A creative thinker was so inspired by her daughter’s vivid imagination during time spent as a stay-at-home mum that she turned her thoughts into a series of ‘cheeky monster’ book characters.
Doing everything from disco dancing to scientific exploring, Anna Breese-Davies’ quirky monsters were dreamed up when she left a brand development job with Disney after 12 years and moved to her husband Robin’s hometown in Wales’ Cambrian Mountains, where they started a family.
Despite being a full-time mum to Flori, now seven, for three years, working in marketing on brands including Mickey Mouse, Disney Princesses, Marvel, Star Wars and The Muppets meant Anna’s finely turned brain soon translated her daughter’s endearing play into money-spinning characters.
Anna, 42, who also co-owns The Entertainment Department – a business providing bespoke entertainment for events – with Robin, 44, run from their farm near Trefeglwys, said: “All the monster characters were inspired by different things Flori said and did.
“I tried to see the world through her eyes and the Cheeky Monsters are different parts of that.”
During the Covid lockdowns, Anna went into full-on creative mode, launching a YouTube channel and introducing the world to five monsters – Spike, Rocky, Violet, Drago and Glitter – who is non-binary – who between them make up the Cheeky Monsters series.
Explaining her transition from Disney supremo, after leaving in 2014, to full-time mum, then entertainment company boss and now also to author, she said: “After 12 years at Disney I went on sabbatical, which turned into maternity leave, which was the point when my life really changed.
“We jumped in with both feet, moved from London to rural Wales, bought a puppy and had a baby.
“It was fantastic but I started to realise that I really missed working and the books were the restart I needed.”
She added: “I learned a lot from Disney, but I wanted to make sure that my characters weren’t reminiscent of Disney at all.
“I wanted them to stand out on their own and I think I’ve achieved that.”
Being a full-time mum for three years provided Anna with plenty of material for her next creative venture.
She said: “As a mum of a then-preschooler, I wanted to be involved in playtime with her and help her to develop her mind.
“Kids are so imaginative, they really believe in their make-believe worlds so, watching her play, I started to get inspired.
“I remember driving around the hills in Wales and looking in my rear-view mirror to see Flori in the back seat pretending to drive, too. That’s where the idea for my Rocky Road Racer monster came from.”
She added: “Violet, the purple monster, was created in honour of Flori’s favourite colour, purple.
“Glitter is a monster who came from a rainy day we had at home. We put a little glitterball plug into the wall and our living room lit up. I thought to myself, ‘What a fabulous monster Glitter would be.’
“He’s a really joyful character, who loves to disco dance.”
Anna already had a pretty good idea of what she wanted for the monster series when the pandemic struck.
She said: “I had these ideas for a monster series and then we found ourselves in this crazy world of Covid.
“With everything going on in the world and everyone stuck at home looking for ways to entertain their kids, I decided it was time to launch the collection with our own website and YouTube channel.”
While the Cheeky Monsters series is mostly only available online, Anna arranged with her local bookstore to stock some of the books.
She said: “I took Flori down to see them in the shop. They’d put one of the books in the window and when she saw it, her eyes lit up.
“She threw her arms around me and told me she was really proud of me.”
She added: “It was such a special moment, because the books were ultimately made for her.
“I think for her to see them in a physical shop made it all real for her.”
While, at first, she created the monsters to entertain Flori, the brand has taken off and has become her new sideline, alongside the business she runs with her husband.
She said: “The idea is that Cheeky Monsters is an inclusive brand for everyone. The premise is that everyone has a Cheeky Monster and that should be celebrated.
“Flori has such a vivid imagination and the most important thing is that children are encouraged to use their imagination, be silly, and cheeky in the best sense of the word and to have fun.
“Looking after our world is also a key focus for Cheeky Monsters, who have a ‘tidy up parade’ and go litter collecting in the park. “Naughty litter bugs” are the nemesis of the Cheeky Monsters.”
She added: “We packed the website full of free games and activities and each storybook ends with a prompt to getting creative at home, giving instructions for things like how to build a bug hotel or a rocket ship.
“You can enjoy the YouTube channel for free or you can buy a book, which is £6.99, and for a book and soft cuddly monster toy set, it is £21.98.
“The whole point is that we should nurture our children’s creativity and curiosity. I’m really proud of the series and, more importantly, so is Flori!”
For more information, visit: mycheekymonsters.com