I'm Genevieve, co-creator of Rastamouse along with Michael de Souza. Rastamouse has been a labour of love for us both so this blog is to tell you a bit about how this skateboarding, crime-fighting mouse made the journey to CBeebies (as well as popping up on Twitter, Facebook and the news!).
The idea for Rastamouse came about when Michael and I first met - I was working in children's publishing at the time, and Michael was trying to get some of his own stuff off the ground. We wanted to create something contemporary, colourful and fun that would appeal, not just to black children, but to other children as well. Whenever I picked up a book that was for black kids it was more often than not, very worthy with gentle watercolour illustrations and nobody seemed to be having much fun. Michael had a lot of experience of rhyme and verse through his work with kids and I had been obsessed with poetry when I was younger so it became a natural thing that we wrote in rhyme. Michael wrote a poem and I came up with a story and a drawing expanding on the theme and Rastamouse was born from a fusion of those ideas.
The first book was published by Little Roots in 2003 and was very well received. With Rastamouse we ended up filling a massive gap in the market - not because we set out with that commercial idea in the back of our minds but because the concept came from our hearts. It's so much drawn from our own lives. The girl character Scratchy is loosely based on both of our daughters and Zoomer has characteristics of my son who was really into skateboarding, roller-blading and flying around everywhere at the time. And of course Michael was a big inspiration for the Rastamouse character. . I think that's why it works because it's all drawn from characters we know and from aspects of our lives.
Since the book's commercial success we had been approached by various people who were interested in taking Rastamouse to the next level and getting him moving, however when Greg Boardman and Eugenio Perez from Three Stones Media came along with the hugely talented animator Derek Mogford we just knew that there was a real passion and love for Rastamouse at the same level that we felt ourselves.
The moment we saw the first maquette of our character that Derek had made I was speechless - but in a good way! I found it amazing that someone could transform something from two-dimensions into three so beautifully, capturing the true spirit of the character - it was absolutely wonderful. With the production team and then CBeebies on board, we managed to retain a close involvement with the series. And CBeebies have been amazing - we couldn't have wished for more passion and support from them.
The first time we saw the show go out was one of those mind-blowing moments. It was absolutely fantastic to see them come alive and move on screen. And Reggie Yates is just the perfect casting for Rastamouse - he's brilliant. He actually feels the character and he's just spot-on.
To say we've been overwhelmed with the response to the show would be an understatement! The majority has been amazingly positive. Adults have been saying "Why wasn't there something like this for me when I was young?" and children have just connected with it as they saw that it came from a world they knew rather than something out of reach. The small amount of negative comments we've received have surprised me but not upset either of us - the reality is we're talking about a programme made by a strongly multicultural production company about characters co-created by a Rastafarian , we consider it a positive that it's sparked a healthy debate. We think they're great role models who use logic and problem-solving for the good of a positive, creative community.