It’s milk and honey for cats and the Minnesota State Fair.
Yes, cats – a full 4,000 years removed from domestication — have never had it better, with YouTube kitty vids stoking feline fanaticism to dizzying highs. As for the State Fair — that folksy cocktail of birthing animals, gastro recklessness, WWII-era rides and pre-iPod music acts — is bigger than ever, with 1,788,512 in attendance over its 12 days in 2012.
This year, the two cultural juggernauts collide.
Wednesday, the fair plays host to Walker Art Center’s second annual Internet Cat Video Festival, which clawed its way into our consciousness last year on the Walker lawn; the New York Times was there to report on the 10,000 cat-crazed attendees. In store for this year: a butter cat sculpture, author/podcaster Julie Klausner as host, cat-inspired tunes from singer-songwriter Brian Laidlaw and kiddie rappers Koo Koo Kanga Roo, and live appearances from Internet-famous cats.
We’re here to prep you for the phalanx of fur, food and fun at the fair. First, meet the whiskered celebs that will be on hand for the yowling return of ICVF II. Next, dig into all the State Fair food, music and art previews you can stomach. Finally, slap shut the laptop and head for Falcon Heights — you’re officially ready to pounce on the State Fair.
Meet the stars of the Internet Cat Video Festival
Social media: 12.2 million YouTube views (top video); 1,156,175 Facebook likes; 103,019 Twitter followers; 83,127 Instagram followers.
Persona: Super grumpy. Nothing tastes good to this grouchy kitty with judgmental eyes and a dissatisfied scowl. Its Reddit-spawned stardom came via countless text-on-image memes (see this week’s cover of Vita.mn). Sibling owners Bryan and Tabatha Bundesen have parlayed the real-life Tardar Sauce (a female) into serious coin. The cat — which has her own agent, naturally — also has her own beverage line, corporate endorsements and book/movie deals, amounting to a “low-six-figure sum” for the Bundesens, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Hollywood equivalent: Tommy Lee Jones.
Social media: 889,488 YouTube views (top video); 174,688 Facebook likes; 16,501 Twitter followers; 182,368 Instagram followers.
Persona: Genetic mutations rarely scream “CUTENESS!,” but such is the case with Lil Bub. A hipster favorite, the tongue-wagging perma-kitten star first found fame on Reddit. After owner Mike Bridavsky toted sweet Bub to last year’s Internet Cat Video Fest at the Walker, the massive turnout inspired him to film “Lil Bub & Friendz,” a Vice-produced documentary that premiered at the freakin’ Tribeca Film Festival in April. Bub met Robert De Niro. She’s a generous kitten, though, having raised more than $30,000 for animal charities, according to San Francisco Bay Guardian.
Hollywood equivalent: Jonathan Lipnicki.
Social media: 32.2 million YouTube views (top video); 19,942 Facebook likes; 14,959 Twitter followers.
Persona: In 1984, Charlie Schmidt dressed his cat Fatso in a tiny blue shirt, manipulating the cat’s limbs to faux-pound perky beats on a keyboard, replete with rock-star mugging from Fatso. The cat died in 1987, only to be reborn as a YouTube sensation 20 years later. The clip later became central to the “FAIL” meme. Somebody screw up? Play him off, Keyboard Cat! The Ghost of Keyboard Cat has been profitable to Schmidt, who has marketed the meme to the tune of $300,000, according to WSJ.
Hollywood equivalent: Stevie Wonder.
Social media: 100.8 million YouTube views (top vid); 1.6 million Facebook likes; 192,030 Twitter followers.
Persona: Keyboard Cat is dead. Nyan Cat? Never lived! Nyan began its 8-bit journey through the cosmos, with its Pop-Tart body and a rainbow-streaming rear, in 2011. That’s when Christopher Torres created the GIF homage to his own departed kitty, Marty. A YouTube snippet featuring a hyperactive Japanese dance track sent Nyan (Japanese for meow) to soaring meme-dom. But it’s not all rainbows and paychecks for Internet cats. In May, Schmidt and Torres reared their lawsuit claws against Warner Bros. for using their kitties’ likenesses in a video game. Both owners will be representing their cat creations at the State Fair.
Hollywood equivalent: Hello Kitty.