On Monday, July 6th, I left Dharma Island to visit Megan Brennan on her Animal Crossing island, Jellicle.
Even from the air, the meaning behind the island’s name is clear: the pathways and stalls of Jellicle are adorned with various feline-themed custom designs.
I was greeted at the gate by Megan, who was wearing the black and orange Tiger-Face Tee Dress and a giant red ribbon. She explained to me that the custom cat patterns had spread across Jellicle over time.
“The white cat and the calico cat that you see around are my cats,” she said. “I did Luna from Sailor Moon because I love her, and then I was trying to think of other cats that I could replicate with pixels in this game, and Garf was the funniest option.”
The Jellicle Pets
We began the tour in the park Megan has constructed in front of the Jellicle Plaza.
Next, we headed over to Megan’s nearby flower garden, where she has set her goal on the ultimate Animal Crossing floral accomplishment: the blue rose.
“Someone made this big doc… I think they had looked at the game code or something to figure out the exact recessive flower genes you need, so I was taking notes from that,” Megan explained. “There’s a point early on when the game came out where I had more downtime, so that was where all my brain cells were going.”
Next, we met one of the pets that reside on Jellicle: a robot with its own personal food and water dish, possibly of extraterrestrial origin.
Aliens? In Animal Crossing? That’s certainly the case in Animorph Crossing, a comic Megan made that combines Animorphs with Animal Crossing. And as if that’s not enough Nintendo/Animorph mash-up for you, Megan made a Pokémon x Animorphs zine, too. I asked Megan about what inspired the zines.
“I had just started re-reading Animorphs at that point, because me and my friend Carey Pietsch did an Animorph podcast called Morph Club that we completed over a year ago now,” she told me. “My brain was taken over by Pokémon at the time, so I think it was not long after Chainmail Bikini. So it was just, ‘What are the two things that I am thinking about and drawing for fun at all times that I can make into something to hand out to people at cons?’
“I love these characters, and I definitely also was first playing Pokémon at the same time as when I was still reading Animorphs, so it’s still in the same part of my brain,” she said. “What did I like when I was 11? I can draw better now, so now I can draw the fan art that 11 year old me would want.”
Near the pet robot is the Duck Zone, which offers the fowl of Jellicle a place to enjoy the seashore.
“Once I got the decoy duck, I was like, ‘I have a new thing I can plant all over the place,’” said Megan.
Just up the beach from the duck, there’s a pair of pets gazing across the ocean to the West of Jellicle. As I would soon discover, the turtles of Jellicle had gained something of a reputation.
“I used to have a lot more turtles,” Megan admitted. “I had too many turtles, and now I’ve cut back. But I still have like, I have a little turtle beach right here, near my house, where the turtles hang out.”
Indeed, the turtles of Jellicle now enjoy a Turt Zone just outside Megan’s house. It’s very important to Megan to ensure that her pets have a place to relax, and if it were up to her, certain other animals would spend more time relaxing, too.
That’s the case in Retsuko Crossing, a 20 page comic Megan made about Retsuko taking a break from life in the big city to visit Isabelle in Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
“It’s about Retsuko, from the Netflix/Sanrio series Aggretsuko, where she’s an angry office worker red panda,” explained Megan. “And I made a little 2-part comic about her going to hang out with Isabelle and Lottie. It was so nice to draw little cartoon animals! It was the most fun comic I’ve drawn, I think.”
Megan said that she was glad that Isabelle had joined the cast of characters who take part in island life in New Horizons, but she is still hopefully that the chance to relax is presenting itself.
“I’m glad she seems to be happy and she’s doing little daily reports, but at the same time, I was just like, ‘I need Isabelle to have a nice time,’” Megan said. “But I also need Retsuko to have a nice time, because at least Isabelle is in a beautiful town full of trees. Retsuko is just like me and my friends, in the terrible real world, where your boss is awful and everyone’s tired!”
Haven’t drawn for fun in a while pic.twitter.com/da8fkHe6co
— Megan Brennan (@megthebrennan) March 18, 2020
The House of Megan
From the Turt Zone, we headed to Megan’s nearby house.
The main room of Megan’s house is very pink!
To the left of the main room is the Doll Council room. Megan confessed that the doll is one of her favorite items in the game.
“I started doing weird rooms with the doll item, because I thought, ‘They’re cute, but my friends are disturbed by them,’” she said. “And now I can’t stop.”
For the top room on the main floor, Megan has created a secret entrance by using the wooden bookcase furniture item.
Megan explained that the hidden entrance behind the bookshelf was a technique she had been refining since Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
“In New Leaf I tried doing it too, but the bookshelf was thicker so it just was way more obvious,” she said.
I asked Megan which previous Animal Crossing games she had played.
“Wild World was the first one I played, because I didn’t have a GameCube or any of the like TV consoles. I remember being very jealous of my cousins who had the GameCube version,” she said. “Every time I visited them I’d try to get them to play Animal Crossing for me, so I could see it.”
However, most of her firsthand experience with the series has been through its handheld incarnations.
“I feel like I like it better when it’s a handheld game,” she explained. “Something about it, it feels more like a little private town.”
Inside the hidden room, Megan has several custom-framed photos of her island villagers alongside several posters of Lottie, a pink river otter who works for the Happy Home Academy (but has yet to make an appearance in New Horizons).
“My friend had some of the Sanrio cards, so she sent me a couple posters in the mail because I was talking about how much I wanted Lottie to appear in this game,” Megan told me. “I miss her!”
While Megan used to use the basement to store turnips during the week, she told me that she hasn’t been taking part in the Stalk Market very much anymore.
“I was too stressed out about the turnip trade, even with friends,” said Megan.
Fortunately, she had no shortage of items to place in the turnip-free cellar.
“Now it’s where my Science Dolls are, and my organ, and bunch of jellyfish, because they’re pretty,” she said.
On the second story, Megan has divided the room, with one half serving as a cartooning studio for her real life self, while the other half is a pattern designing studio for her Animal Crossing self.
Megan explained that one of her favorite activities in the game has been designing custom patterns.
“Some of them, like the Zelda dress, I’m still tweaking a little bit,” she said. “It’s one of those things where as soon as I decide I’m done – I’m going to upload it, I’m going to call it a day – I see weird things on it that I want to change.”
You can bring some of Megan’s completed custom designs to your island! Check out these cool outfits, which you can download using the included codes.
On the other side of the room is Megan’s cartoonist’s studio, which reflects her work off the shores of her Animal Crossing island.
One of the projects she is currently working on is Magic Girls, an upcoming middle grade graphic novel series from Random House Graphic. Megan told the Beat more about the series.
“It’s about a girl named Kira who’s very normal and very boring who lives in this world called Neo-Earth where there are a lot of not-boring people,” she explained. “She’s convinced that this year she’s going to become popular and cool, and she accidentally becomes friends with this mysterious creature called Catacorn. And there’s magical girls and mermaids and school drama, so I get to indulge in all of my favorite Sailor Moon teen drama stuff!”
Megan told me that working on the series has been a very rewarding experience.
“It’s a lot of fun to work on, and it’s nice to have something that I can still be working on during all of this,” she said.
Sights of Jellicle
After touring Megan’s house, it was time to explore some of the strange sights of Jellicle. First up was a riverside park (where I spotted a turtle enjoying a break from the Turt Zone).
“It used to be covered in bamboo and I just never came over here, so I had to do something that I would actually come and look at,” Megan told me.
Megan explained that she had constructed a strange Zipper area on the North of her island. Megan admitted that her goal was mostly to unnerve visitors: “I had friends over when there was a meteor shower and made them come look at it without any explanation.”
However, she did mention that gathering with friends during meteor showers had been one of her favorite elements of the game.
“Because of the pandemic, we’ve been going to each others’ islands when there’s meteor showers or if Celeste is giving out recipes and stuff,” Megan told me. “There were a couple times when all of us were just standing in a row on someone’s island, wishing on stars together, and it was just very cute in a way that it felt a little more like real life than some of the other more interactive things in the game. Just the kind of standing with your friends and just kind of doing a stupid activity together was really nice, and the shooting stars look really cute.”
Megan said that the in-game gatherings had been invaluable to her during the pandemic. “I think that lining up and doing little emotes while we wait for the stars to come was really special to me,” she said. “This isn’t the same as real life, but I’m really glad that we get to do this in this game.”
Megan emphasized that she felt fortunate that the game had been released when it was, just as the COVID-19 pandemic confined everyone to their homes.
“It came at the best possible time! If we had to wait for it, at least it came out now,” Megan said. “I had friends who were originally not going to but it, but I think because we were all desperately trying to find a way to connect with each other, it was like, ‘No, I will buy it, actually.’ And I’m very glad that they did.”
Megan was inspired by some of her friends to build an outdoor library on Jellicle.
“I saw some people make them, and it was too cute,” Megan said. “Even though I’m sad when the books are in the rain… It’s too cute!”
As we explored the outskirts of Jellicle, Megan told me that she favored an Animal Crossing island that wasn’t entirely developed, but rather had some areas that seemed a bit more natural.
“Up here, on my cliffs, I left it a little bit more wild looking,” she said. “I like towns that are really built up, but I feel like I also miss the Animal Crossing feeling of running around in trees.”
However, the development of Jellicle has not come without challenges. Megan explained that she had to be rescued when placing a decoy duck above a waterfall.
“I was placing this little duck on this waterfall, which I thought would look really cool,” explained Megan. “But to do that, I had to get myself stuck and airlifted out. It was worth it!”
Megan was also inspired by some of the mini-towns she saw on the internet, she had to try her hand at constructing one herself.
“I saw people doing forced perspective with this sort of stuff, and I just wanted to make a mini-town that’s just small,” Megan told me.
While she had construted the area earlier in the year, she said it had come into its own with the changing of the seasons.
“I think like the summer weeds look so much better,” she said. “I had this in the beginning of spring, and these weeds look so nicer.”
The pathway cats became grinning feline skulls as we approached one of the final outdoor areas on Jellicle, the Bone Zone.
The centerpiece of the Bone Zone is an arresting skeleton.
“The T. Rex ribs are hovering there, but I’ll take it,” Megan said. “It’s good enough.”
Apparently, just as with the naming of cats, the naming of Frankenstein-style skeleton monsters can present a challenge.
“I have to figure out what the right name for this creature is,” Megan remarked.
The Jellicle Cat Café
The final stop on the tour is the Jellicle Cat Café. Megan explained that her friend Alison Wilgus of Cranberry inspired her to create a second character for her cat.
“I have my extra character, because Ali made one for their cat, Miles, so I made one for my cat,” Megan said. “Especially now that there’s diving, my cat can dive for extra scallops.”
Megan wasn’t sure she wanted a second account at first, but the ability to decorate more buildings on Jellicle Island proved too tempting.
“I realized I could make a little restaurant, and I had to,” she confessed. “And also, I got to clear out my storage to put stuff in here!”
Behind the cash register, there is a back room that has been outfitted to serve as the kitchen for the cat café.
After we had visited the Jellicle Cat Café, Megan still had one more pet to show off: her new horseshoe crab!
Outside the Jellicle Musuem, she was inspired to construct a small library.
“I was jealous of everyone who had like big beautiful museum cafés, but I hadn’t left enough space around it, so I just put a little library, which I’m happy with,” she said.
Then, we took a seat in the park and talked about comic conventions.
“I had taken a little bit of a convention break before, this previous year,” Megan said. “But I was looking forward to going to some, because I was looking forward to seeing some friends who I only see at conventions because they’re like, way out in other states. So that’s actually the thing I miss the most, is having an excuse to see people I don’t usually get to see.”
Megan told me there was one con in particular that she was missing during the pandemic.
“I really miss FlameCon, which is a LGBTQ friendly con that was in New York,” she said. “Last year was super fun and everyone was really nice, and I wanted to go again! I feel like that had the con energy that I really like, where people are just really enthusiastic and nice to each other.”
Not all Megan’s memories about her con experiences are positive.
“I have been to some comic cons and its just too many people! But I do miss… Yeah, I think I do miss cons! I had gotten so sick of, ‘I don’t want to walk across a huge crowd to go to the bathroom’ and ‘I don’t need to hear people yelling about their opinions about whatever,’ but, now I miss it, a little bit!”
Even beyond the mash-up zines Megan has made featuring Animal Crossing, she has made some spectacular fan art of the game’s characters, including a truly excellent depiction of Katharine, a hypothetical third Dodo sibling. I couldn’t resist asking her about the character.
My friend @aliwilgus wanted a Dodo sibling named after the Wright brothers’ sister Katharine, who was really cool & helped them fly….anyway she is busy doing Dodo Aeronautics & Space Admin or something pic.twitter.com/pHx5qov838
— Megan Brennan (@megthebrennan) April 7, 2020
“I had watched the Drunk History episode about Katharine Wright, who is the sister of Orville and Wilbur Wright, who helped them out a lot in building the airplane,” Megan explained. “She was really smart too, and I didn’t know about her until a comedy show about history.”
Megan even explained how Katharine might fit in with the characters who are already featured in New Horizons.
“I miss Guilliver being in a little space outfit,” Megan said. “So what I want is a little girl dodo in a space outfit – that’s my pitch to Nintendo. Please! I know you’ve already given me so much, but I do want one more thing… and it’s a cute dodo!”