Looking back on 2011: The Phillies win tons of games, your iPod Touch sends you a notification that your friend has beaten your high score in Temple Run, and your arm is laced high with colorful Sillybandz bracelets.
During this precious time on the internet, you have probably come across a colorful video or GIF of a pastry cat called “Nyan Cat”. This 2010s rainbow gem was one of the most beloved and recognized memes that have since made their mark in memes history and the hall of fame.
Christophe torres was the artist behind this legendary animation associated with the song “Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya” by Japanese artist Daniwell-P. To learn more about the birth of Nyan Cat and what Torres does now, he hopped on a call to share his story, current efforts, and future plans.
Jackson Weimer: So how did the original idea for Nyan Cat come about?
Christophe Torres: The idea for Nyan Cat came from a live broadcast of a charity campaign in 2011. Nyan is the Japanese word for ‘meow’. I scribbled in a live broadcast room and wanted ideas from people in the chat what to draw on. People in the chat room knew I liked cats and suggested that I draw a cat. The breakfast pastry was a random combination of keywords and the video exploded overnight. The cat’s design was based on my old cat, Marty, who was a Russian blue.
Weimer: What editing software did you use to draw and animate Nyan Cat?
Torres: I used Macro Media Firework which belonged to Adobe. It was discontinued in 2012 and I wouldn’t recommend it, but I got used to it over the years and used it because I knew it well.
Weimer: What were your initial expectations for the popularity of Nyan Cat?
Torres: Honestly, I had 0 expectations doing it. In fact, Nyan Cat didn’t even have a name and I just made a full version for a Twitter profile picture. I drew it, animated it, exported it, then fell asleep and woke up with hundreds of emails.
Weimer: What was the first dollar you earned with Nyan Cat?
Torres: It was an advertisement for Sprint. They contacted me very quickly and used it in an advertisement. It was amazing to me that someone wanted to pay and use my art.
Weimer: When did you realize that you could make a lot of money with Nyan Cat?
Torres: I can imagine the exact moment. When I first created Nyan Cat it was actually a day before I started a new job as a claims adjuster. This whole year I have juggled this job with Nyan Cat. A year later, I sort of had to decide between the job and all the opportunities I got that caused me to quit. It was a tough choice but I think I did the right thing to quit and pursue my dreams.
Weimer: I saw that you decided to sell Nyan Cat as NFT and sold it for over $ 600,000. What do you think of the environmental impact of TVNs?
Torres: As for artists, it’s a different category when it comes to the environmental aspects of TVNs. The problems come from when the cryptocurrency is mined. It is not the artists themselves who cause the environmental impact. I have read about Ethereum and crypto in general and the community knows that there are issues and difficulties growing with NFTs in general. Going forward, we’ll see a cleaner way to trade crypto and mint NFTs. It’s just really early right now.
Weimer: Many people have said that NFTs are dead, since the market has fallen 90% since March 2021. Do you think this is true?
Torres: NFTs are a lot like stocks. Some days they’re great, some days they’re not. They certainly got a lot of hype in March and when the crypto fell a few weeks ago it scared everyone. This has turned the NFT market into a conservative area. Since the original Nyan Cat NFT I have created a classic Nyan Cat collection and have sold over 700 different Nyan Cat NFTs. If the market is dead, why am I still selling? There are a lot of people who don’t understand it. It’s still early.
Weimer: How do you think memes have changed over the past 10 years?
Torres: The memes were very simple. Now memes are really complex. They are now designed to deliver humor and news. Nowadays, a lot of people get their news from memes. It has become more of a culture. People use them to spread messages. We are seeing a big resurgence of memes and now we are seeing people adding financial value to them.
Weimer: What are your current online projects?
Torres: I have been very busy working in the NFT space. I am really picky with who I choose to collaborate with. Out of 100 people who emailed me, the only one I responded to recently was from Snoop Dogg. It was really exciting. I also work with Youtooz and this is the first time that I authorize the transfer of my art on figurines. I always think about what the Internet will think of what and with whom I choose to collaborate. I’m also going to imply that I’m also working with a few high profile celebrities. I have a possible business and cartoon deal in the early stages. Hopefully by the end of the year those two things will be at a later stage and I can share more details.
Weimer: If you make this meme today, do you think it would still go as viral as it was in 2011?
Torres: I think Nyan Cat would always have a place in the world of memes. If I had created this today, I still think it would be very impactful one way or another. Everyone is always looking for a mascot on the internet, and Nyan Cat has always been a top contender and I still think it would be up there.
This interview has been reduced and edited for clarity.