The KidzAnimals Backstory
Hi, my name is Rachel Zuckerman, and I’m the developer and owner of the KidzAnimals® character set and writer and creator of the KidzAnimals® stories and website. The KidzAnimals characters are incredibly important to me and have brought me so much inspiration and joy! These 26 little children-animal characters are the subjects and heroes of my children’s stories.
My Greatest Wish:
My biggest wish of all is for KidzAnimals to be loved and cherished by children everywhere! I’m hoping that the KidzAnimals bring incredible amounts of fun, smiles and joy to children who read my stories and love my characters.
The KidzAnimals project is my passion and all consuming “hobby”. In spite of the many years of effort required, I feel very blessed and fortunate to be the steward of these dynamic and adorable characters.
I’d like to tell you more about the KidzAnimals, their website, and how they came into being.
The Ninjanimals Kidz Backstory:
In 2007, I met and began working with Peter K. Yim, a manga-focused artist and graphic designer. After sharing our interests, we quickly formed a partnership to create cute and special children-animal characters. As founder, Peter wanted to develop an ancient, Asian-inspired feudal world called Ninjanimals™. Peter was looking for a partner to help with Ninjanimals, and I was looking for something cute and special!
Together, led by Peter, we started creating Ninjanimals cartoon characters from the ground up. Once the character creation was underway, my children’s stories soon followed. However, my first stories weren’t ninja focused at all -- instead they were set in a playful & modern suburban world called “The Valley”. This carefree and special neighborhood is patterned after my own childhood growing up in Springfield, Virginia where I spent my days playing with my friends and my two brothers, searching for frogs at the lake, rollerskating up and down the cul-de-sacs, enjoying arts & crafts, playing with Barbies, and getting into mischief at school.
As my complete commitment to a children’s modern day world continued and grew stronger, Peter and I decided, very early in, that I would focus on “Ninjanimals Kidz”, while Peter would focus on his original “Ninjanimals Action” concept. To learn more about those early beginings, please look at the Bulletin Board from my first website:
Over time it became clear that my interests were entirely on my playful, school-aged characters and stories -- and not on an action themed project of fighting ninja animals. With these very different goals, Peter and I decided to go our separate ways. In 2008, we ended our partnership on friendly terms. Peter, as the artist and anime pro, signed the 20 original Ninjanimals Kidz characters over to me, while keeping his own Ninjanimals Action character set. I’m incredibly grateful for what Peter Yim got me started on, the magical creativity we shared and the characters we developed.
KidzAnimals Character Creation:
Here are the original Kidz characters who are still very special to me. A lot of work went into these original characters and it has paid off. Although the design of the original Kidz seem simple - these original characters ended up being very detailed “blueprints” for the coloring, facial features, animal features, hair style, eye shape, color and luminosity, height, clothing and personality of each final character.
Once on my own, I spent many long months searching for an illustrator to continue my Kidz project. Thankfully, I finally found Hatem F. Aly (pronounced Ha tem) who is an extremely talented Canadian children’s illustrator. When I saw Hatem’s thick-thin line art, his colorful and charming illustrations and his cute children’s characters, I knew he was right for my project.
Hatem ended up illustrating all my online stories, redesigning my characters, designing the additional six characters and designing the Martial Arts Kidz character set. This character redesign made the KidzAnimals what they are today. As a professional illustrator, Hatem brought a phenomenal level of illustration skill to the stories and did an amazing job. I'm very happy and grateful that I was able to work with another talented artist who would further my vision of a playful and amazing character set!
Years of Slowdown and Turning Point:
Around 2012, after working steadily for years on Ninjanimals Kidz, I slowed down the project. I still loved the Ninjanimals Kidz characters, stories and project, but didn't know how to make it ninja-themed. I questioned why I had gotten into something ninja-based since I knew so little about ninjas. Basically, I was trying to twist and modify my dreams to match a name that didn't fit. When I realized it no longer made sense to me, I gave the Ninjanimals name back to Peter Yim.
I had gotten “stuck” at that point, but always remained loyal to the characters and their stories. I let my project rest, but in my heart I could never give it up. The characters I had worked so long and hard for were still incredibly special to me. Around 2014, I found the KidzAnimals name and an available URL -- www.KidzAnimals.com. This was a turning point that allowed me to shift my project to something I believed in one hundred percent! I then decided to modify the website and stories and relaunch as KidzAnimals. And I'm glad I did...
KidzAnimals Brand Relaunch:
The KidzAnimals website and brand was launched and posted live in 2016. Although available online, I didn't promote it at that time since I still had plenty of work to do on the stories and website. I also wanted to set up a KidzAnimals gift shop on Zazzle which ended up being more time consuming than I thought it would be. The KidzAnimals website and brand is now completed. I’m hoping everything about it will bring joy to the children who love the KidzAnimals and the parents who approve of them. Since 2016, the KidzAnimals website has undergone two major redesigns and a KidzAnimals Shopify Store has been added.
If you notice some ninja-themed elements in the KidzAnimals stories and illustrations, they came from my initial Ninjanimals Kidz work with Peter Yim. Some of the early Ninjanimals beginnings still show up in the Japanese scrolls, ninja sashes & weapons, and the KidzAnimals Kung Fu Boys and Karate Girls (which I absolutely cherish!). Even though I’m not ninja-focused anymore, I think these all add a dynamic element to the KidzAnimals stories.
Thanks for visiting. I hope you, and the children in your life, enjoy KidzAnimals!
All the best,