The team of Pois had the pleasure to “talk” and trade some ideas with the amazing mind behind The Bunny. For all our followers and readers, we introduce you to Juraj “Juri ” Straka, born in 1984 in Bratislava, Slovakia, the creator of Cartoon Called Life.
He studied graphic design at Private art high school in Bratislava, followed by master degree studies in textile design at Academy of Fine arts in Bratislava.
In 2007 he won the international textile design competition “La mode s’exprime, elle s’imprime” in Lyon, that opened him the door to the textile and fashion industry, where he works as textile designer for various international high-end fashion brands until present.
In 2013 he created the project CARTOON CALLED LIFE, as an antidote to the stress and pressure in the fashion world, a comic about a little white gay bunny, based on the nickname “Bunny” that has been given to him by his first boyfriend.
In 2014 he received the award “30 most talented people under age of 30 in Slovakia” given by Forbes magazine Slovakia.
CARTOON CALLED LIFE that started as a free-time project for close friends soon met its success on Instagram and Facebook and became a popular web comic, with growing audience of followers (34,500 followers on Instagram @cartoon.called.life, 16.000 followers on Facebook @cartooncalledlife)
In 2017 he met Laurent Fierens and together they created the company CARTOON CALLED LIFE, which soon after its foundation self-published the first book self-titled “Cartoon called life” that has been followed by the launch of apparel line in 2018.
CARTOON CALLED LIFE is active in the LGBT scene, for 3 years is a proud official partner of Antwerp Pride, does art collaboration with other gay artists, supports and co-hosts LGBT events on international scale.
Juraj is currently working on the second book “Bunny’s new adventures” that will be published in October this year.
Q: How long did it take to go from the mind into reality? What were your most difficult moments during this process?
A: The story of CARTOON CALLED LIFE goes back 6 years ago, when I met my first boyfriend, who gave me the nickname « Zajko » which means « my little bunny » in Slovak, my mother language. At first, I only drew simple bunnies on post-its for him with personal messages, but quite soon after that I started to create more elaborate drawings about our daily life, and as they say, the rest is history…
The brand as you know it today was born when I met Laurent Fierens in 2016, who was the number one fan, and who became my business partner. Together we brought the project into the next level by self-publishing the first Bunny book in October 2017, followed by the launch of apparel line in 2018, and we are currently working on big exciting projects for the near future.
The most difficult, yet, at the same time the most exciting moments happen on daily basis. Running a company brings a huge deal of constant problem-solving situations, which, in the end, is the best “school” and it stimulates our creativity when it comes to marketing and brand strategy.
Q: How difficult was this process for you and those around you? Did You have any support, family and friends, boyfriend?
A: We were lucky to have a strong support of our friends and families in the beginning, and we still do. Today we reached the moment when people contact us spontaneously to participate or to help with the project. In the process we met a lot of photographers, artists, models and journalists who are helping us out of their pure belief in the project, which is the biggest satisfaction that one can achieve and we are very grateful for that.
Q: What were your inspirations to create this brand?
A: There are many amazing artists who work in what I call « gay-art » field, but in most of the cases the gay-art is linked with explicit nudity, erotica or even porn. For me, there are many more aspects of gay life, that deserves to be depicted in a cartoon, and I felt that the market was missing something like that. I wanted to create something that is really “made for gays” but doesn’t scream “gay” on the first look. Something, what we call “mom friendly”, something that remains funny even for straight people, but has many “secret” jokes that only gays can understand.
Q: What does the BUNNY stands for in your life? Are you the BUNNY?
A: Since the character was based on my nickname, he is strongly inspired by myself, i’d even say he’s my alter-ego. Sometimes I don’t even know anymore where is the limit between me and the Bunny! (laughter) His taste in men is definitely my taste, even for his facial expressions, I often study my face in the mirror, to see for example how the eyebrows are shaped when he sees a freshly baked pizza or a beautiful semi-naked bearded guy (laughter)
Q: How or what did you bring from your personal life into this project?
A: In the past I used to draw much more personal stuff than I do today. I value my privacy more and more, I don’t have any personal account on any social media, so I try to keep my life separated from Bunny’s life, even though it’s a very complicated mission. Sometimes people think that a cartoon I made is a super personal story, when in reality it was just a joke, and then sometimes, when I do draw something very personal, none of my close friends actually notice it.
However, CARTOON CALLED LIFE became too important part of my life, and I enjoy it that much that I even have many bunnies tattooed on my skin!
Q: What do you wish for your brand to give to the world?
A: We have a very clear goal. We would love Bunny to become the international icon for LGBT+ community. Something as big as Tintin or Hello Kitty! ( laughter )
Q: Where did the name came from?
A: Funny enough, CARTOON CALLED LIFE was never supposed to be the real name of the project. When I created my first Facebook page back in 2013, I had to give it a name, so I just wrote the very first idea that came to my mind, telling myself that I will change it the next day to something else. Well, 6 years later, the name is still here ( laughter ) and in the end it actually fits the universe of Bunny perfectly, I wouldn’t change it for a thing now.
Q: I know that, and according to your stories and fun facts, you draw most if not all the art. How long does it take to create something new and original? Do you have a special place to go when you create? If so, can you describe it, please?
A: Yes I create 100% of the content of the cartoon. Everything happens at my home, at my kitchen table, which became my beloved place these past years, my little Bunny-verse. The process of creating a cartoon is very random, sometimes it’s a matter of one hour, and some other might take days. First, I write down all the ideas in a notebook, just a quick sketch, a kind of a reminder, and then get back to my notebook when it’s time to really draw. Some ideas are in my notebook since 6 years and still didn’t came out, others spent there one day… It’s a creative process, it’s impossible to control it, which I really enjoy, because you can never know where the inspiration will come from.
Q: How was the evolution… in terms of how did people took or reacted to the brand when it came out? And nowadays?
A: We are very lucky with amazing and faithful fans. I still remember having the very first 100 followers, and most of them are still fans today, and many of them became my real friends over these years. Of course, now, with 35.000 followers it’s impossible to be in touch with every single person, but I still try as much as I can to reply most of the messages from fans, it gives me a great feedback and motivation to work.
Even nowadays, I still smile from ear to ear like a little child on Christmas when I receive a message from a fan saying how much he or she loves the Bunny…
Of course, once you become “popular” on social media, it comes with some kind of responsibility towards the LGBT+ community. We are focusing now more than ever before on depicting the diversity of the LGBT+ community in the cartoons, along with helping non-profit LBGT+ organisations, such as Antwerp gay pride, for which we create visual content for 3 years in a row now, but also to help other artist to become more visible on social media via our “Bunny art collaborations” project.
Q: We all love daddies… who doesn´t! Do you think the BUNNY is a well-behaved cartoon?
A: Let’s be honest here, Bunny definitely has a dirty mind (laughter) but as I said before, I have a very strict limits where the cartoon can or cannot go in that field.
Q: We heard that you have a surprise coming up! What has the BUNNY in store for us? Can you tell us something? …. A tease xD
A: Yes! We are currently running a Kickstarter crowdfunding project for our second book – “Bunny’s new adventures”!!! I kindly invite everybody to check out our project, where they can, besides the upcoming book, support us and pre-order many great products, which has been specially designed for this project and will never be available elsewhere!
You can click, support and check it here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1435734884/bunnys-new-adventures/description
Cover photo and portrait photo copyrighted by Jakub Gulyás