Since Morgan Taylor created Gustafer Yellowgold a couple of years ago, this zany space creature's popularity among fans young and old has sky-rocketed. The "Gustafer Yellowgold" show, with its unusually intergenerational appeal, recently accompanied rock band Wilco's East coast tour and choral symphonic rock group The Polyphonic Spree's international tour. Morgan's live performances — playful songs and minimally animated illustrations about Gustafer and his out-of-this-world escapades — now occur regularly in venues around New York City. Their first DVD/CD package, Gustafer Yellowgold's Wide Wild World, was released in March 2007. Here, Morgan takes Scholastic Parents up close and personal with this silly sun being.
Scholastic Parents: What is Gustafer Yellowgold's backstory?
Morgan Taylor: Gustafer is a friendly, golden creature that comes from the Sun. Technically he's Solarian I suppose — he's one of a plentiful race that exists on the sun, with special physical makeup that allows them to live in extreme temperatures. Gustafer came to Earth and now lives in Minnesota. He always wanted to experience our Earth's climate, and especially to feel some snow. Unfortunately, it melts when he tries to touch it.
SP: Is Gustafer ever homesick for the sun?
Taylor: Sometimes. But that's the price for leaving home. You can look back at what you enjoyed about it, and the reasons you wanted to leave. It's always bittersweet. Gustafer tries sometimes to send stuff back home for his mom to see, but it all burns up as it approaches the Sun. Especially pinecones.
SP: Gustafer has a pet eel named Slim (short for Slimothy) and a pet Dragon named Asparagus who lives in the fireplace. Do you have any pets? What are their names, and where do they live?
Taylor: I don't have any pets anymore. Growing up we had (not all at once) two poodles named Louie and Merlin, a white cat named Henry, a couple hamsters named Grover and Doobee, and my sister had a gerbil called Gerbie.
SP: We visited Gustafer's house on your website, and it seems he has some trouble cleaning up after himself. Why are there so many socks, among other things, scattered about?
Taylor: The socks belong to Slim. Gustafer has a tough time trying to convince his eel that it's okay to wear the same sock more than once. The food lying around the house is Gustafer's though. He's got some strange behaviors regarding food, like jumping on cakes and punching cheeses with a boxing glove.
SP: Gustafer's got "Crunch O'Pine" cereal on his kitchen table — is this his favorite breakfast food?
Taylor: Gustafer's favorite food since moving to Earth has become pinecones. There are so many ways to prepare them! When Gustafer landed on the Earth he was rescued by Forrest Applecrumbie, the pterodactyl, who revived him with pinecones and jelly-dogs, and orange fizzy drink with an elbow-straw.
SP: Gustafer's number one hobby is smashing dessert — what's yours?
Taylor: I feel fortunate that my hobby and career have finally become one. I used to get comments on my report cards saying, "Does not use time wisely, Morgan draws when he should be studying." I always knew what I wanted to do, but it took many years to figure out how to make it work for me. There's a limit to how far you can take your artistic expression on bar napkins.
SP: Gustafer's best friend is Forrest Applecrumbie. Who's your best friend? Has he or she ever saved your life?
Taylor: If I had to pick someone that I would say saved me, then that award would go to my wife Rachel, who always inspired me to "draw your kids' book thing." That turned what I thought was a temporary diversion from my normal strife of struggling as a guy in a rock band, into what has now blossomed into an official career doing what I always dreamed of in the first place.
SP: Your music is very appealing to all ages. Why did you decide to play and perform for children?
Taylor: It was all a happy accident really. I don't feel there should be a specific formula for what is considered "children's music." There's just good music and bad music. And even that is up for debate, taste-wise. When I wrote the music that I'm now using for the Gustafer Yellowgold's Wide Wild World DVDs, I was writing for myself with no restrictions on topics or subject matter. I'm seeing now how I gravitated towards cartoonish imagery when I lifted the barriers in my writing. I was taking a break from what I normally did, and focusing on actually illustrating out the lyrics of some of these songs I had, and the world all just fell innocently together. The end result was obviously more kid-friendly than your average singer/songwriter fare, so we bought a projector and started booking shows for 1:30 in the afternoon.
SP: How is performing for children different than for adults?
Taylor: The kids' shows are exciting because you never know what they will say between songs. I ask the audience a lot of questions and get them talking to me during the show. Sometimes they catch me off-guard with a really funny question or comment. But the interesting thing about the Gustafer shows is that they work for adult audiences as well.
SP: What do you consider a successful show?
Taylor: Well, an audience always helps! The best shows are when the kids are into the dialogue that's happening. There are always some spontaneous moments when a good laugh happens that can make a show great for me — and the parents, too. Also, it's very important when the band is playing well and we can all hear ourselves and each other.
SP: Please share with our readers any further information, stories, suggestions, jokes, etc. that you think they might enjoy.
Taylor: Here's a joke I made up:
Q: What could the Greek chicken do after he fell into the volcano?
SP: Would you, or Gustafer, care to give a shout-out to anyone/any creature? If so, go for it!
Taylor: Gustafer would like to tell his mom, dad and the family dog Ray that everything is going great in his new life on earth, and they shouldn't worry so much. He's got a lot of new friends, plenty to eat, and has no problem staying warm!