Guy Gilchrist says making people happy is his purpose in life.
“It’s everything. It’s my heart. My creative engine. Knowing that I have this ability to give you something. You know to give. it’s actually incredibly fulfilling to me.”
Everyday Gilchrist draws vivid, colorful cartoons that have been enjoyed by people around the world, cartoons such as Peter Pan, Pink Panther, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and many others. Gilchrist is perhaps best known as Jim Henson’s original cartoonist. Jim Henson created memorable comedic puppet characters such as the world famous frog, Kermit.
“I got to write and draw for the Muppets Show for Jim Henson, but I’ve also created the Muppets comic strip and was instrumental in Henson’s ‘Fraggle Rock,’ and the creation of the ‘Muppet Babies,’ as well as creating children’s books and writing songs. How cool is that?”
Gilchrist says it all started with drawing circles and other simple things at age 10, guided by his mother.
“We couldn’t afford to go to the movies to see Perter Pan and Mickey Mouse. So, my mother would show me the ‘funnies’ newspaper. She brought me the 19 cent Golden Book of Peter Pan, and then we would sit at home after dinner and draw Peter Pan and Tinkerbell and stuff like that. We also didn’t have a television because we didn’t have any money. My mom would let me go stand in front of the appliance store and I would watch those black and white televisions, and there would be Walter Lantz doing the same circles and drawing Woody Woodpecker.”
Gilchrist has no formal education. He says he just went to work drawing anything that would help him learn how art was created. He says inspiration came from the letter written to him by Mr. Lantz.
“I read the biographies and everything of all of the great people that had done great things. Receiving a letter from Walter Lantz, that was it for me! It read, ‘My goodness you have an amazing amount of talent and if you keep on going and keep on doing exactly what you’re doing, I have no doubt that someday you’re going to be a famous cartoonist. Sincerely, Walter Lantz.”
Gilchrist has become a famous cartoonist. He’s drawn 1940 superheroes on playing cards, created a coloring book of Pluto and Goofy, and other children’s books based on popular cartoon characters, such as the Looney Tunes, Tiny Toon Adventures, X-Men, Minnie Mouse and others.
In 1984, some of his iconic Muppets artwork was enshrined in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.
“I’ve been doing all of these characters for Jim. It’s almost 40 years now. All through the 80s and beyond. And then there are characters that have kept you coming my way,” he says. “Also, my own characters, the Tiny Dynamos that I did with Warner Brothers, those are mine, and Mudpie.”
In 1995, Gilchrist took over the internationally syndicated long-running comic strip, “Nancy,” which has been in newspapers all around the world. He retired from writing the daily Nancy cartoon in 2018 to devote more time to his other creative interests.
“I don’t think of myself as an illustrator. I say I’m a cartoonist because I tell stories. I’m a storyteller and I love making kids laugh and making friends and seeing smiles. I feel like my life maybe has meant something,” he says. “What I get in return is the gratitude of touching a lot of generations. And it’s the greatest thing. It’s love. It’s love, and it’s the way that I can love the whole world.”