Comic-Con has always been about bringing the artists and fans together, clearly evident by everything I saw on the Exhibit Hall floor on Friday. Comic book and collectibles dealers shared their offerings with rabid fans, fan boys and girls in costume constantly stopped to pose for pictures, artists talked their latest creation and gave autographs, geeks checked out the latest video games, greeting card animators met their adoring fans… um, wait, back up there a minute.
Greeting card animators? Yes, Comic-Con had even opened their floor to Hallmark and their unexpected success story, hoops&yoyo.
Bob Holt and Mike Adair, the creators and voices behind this pink cat (hoops) and his green bunny sidekick (yoyo), were there at their first Comic-Con, signing posters and greeting a long line of fans.
"It's pretty wacky, a little scary," Bob Holt (voice of yoyo) said, still taking in the incredible turnout.
"I'm totally zapped and energized at the same time," added Mike Adair (voice of hoops). I've never seen so many people in one place dressed up. It's like Halloween concentrated."
After all, when they went to record their first sessions five years ago for hoops&yoyo, neither Bob nor Mike could have anticipated this was waiting for them down the line. Neither could have guessed that their creation, a joking, playful, and sometimes mischievous pink cat would appeal to the masses like this. Ditto for his green bunny best friend with plenty of energy and heart, as well as an obsessive love of sweets.
How Did They Get Here?
Bob Holt found himself in 2001 needing to create a character for a Fourth of July card. Like any good animator in a crisis, he came through with a pink cat with enormous eyes and a huge head placed on a small body called hoops. After a while, Holt found that even animated characters need a friend so he pulled out of his archives a more proportionate green bunny named yoyo. Once the characters began to take on life, the growing popularity of animated e-cards and greeting cards with sound meant hoops&yoyo needed voices.
"I was the closest one to Bob when he swung his chair around to find somebody because we work back to back," explained Adair. "But we had done some e-cards together [previously] and it worked out really well."
hoops&yoyo with voices went online in 2004 and since then have been featured in close to 50 million e-cards sent worldwide. Their popularity earned them their own website, and they have thousands of Facebook friends.
Part of the success is the spontaneity with the characters, something their creators found works best. "We did interview type situations where he [Bob] would interview a snowman, or Santa, or a monster and I was always the voice," said Adair. "And it was really fun. It was always impromptu kind of stuff and we found that was really an interesting, more fresh approach."
Fresh approach or not, they couldn't have anticipated attracting so many fans worldwide. "We've been in a couple of marriages, we've helped people propose," said Holt. "We helped a guy propose in the Netherlands. We did an audio book and he wore an outfit. We were actually buried with a fellow in his casket."
"Since it's on the Internet, it's kind of an international thing," added Adair. "You get care packages from Russia, and candy and teacakes and danishes FedExed to you."
So, how do Holt and Adair handle all these adoring fans? "We've always answered all of our emails that we get from fans, as long as they're nice to us," answered Holt. "But that's one of those things while growing up that I didn't like, sending fan mail and getting like a form letter. From the get-go we've always answered our mail. So we get mail from all around the world and photos from all around the world and we do a photo of the week with fans."
Is there a particular fan that stands out? One comes to mind for Adair. "You know one of the greatest fans we've had is a teacher up in Wisconsin and he has just been a true blue fan. We call him Mr. M. He includes us in his class and he's always sending us goodies and he's just a really great man. He's our longest, strongest fan."
After doing this for five years though and creating over 200 online animations, is it getting old for them? Absolutely not. "As far as everything I do at Hallmark, probably the funnest thing I do is when we go in to record. It is so fun," said Adair. "When you hear us laughing it's actual laughter, we are actually finding what we're saying is funny. I'm finding what Bob is saying is funny. And vice versa."
While I was at the booth, hoops&yoyo were there making an appearance, both larger than life, doing all sorts of crazy antics to everyone's delight. Flashbulbs were everywhere, as was a lot of laughter. Bob and Mike had too many fans waiting for autographs to share in all the fun with the characters. They looked like they were having their own fun though. Not bad for two guys sitting back to back in an office in Kansas City, Missouri with plenty of fun ideas.
Mike Adair agrees. "You think it's something you just kind of do. It's nice to know other people like it."