Ever since the launch of The Stolen Button on Kickstarter, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the platform. No, I’m not just refreshing my Kickstarter page every two minutes hoping to see if the pledges have gone up. I’m actually exploring a lot of really cool art projects. The Pings is one of these cool projects I just had to support. It’s a gorgeous picture book by writer Gabe Chewy and Leslie Lee. I got in contact with Gabe and was lucky enough to get an interview for my blog.

RockOnKitty (ROK):  Hi Gabe! Can you introduce us to The Pings?

Gabe: Sure. The Pings is a personal story about two kids born and raised in Chinytown. It’s a children’s book about two 10-year-olds named Wing and Zoey, who live in a foster care home of the same name. Together they find a magical toy, which opens up a portal to a place called Chinytown. From there, the two embark on a journey to find their way back home. Wing was born to parents who immigrated to America in order to seek a better life for their son who was just a baby. They opted to live and work in Chinytown because it was a familiar and safe area for them to raise their child, Wing. One day, Wing’s parents disappeared and a family later found Wing wandering around by himself and was turned into child protective services. Wing was placed in a temporary home and this was where he met Zoey. Zoey unlike Wing was the polar opposite, she was strong yet quiet and wise though she was the same age as Wing she was also different in her own way. The family that took them in was a successful business power couple that took in children in order to fill a void in their own lives but never really gave any time to them. They often left them alone in a huge house. This is how Zoey and Wing came to find each other.

ROK: How much of the story is based on your experiences?

Gabe: I used a lot of my childhood stories, experiences as well as references from books I read growing up to help me formulate the ideas for The Pings children book. The Pings children book was a way to share a little of the history of my upbringing in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

ROK: I know that you have a background as an animator. Does being an animator help or impede your work as a writer?

Gabe: Learning animation has really helped with my thought process in storytelling. The amount of time it requires to create a couple of seconds of high quality animation is so time consuming; we have to really think about what we want before we begin. Also because I understood animation, I was able to obtain a job working in a post-production house as a VFX artist. I was able to use animation to do animatics or previsualizations for films as well. This was just a more visual way to show camera movement versus just working with storyboards alone. If you Google Previs on Youtube, you can find some great animations done for Hollywood movies.

ROK: Not to start getting onto stereotypes BUT Asian migrants tend to be very strict with their children, especially in terms of study. (Unless you have very liberal parents. Then you get the choice of being a doctor, lawyer or accountant). How did you end up at the Gnomon School of Vfx?

Gabe: Luckily for me I had very supportive parents and I sucked at studying so they really had no other choice but to let me do what I wanted. But seriously, if you love something you have to pursue it even if it means ruffling a few feathers. The hard part for me was figuring out what I loved, so I have to admit that I changed directions many times. I am blessed because my parents are super supportive and I know many people are not in that same situation.

ROK: Why did you decide to make The Pings as a picture book and not a film?

Gabe: Funny you should ask because I am actually working on a film animation for The Pings as we speak. However like I said the cost is so prohibitive, I really have to lock down how the film will look before we start otherwise it will just be wasted time and money. The book I feel would be a great way to start getting the story out to the world and would give people something tangible to hold and look at while we chip away at the film.

ROK: And the illustration style make it really easy to imagine this as a 3d animated film. What has the process been like working with your illustrator (Leslie)?

Gabe: Like most projects we started out with a script and some storyboards. Since we were trying to condense a complete story down into a few pages, we realized we needed to simplify the story for the age group we were going for. Something that was hopefully interesting enough for parents but simple enough for their babies to enjoy. But honestly Leslie is such an amazing artist by how she portrays emotions and colors she could of made anything look awesome. I just talk to her about some basic ideas and blocking of a scene (placement of characters, buildings, movement) and she would sketch me out a couple choices, which we can discuss and decide on before moving it to the coloring phase. She’s also so creative and she adds a whole new dimension to the idea with her intricate details, which I have never envisioned but love. If you look closely you can see a lot of those hidden details in the city scenes like the fire hydrant spilling water to the reflections its really quite amazing.

ROK: Finally, who is your favourite picture book writer?

Gabe: It really depends on what time frame we’re talking about but as a child, I loved the Berenstain Bears and had all of Jan and Stan Berenstain’s books. In my early teens however I’d have to say the works of Bill Watterson just because it was the right concept at the right time as I was coming into my own—and his thoughts and ideas really spurred my imagination. Then in my late teens, I fell in love with Laurence Yep’s books about dragons and magic. Probably also because he was a local San Francisco kid who grew up in Chinatown and this gave me the inspiration to write.


I’m not familiar with Laurence Yep’s work so had to do a Goodread search. Looks super fun. I have added it to my To Read list. Thank you so much for dropping by Gabe. The Pings is currently on Kickstarter.


If you like fun adventure stories with gorgeous illustrations and diverse characters, head over to their campaign and pledge your support.