Buddy the Manatee was created by me, Tim Thomas, in early 1991 just after my wife Terri and I had returned from a snorkeling trip at Crystal River, FL.
He was not Buddy at that time but just a manatee. Terri my wife had a Shar Pie dog named Coco and it was a walking cartoon that I had drawn many times. Coco reminded me of the manatees and I so I put a large flat tail on her instead of hind legs, fattened her up a bit and gave her front flippers. Wallah! - A Manatee!
My first real drawing of the manatee was for a get well card I sent to Save the Manatee Club after witnessing a manatee rescue.
The director of Save the Manatee asked me to do a Christmas magazine ad using my manatee and I did; the debut of my manatee to the public. He was draw holding a wreath and wearing a Santa hat.
Over the years I have done illustrations of Buddy for the Save the Manatee Club.
In 1994, I decided to take the Christmas manatee idea one step further and did a coloring book of the manatee.
I wrote a story to the cadence of 'Twas the night before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore, that begged the question; What would a Manatee ask Santa for for Christmas? The story depicted the everyday plight and dangers Florida Manatees must endure to survive and boasted a Santa Claus in a Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts on a Florida beach. The book was self-published as a single-color, paperback book and entitled,
A Manatee Christmas.
Manatees are killed or are horribly wounded by boat collisions. So, in 2000 I started working on another book that depicted a manatee becoming injured, rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Manatees are big grey animals with little color, so I added a brightly colored stuffed bear to one of my illustrations and it was an instant success to my young critiques. My son had a stuffed animal at the time he called 'his buddy' so I named the bear Buddy and the manatee Lucky. Lucky Manatee didn't work so I swapped their names and Buddy Manatee was thus named!
Buddy Manatee sold many copies and was sold out in 2012.
Buddy Manatee was made into Christmas Cards, a Christmas Ornament, a Beach Chair, T Shirts, Towels, Mouse Pads and iPhone Covers. Every morning I still drink my coffee in my Buddy Manatee Coffee Mug!
In 2004 I was able to republish my first book, A Manatee Christmas, as a 32 page hardcover book.
In 2009, I donated the use of Buddy to be used on signs sponsored by the Save the Manatee Club and the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. I created the artwork for the public awareness sign aimed to teach Florida's residents and visitors of all ages how to behave responsibly when manatees are near, and to help safeguard the endangered marine mammals from harm.
It was an honor and privilege to have Buddy Manatee help promote the efforts to protect the manatees.
Today I draw Buddy for fun and post him on the web and Facebook. Many of the designs are posted to ZAZZLE and used on an assortment of products.
One day I hope to see Buddy as a 3D Animated Film.
I have already completed the Screenplay.