Internet cat videos – you’re probably guilty of watching them a few times in your life. Perhaps, you’ve even forwarded a few of them to your friends. After all, who can resist watching the adorable fur balls as they lunge at unfathomable speed after cat toys, fall off from bookshelves or TV sets, cuddle with dogs or make almost human-like sounds? Often thought as humorous or entertaining, these videos have established a community of their own, from cat lovers to office workers looking for brief relaxation.

Filmmakers Andy Capper and Juliette Eisner (this is Eisner’s first feature film), who both work at VICE, sensed that there was a story to tell here, and not just one of the Internet cat videos phenomenon, but also of one very special house cat and her endearing owner: Lil Bub and Mike. And so, they made a trip to the Internet Cat Video Film Festival in Minneapolis, and from there they discovered the wide-eyed Lil Bub, with a quirky personality and a heartwarming story to match. Lil Bub is what is called a “perma-kitten,” meaning she was born with several genetic mutations which caused dwarfism, polydactylism and a disformed lower jaw — with no teeth having ever grown in (don’t worry, according to her owner, she doesn’t really have any trouble eating!), her tongue is usually visible, as if she were sticking it out. Moreover, she has trouble walking around since she has extra toes and 22 claws; therefore, as shown in the Lil Bub & Friendz feature documentary, which premiered at The Tribeca Film Festival last week and won the Tribeca Online Festival Best Feature Film award, Mike carries her on his back, helping her get around and discover the outside world like a regular cat would.

If you’ve never heard of Lil Bub before, you might just be living in a small bubble, because according to Eisner and Lil Bub & Friendz, she has quite the following, with nearly 133,000 followers on Facebook, 4,154,647 video views on YouTube, a Lil Bub Web site, and a Lil Bub book due out in September 2013. Therefore, in quite a literal sense, you might say that Lil Bub is a celebrity. In fact, during various portions of the documentary, the topic of Internet cat videos is described as a pop culture sensation, with the animals being the icons.

Lil Bub & Friendz is as much the inspiring story of one cat that touched and changed the lives of many, but also the story of humans and their love and fascination with these loveable, purring creatures. Though we couldn’t very well ask Lil Bub for an interview, taking time out of their hectic schedules, both Eisner and Capper spoke with GALO about the Internet Cat Video Film Festival in Minneapolis, their perception of Lil Bub and Mike, and what comes next after the Tribeca Film Festival.

GALO: According to your biography in the press kit, you have a great appreciation for cats and have even spearheaded VICE’s Fashion Cats book project. First of all, do you yourself watch Internet cat videos?

Juliette Eisner: It was one of my first projects. They understood that I could help them out a little bit and [said I] could take the lead on Fashion Cats.

They did pretty well. We sold a bunch of copies — they were in Urban Outfitters nationwide.

In terms of watching the videos, not really at first. But after going to that Internet Cat Video Festival that you see us visit in the film, it showed us how much people loved it and how big a phenomenon it is.

GALO: And was the idea for this documentary in the larger scheme of things yours?

JE: I originally had asked Andy to come to the Internet Cat Video Festival with me, then Andy helped structure that story.

GALO: Prior to your film, I actually hadn’t heard of the Internet Cat Video Festival. What did you think of the festival itself as an observer and of the people who attended the festival? Did anything end up surprising you?

JE: [Laughs] It was definitely shocking. At the same time, I was expecting that there would be a lot of cat people there but not in that number and size (a big quantity), and, you know, people were bringing their cats and carrying them as if they were people. It definitely shows the depth of the craze.

GALO: Throughout the documentary, there are various moments in which the point that these cats like Lil Bub are thought of as celebrities is stressed, even suggesting that real-life cats from Internet videos have become icons instead of those of the past like Hello Kitty (they even have their own talent agent representing them!). Can you tell us a little more about this and what your take on it is? Personally, I was surprised to see how many fans some of these cats have!

JE: I think that these cats are becoming the new kind of pop culture icons or symbols in our world. Nyan cat is selling all of these toys, similar to the Hello Kitty revolution. People are using the Internet for leverage and visibility more and more.

GALO: Watching Mike, I found myself thinking that through his cat he is meeting lots and lots of diverse people from across the nation. Do you think that some of these people use their pets to bring themselves closer to others – a sense of forming a community? What did you notice about this trend when filming the documentary?

JE: Cat videos are for the most part watched on a computer, in the comfort of your own home. But with the festival, for instance, with all the people coming together and enjoying the same program and type of entertainment, it shows how well cat videos do in an open community.

GALO: At one point in the documentary it is said that people use cats as a canvas to express themselves with — at which point the film shows people dressing cats up in clothes or playing with them, as well as referring to a cat’s personality. Would you say that this film is as much a story about cats as it is about humans?

JE: The movie is a story of a relationship between a pet and an owner. People can relate to it because anyone who has ever had a pet knows what it feels like to love your animal.

GALO: Was it unusual at all for you to see Mike carrying Lil Bub around on his back?

JE: She is so calm — we got used to it very fast.

At this point in the interview, Eisner proceeded to tell me that when Mike would walk around with Lil Bub outside, people would often crowd around and stop on their merry way just to catch a glimpse of her.

GALO: You got to spend an ample amount of time with Mike and Lil Bub while filming this documentary. What was your perception of each during your first meeting and then as you got to know their story better during your adventures together?

JE: Prior to meeting Lil Bub and Mike, I had no idea that she was so special. Andy and I both very much wanted to continue documenting her story after first meeting her. We knew she was an inspiration to many.

During the interview Eisner mentioned that Lil Bub even receives her own e-mail fan mail, often 1,000 e-mails a day, with people thanking her for helping them through tough times in their lives.

GALO: I heard that Lil Bub was in town for the premiere. Can you tell us a little bit about that – perhaps people’s reactions to her as well as how Lil Bub is taking it?

JE: She was walking the Red Carpet! I think we were all surprised by how adorable she was on the Red Carpet.

GALO: The film also has some interesting interludes throughout with Lil Bub riding a spaceship in one instance, almost making one think that cats are invading the planet sort of thing. Not to mention all the diverse music choices throughout…What was the purpose of these during the film? Were they there for comic relief/entertainment or for something else?

Andy Capper: We kept hearing how terrific the cat videos were and we thought we’d make a crazy example of the Internet cat videos, like putting Lil Bub in a spaceship and have her bob around. You know, we keep getting questions on why we had such an interest in this phenomenon, and we tell them that it’s because it makes people feel good. If it makes people laugh then that’s awesome. On another note, people seem to project their feelings onto the cats.

GALO: What do you hope that viewers will take away from this documentary?

AC: There were around 5,000 people at the Tribeca premiere screening last night and they were laughing every 10 seconds. People were crying as well. It is a very emotional movie. We basically want people to be touched.

GALO: And do you think there is more to be explored on this topic of the cat video phenomenon? Perhaps, something VICE might consider doing as a series, or even following up on the Lil Bub story in the future.

AC: We’re currently in negotiations about making a sequel. We’re going to continue it in one shape or form. We love the cat. She’s become a big part of our lives that you have to continue [with it].

Lil Bub & Friendz opened at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 18, with its last public screening taking place on April 28 at 10:30 p.m. at the Clearview Cinemas Chelsea Theatre (located at 260 West 23rd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues). You can also watch the documentary online at

Featured image: Lil Bub visits a cat sanctuary in Indiana. Photo Credit: Danilo Parra.

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