English illustrator’s YouTube sensation prepares to conquer the literary world with the picture book Simon’s Cat

By Karen J. Quan
Updated September 23, 2009 12:01 PM

Everybody knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But little did Simon Tofield know that his 2-year-old cat Hugh’s fancy to feast would lead him to fulfilling his life-long pipe dream.

Riding off the whirlwind success of his YouTube animation hit, Cat Man Do, English animator Simon Tofield has put his real life animal adventures onto paper with the release of his debut illustration book, Simon’s Cat. Originally developed as a throwaway short film to familiarize himself with Flash animation, Cat Man Do is a ninety-seven second bit that shows a very eager, persistent cat trying to wake his owner for food. The film leaked onto YouTube and drew over 60,000 hits within the first 48 hours, and has over 25 million fans today.

Through various drawings and sketches, Tofield exaggerates the every day shenanigans of his feline friend – the curious cat can be seen making a mess of a clean house or battling with a flock of birds in the backyard. The success of Tofield’s online sketch took him completely by surprise, and while the demand is flattering, he admits, he was never in it for the fame.

“I did it for myself,” Tofield tells PEOPLE Pets. “And really didn’t think anyone else would ever see it.”

While this newfound recognition can be a bit stressful, Tofield embraces his audience’s excitement, and turned his unexpected online success into a new literary journey.

“It’s a dream come true,” Tofield says, who began drawing cartoons at a very early age. And with his new book, Tofield was ready to share his cat with even more people because he “had hundreds and hundreds of ideas.”

Predominately inspired by the antics of his 2-year-old British short hair, Hugh, Tofield explains that Simon’s Cat embodies all three of his cats, which include the 9-year-old tortoise shell Jess, and the 5-year-old gray tabby Maisie. Often looking into his own home for inspiration, Tofield would sit in his garden and let the trio run free, and jot down ideas by simply watching his cats and discovering their individual quirks. Hoping to make more than just a comic book, Tofield wanted to create something everyone can relate to. Focusing on the crafty and sly spirit of the cats, Tofield thinks the cat loving population will be able to “see their own cats in the animation.”

While most comic, humor books today rely on written storylines and “dialogue” bubbles, Tofield made a conscious decision to let the drawings live on its own.

“The secret to my drawings are the eyes,” Tofield says. “The mannerisms and the looks. All my humor was done through the eyes.”

With the success of Simon’s Cat online and the Sept. 24th book release, Tofield can look forward to another year of kitty-capades and mealtime meltdowns. Already working on sketches for his second book, he is anxious to create more layers and relationships for Simon’s Cat that were just briefly introduced in the first book. Fans can expect high jinks with a hedgehog, additional one-sided conversations with a garden gnome, and a deeper understanding of the loveable pet.

“I’m so pleased there are so many people out there that get my sense of humor,” Tofield tells us. “[It’s] a great honor.”

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