Simpsons Artist & Slothilda Author Dante Fabiero
Dante Fabiero is a Los Angeles native who has made a career working on some of TV's most popular animated shows, such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, King of The Hill, American Dad, Disenchantment and Cosmos, seen on Netflix, TBS, and Fox. Fabiero launched Slothilda in 2014 and has garnered close to half a billion views on the website Giphy. You can see Slothilda come to life and subscribe to receive future comics for free at slothilda.com.
“Slothilda is my spirit animal” is what one reader had to say about your book. Do you feel that despite each of our own individual spirit animals, we all have a bit of the sloth in us?
I think the desire to relax is the sloth in all of us. Unfortunately, giving ourselves permission to feel unashamed when our inner-sloth comes out is easier said than done.
For me at least, I'll feel guilty whenever I want to indulge in my slothy side—saying things to myself like: "I want to relax, but I shouldn't because (insert shame-based excuse here)."
However, over the years, I've learned that shaming myself into action doesn’t lead to a more joyful life. Slothilda does the opposite of that. She's an unabashed cartoon role-model.
Just like most of us, Slothilda strives for success; she's got goals and big dreams. However, she also embraces her slothy ways—never feeling bad, and unapologetic whenever she needs to take it easy. At the end of the day, Slothilda is optimistic and loves herself unconditionally no matter where she finds herself in life.
(Dante Fabiero's father, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, Dante Fabiero & his sister)
What was it like working with on Matt Groening’s The Simpsons and his latest show, Disenchantment?
Working on The Simpsons was a dream come true...literally! I used to dream about being an animator growing up. As a kid, I had a Bart Simpson diary (which I still have) that I used to draw and journal in.
I was extremely fortunate to land my first job on The Simpsons. Early on, I started as a production assistant, where my responsibilities included menial tasks like making photocopies, shredding paper, and stocking the fridge with sodas. I eventually worked my way up to animator, and that's when the real fun began.
When I first started, the studio producing The Simpsons was still creating the animation traditionally by hand. Surprisingly, I didn't have a computer at my desk back then, just a stack of papers, pens, and pencils. The process was slow (not to mention messy), but I learned a whole lot about drawing and animating. I credit my experience during that time-period for providing me with the skill sets necessary to stay employed as an artist in this business. That production style lasted about a year while I was there until the studio decided to get with the times and modernize the show with digital tablets and software. I've been animating with a computer ever since.
Disenchantment, came a little later in my career, which was a completely separate production at a different studio. Despite being produced by Matt Groening (the same creator of The Simpsons), the show had a vastly different approach to its storytelling and direction. On that show I learned how to compose shots with more dynamic camera angles and dramatic lighting.
Needless to say, working on both productions were amazing experiences that have helped me become the artist I am today!
Compared to working in animation, what do you feel that the book form of storytelling affords creators?
Big difference. Working at an animation studio is a gigantic team-driven creative process, not the solo form of artistic expression book writing has been for me. In my experience, I've been responsible for everything from the writing to the illustrations, all the way down to certain aspects of marketing and promotion.
In the animation business, because there are so many people on a given production (due to much larger budgets), individuals on a show are often designated to complete one specific part of the project. For example, on Disenchantment I worked as a storyboard artist, and it was my sole responsibility to compose shots for designated portions of script. I had no creative control when it came to aspects like writing, dialogue, designs, colors, marketing, or management.
“...creative control in my book publishing journey has produced a far more rewarding experience.”
The book form of storytelling has afforded me a lot more freedom to implement a personal vision that spans all aspects of the entire process. Although it requires a tremendous amount of work, the added creative control in my book publishing journey has produced a far more rewarding experience.
Slothilda the Sloth has a pet corgi named Peanut. We’ve seen pictures of you and your wife with a corgi! Could it be...?
Peanut the character is 100% based on my real-life furry pal, who also happens to have the same name. What you see in the book is a spot-on accurate portrayal of Peanut in cartoon form. He's got the same fur color, follows me wherever I go, and he radiates unconditional love no matter what...unless he hears fireworks. In that case, Peanut is nowhere to be found, except hiding behind the toilet.
Slothilda, on the other hand, is mainly inspired by my own personal experiences. Most of my jokes are derived from humorous situations I find myself in while struggling to accomplish a given goal. I also get a lot of inspiration from my wife, who chimes in whenever she finds herself in a comedic predicament. I'll often hear her shout from across the room, “Babe, I just pulled a Slothilda! You should animate this (insert funny idea here)!” Also, since people always ask, one thing I’d like to note is I've always intended for Slothilda to be sort of an androgynous character that embodies both male and female characteristics—she's essentially a combination of my wife and I.
How did you find your current literary agent and go on to get published?
Slothilda started out as a little side-project of mine years ago when I began posting animated GIFs to a blog on Tumblr. Nothing really came of it aside from a few "likes" here and there until one day a random fan posted a collection of my comics to BoredPanda, a popular website where people go to find the latest viral content on the internet. On that particular day my work had been "liked" enough times to the point where readers had pushed my comics to the top of the BoredPanda homepage!
Within a few hours, my work skyrocketed in views and that's when I started receiving offers from individuals interested in my work. One of those inquiries came via e-mail from you, a literary agent by the name of Mark Gottlieb, from the Trident Media Group literary agency in New York City. It was a no-brainer for me once I got that message from you since you and the Trident Media Group literary agency had the most impressive resume.
“A few weeks later, you called to let me know you landed my first-ever book deal, and the rest is history.”
After a phone call with you, where you quelled my fears and answered all my questions, I signed with you, and that's when the work began. Within a month, I created a proposal for my Slothilda book, which you then pitched to various publishing houses around town. A few weeks later, you called to let me know you landed my first-ever book deal, and the rest is history. It's been a wonderful relationship from the beginning. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be where I am today. I still can't believe I'm an actual published author! Thanks again for all your support, Mark!
Around the time Slothilda published, you and your wife made a trip to NYC for an indie film fest where you made it as a finalist for your submission of the Slothilda book trailer. What was it like experiencing that?
Earning the distinction as a finalist in the GIPHY film festival was a tremendous honor. But what really made the trip memorable was getting the chance to finally meet all the amazing individuals who helped make my book a reality. Coincidentally, the film festival took place just blocks away from where my book publisher and literary agency are located, right in the heart of Manhattan. Prior to flying to NYC from LA, I scheduled appointments to meet-up with my you, my literary agent at Trident Media Group, Johanna Dickson, my publicist, and Leah Zarra, my editor at Skyhorse Publishing.
I live and work out of Los Angeles, so the process of creating my first book with a team of people in NYC was an interesting experience, to say the least. With the exception of two phone calls I had with you at the very beginning, not once did I ever speak with my editor, publicist, sales rep, or literary agent over the phone or at in-person meetings. Every correspondence was done via e-mail, and it’s truly incredible that we were able to publish my entire book this way.
Needless to say, it was a pleasure to finally meet the people that helped make my dreams a reality. Today, Slothilda: Living The Sloth Life sits on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, Target, and book stores all over the world! It's a testament to the hard work everyone has put in, including the folks over at Trident Media Group and Skyhorse Publishing.
What was it like getting published for the first time? Did you learn anything new and exciting?
Getting published for the first time has been the most rewarding experience of my entire career so far. Though I've worked on some pretty well-known TV franchises, nothing compares to the feeling of producing a creative concept birthed purely from my own imagination. It's a rewarding achievement unlike any I've ever had.
“Getting my first ever book published has brought about a sense of vitality within myself that I've never felt before. I hope this ride never ends.”
When I first started my Slothilda comic years ago, I had dreams that the idea would one day become a published book, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that throughout this journey I've been consumed by countless days of self-doubt. This experience has taught me a whole lot about perseverance, authenticity, and discipline. It's been one heck of a ride so far with a hell of a lot of work, but whenever I see the joy people get when they read Slothilda, it makes all the blood, sweat and tears worth it. Getting my first ever book published has brought about a sense of vitality within myself that I've never felt before. I hope this ride never ends.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers looking to become published authors?
While I still feel like I've got a lot to learn myself, my only suggestion to anyone aspiring to get published is to maintain a relationship with your fans, admirers, and network. Early on, I heard about the importance of maintaining an online presence by growing a platform with a large following. However, what most people don't tell you is that it isn't just about the number of fans you have that matters, but rather the quality of your fans. You want true fans, not fair weather fans. The relationship you cultivate with your fans is key. I pride myself on interacting with my audience, incorporating their ideas, listening to their feedback and making sure the GIFs and comics are carefully catered to their interests. Treat your fans with respect and kindness, and always be open to hearing input from them. They're your lifeblood.
What can we expect next from Slothilda?
I've got some ambitious goals for this year, including a pitch packet for a potential TV show, some plush toys, and two potential book ideas —a Slothildabook with a narrative and a book of comics featuring Peanut the corgi. I'm hopeful this year will be just as exciting as the last! In the meantime, you can always sign up for my e-mail newsletter at www.slothilda.com. I send out a brand new Slothilda comic direct to your inbox every other Monday and give you early access to the latest and greatest Slothilda content and news.