by Emily Reuben As a young reader, there has always been a wide array of reading options to suit my interests. If I wanted to read a magical adventure story, I’d pick up Harry Potter. If I was feeling more of a dystopian action series, I’d grab The Hunger Games. However the book series that kept me awake late at night reading under the sheets with a flashlight wasn’t Twilight or Lord of the Rings. It was Erin Hunter's Warriors series. When it comes to popular children’s book series, the Warriors, sometimes referred to as the Warrior Cats novels, are not only one of the most prominent but also has one of the most active online communities. The series has received numerous recognitions, including various spots on the New York Times bestsellers list throughout the years. The Warriors series revolves around four groups of feral cats living in clans. The four clans all struggle to survive and often get into bloody battles over food, territory, and engage in forbidden romances between cats from different clans. The first six books in the series detail the adventures of Rusty, a house cat that leaves his comfortable life to join ThunderClan. Rusty forsakes his given name and is given the name Firepaw. His struggles integrating into the life of a wildcat while navigating the politics among the four clans comprises the bulk of the series' first six entries. Since the original series, the Warrior Cats books have exploded into a massive collection of novels, featuring 7 series with six books each. Outside of the main series of books, 12 stand-alone books titled “Super Editions” have been released, each chronicling the experiences of a specific character in the series. Additionally, the series has spawned six field guides, a manga series, and 15 novellas. However, what makes the Warriors series so interesting outside of the sheer number of titles is the level of online involvement from fans, especially regarding fan animations on YouTube. When I was about 12 years old, I was obsessed with Warriors. I had every book, novella, and manga that was sold on bookshelves. Eventually I took my love for the series online and began interacting with other Warriors fans on online forums. It was around that time that a user posted a link to a Warriors fan animation titled Yellowfang: On My Own. While the animation has since been removed from YouTube, it had a massive impact on me and ultimately led to a rabbit hole of Warrior Cats animated content. At the time, I was impressed with the anime style the artist choose to animate the cats in and the visual effects throughout the video. I instantly fell in love with the animation and turned to the author of the video, AlliKatNya, for more animated Warriors content. AlliKatNya, now known by Alli Kat on YouTube, was one of the first big names in the Warriors YouTube community of animators. Alli MacKay, began animating Warriors fan animations in 2007 when they were only 13 years old. Alli's “Warriors of the Forest” fan-series quickly garnered a following online and inspired a massive influx of future Warrior animators to dive into the realm of animation themselves, including big names like SSS Warrior Cats, DarkKokiri, TribbleofDoom, and Flightfootwarrior. Soon, there was an over saturation of talented Warriors animators infiltrating YouTube and creating a thriving, vibrant community of animators, voice actors, and viewers. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S60zKT-M54o&t=70s[/embed] Recently, Alli uploaded a video titled AlliKatNya & The Early Days of Warrior Cats Animation (2006 - 2009) in which they detail their experiences in the Warriors animation community. After hearing about their struggles, I became curious to hear more of their perspective. For more clarity, I reached out to Alli MacKay for their insights and more detail into their experience as a young YouTube animator. “As far as I know, I was the first ever person to start creating fan animations based on the Warrior Cats series, and at the very least the first person to upload them to YouTube.” Alli said. They continued, “When I was in 3rd grade or so, I would gather my classmates to play pretend games based on the Warriors series – the other kids quickly grew out of role playing violent cats, but my interest in the books stuck around. When my classmates moved on to other age-appropriate interests, my only option for continuing to act out the stories was to animate them on the family computer.” While Alli’s work would later become more intricate and utilize stronger editing software such as Final Cut Pro, their earlier work was made relatively simple programs. There was no Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, or After Effects. Instead, Alli relied on programs like MS Paint and Movie Maker to get the job done. Alli said of their earlier work, “I started out by using PowerPoint, setting each slide to 0.1 second, and playing back 5-10 images I drew in MS Paint in an infinite loop.” Because Alli was one of the first major Warriors animators on YouTube, their work drew in tons of views, and shortly after, many other amateur animators began to make their own animations themselves using similar drawing and movie editing programs. Aside from the more professional animations that would occasionally pop up, the Warriors animation community was largely driven by young artists, and for many, served as an introduction into the world of animation creation and video editing. When I asked Alli why the Warriors series in particular was home to so many of these animators they said the following:
The Warriors books thrive on their large casts of characters, the unique cultures of each cat clan, and interpersonal relationships between characters. When a series that is so packed with characters lacks official illustrations of said characters, I think there’s a natural urge to visualize what you’re reading about...There’s a whole ton of content to choose from, given the sheer number of books in the series, so it’s ripe for fans to pick and choose which characters and story elements speak to them. Imagine if Star Trek had been a novel series and not a television series – that fandom would be exploding with people’s ideas of what the alien species and Starfleet uniforms looked like. I think that’s the core appeal of the Warriors fandom.
To this day I take a lot of those [negative] comments to heart and am extremely self-conscious about my poor drawing skills. I’ve taken so many years of drawing that I doubt I’ll ever start again. Not only that, but I received several death threats and terrifying vague threats, including having my own home address sent to me via private message, urging me to “stop animating such garbage or else...To this day I’m obsessed with checking comments sections on videos and articles to get an idea of the “general consensus” of viewers... I know for a fact that this experience is not unique to me – I’ve talked with several people whose animations went viral at a young age, and I always hear the same things: the negative comments stick with them to this day, and were critical factors in their poor mental health.According to The Child Mind Institute a 2017 study Warriors Flash Flood: A Rotoscoped Documentary NewFest Inside Out Film and Video Festival, MIX Copenhagen Bambi UNICO Warriors If you are interested in Alli MacKay's work, you can visit their website or check our their videos on YouTube.
Sources: New York Times Best Sellers The Warrior Cats Official Website , Anime News Network The Child Mind Institute Images: The Warrior Cats Official Website , Featured image: