Andy native’s illustrations get ‘happy’ debut

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 23, 2013

Andalusia native Julie Taylor Allen had been looking for an opportunity to illustrate a children’s book for a long time.

“I thought one day, my work would be in libraries,” she said.



Her wish came true in a big way when more than five million copies of a book she illustrated were “prizes” in McDonalds happy meals.

The 28-page “Doddi the Dodo Goes to Orlando,” was distributed in Andalusia happy meals earlier this month.

Allen, who has studied art for years, said it was her favorite subject at Andalusia High School.

“It was pretty much the only class I liked at Andalusia High School,” she said, pausing. “It WAS the only class.”

Allen earned a bachelor’s degree at the College of Charleston, then completed a second bachelor’s degree at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, focusing on animation. She worked in New York as an animator for eight years, before her husband’s job moved them to Texas.

“There was no animation in Houston,” she said.

She began working in graphic design. When her children, Riley and Phillipa (Pippa) were born, she worked out of a studio in her home, and started a stationary business.

When the family moved to a Chicago suburb 10 years ago, Allen began studying children’s illustrations at the Chicago Art Institute, working on her portfolio and on her art in a serious way.

With a neighbor and friend, she started The Glendale Girls, a stationary business. The women market their products in the Chicago area, on Etsy, and at national greeting card shows.

“I do all kinds of illustrations for that,” she said.

Meanwhile, she was working on getting the attention of a children’s book publisher.

A friend is the creative director for the Leo Burnett agency, which handles marketing for McDonalds.

“We always talk creative stuff,” she said. “He was not in charge of the hiring, but he knew my work, and had me send it to art directors in charge of hiring for the McDonalds project.”

Originally, eight books were chosen, and Allen illustrated one of them. She illustrated it as a full-size book, with much creative license. While she knew she was working on a McDonalds project, she didn’t know exactly where it would go.

“McDonalds doesn’t do anything on a small scale,” she said.

After months of test marketing and meetings, a decision was made to use four books in happy meals, and Allen’s “Doddi,” was one of the four chosen.

“The printed 23 million books to distribute in two weeks,” Allen said. “So divide that by four, that was my number. Nobody ever publishes that many books. It was one of a kind, and it was very exciting! I couldn’t ask for better publicity.”

The campaign was designed to promote literacy, as most kids don’t have books in their homes, she said.

“I’m working a little project, talking with a gentleman now with a children’s illustration project. And then I am looking for more children’s books projects. I am doing that by marketing myself.

The traditional route to publishing for illustrators is through children’s publishing houses. Allen still markets herself to them. With the distribution of “Doddi,” she rebranded her personal web site with familiar images from the book, and is sending postcards and books to publishing houses.

Her children are also creative. Son Riley is a sophomore at Colombia College of Chicago and is a musician. Daughter, Pippa, is a junior in high school.

Allen’s personal web site is Her stationary line is marketed on Etsy under Glendale Girls.