Cat in “Stray” and it’s a very emotional one and 3) Mexican Nyan Cat. You can check out more of my favorite variations via the “Choose a flavor” tab at http://nyan.cat!
Q: “Food + Cute Animal” is an awesome formula. Will we be seeing more and more characters like Nyan Cat, Fiesta Dog and the likes in the future?
A: Well, back when Nyan Cat suddenly got huge, I also had that “food + cute animal = SUCCESS” formula in mind and created a few other animals in the same style like Melon Bird. At this time, I’m just focusing on making special types of Nyan Cats for different holidays to display on the official Nyan.cat website. I think it makes for a better viewing experience to have a meme that can change and celebrate with you throughout the year.
I’m a little sad that there isn’t more love for another character I made, “Fiesta Spider.” I love making small comics with it. Basically, it’s a super cute spider that wears a sombrero and only says “FIESTA”. It’s supposed to be cute and harmless-looking, but in the comic world it’s rather vicious.
Q: What do you think it is about GIF that is so interesting as a medium?
A: I believe GIFs are so awesome because essentially, it’s a form of digital art that features anything you want condensed in a single photo file. From capturing hilarious two second clip of a specific video to creating art that seems to flow endlessly, GIFs can be used in almost any situation. The best part about it is that making GIFs is so easy to do now if you have the right tools. Even if you don’t, there are websites that can compile them for you. I’ve noticed in the past year or so that GIFs have spawned a new style known as Cinemagraph, which seems to capture a precise moment in time in a beautiful moving portrait:
It’s amazing the amount of creativity that GIFs can spawn and even though GIFs have been around for years, I still feel there is a lot of cool stuff we’ve yet to discover yet.
Q: More importantly, is it pronounced JIF or GIF?
Also, to answer your other question, I actually don’t recall ever hearing the word “GIF” being used in the real world, but I’ve always thought it to be pronounced “JIF”, like the peanut butter. Is that right? I hope that’s right. Please don’t hurt me!
Q: Are there any other pixel artist or chiptune artists that you follow? If so, who?
A: Off the top of my head, lulinternet creates a crazy good amount of GIFs every week. Mega kudos to her. Oceanmaster also creates really flowy GIFs from time to time and they never disappoint. In terms of chip-tune music, Bunnymajs creates some sublime stuff. The artist behind the Tower of Heaven soundtrack has some really beautiful chiptunes too. I feel awful because I know there are other friends that deserve a mention here, but I can’t think of any at this time. The internet is full of amazing artists, in general. Explore and find them!
Q: This is an interesting cartoon about the life of a meme. I remember seeing Nyan Cat on TV in more than one occasion. What are your thoughts on the marketization of memes?
A: Nyan Cat has given me the chance to explore the deeper and “behind the curtain” side to memes and those who market it to certain brands, and even though I have gained a newer insight on the subject, I still think it can be pretty spot-on. A meme is something created for the Internet by the Internet and everybody has their own different opinions about how it should exist and fit in with the situation at hand. When it’s displayed on an advertisement, it can really be a hit-or-miss moment and it can really ruin everything the meme stands for. With Nyan Cat, I hold a great deal of pride for it, because it’s something I had a part in creating, and I make sure the meme is treated with respect. I’ve been extremely picky with how I’ve wanted Nyan Cat to be treated and I will never settle for anything that goes against how I wish for it to be portrayed.
Q: I’ve noticed there are many references to internet memes in your comics, like “Dampster Hance” for example. What is the first meme you remember witnessing?
A: I can’t really pin-point exactly the first meme I came across online, but I do believe it actually was the Dancing Baby. I remember finding it in a site directory, then a few months later seeing it in an ad for Blockbuster Video. That was weird! I think the second meme I came across was HELLO MY FUTURE GIRLFRIEND back when it was new on Newgrounds. Hamster Dance came shortly after that.
Q: What is your favorite meme evar?
A: I’d say my favorite meme ever is the Keyboard Cat! It’s so whimsical and cute and I love the “Play him off” meme it spawned. Keyboard Cat feels like Nyan Cat’s sarcastic cousin, who finds joy in other people’s misfortunes. That, and he’s one cool cat!
Chris Torres is a comic illustrator and a pixel artist residing in Texas, United States. You can browse his collection of comics and artworks at LOL Comics and follow his latest Twitter updates via @PRguitarman and @NyanNyanCat.