An old Ford tractor on a Lexington horse farm helped inspire best-selling children’s author and illustrator Loren Long to create Otis, a kindhearted little tractor who has starred in a series of picture books.
Now, Otis has his own animated television show.
“I’m very proud the character I created that models kindness and empathy in my Otis books will have his own television show, ‘Get Rolling with Otis,’ on Apple TV+,” Long said in a UKNow news story.
Long, who grew up in Lexington and graduated from Lafayette High School and the University of Kentucky, was an executive producer for the show, along with others.
Eight episodes of “Get Rolling with Otis” were made available for streaming on Apple TV+ Friday.
The series, from 9 Story Media Group and Brown Bag Films, follows Otis, voiced by Griffin Robert Faulkner, as he helps out his animal and vehicle friends on Long Hill Dairy Farm.
Long said in a 2019 interview that he modeled Otis after a tractor on Walnut Hall Stud Farm, where he worked a few summers during college, weed-eating, mowing and baling hay.
“There was a little tractor we all got to take turns driving. And it was a Ford. So, the front end of it inspired Otis. I made the decision to make him have a single wheel on the front as opposed to the two wheels, and I named Otis after my favorite character from ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ — Otis Campbell,” Long told UKNow. “I just thought it was such a great name for a hard-working character — loves his country, loves to work hard and play hard. I just thought Otis the Tractor just had a ring to it.”
Aside from writing and illustrating the Otis books, Long is a sought-after illustrator who has provided art for children’s books by President Barack Obama, Madonna and others.
His newest release is “Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem,” written by poet and activist Amanda Gorman, who earned national recognition with her appearance at President Biden’s inauguration.
In a short video shared by Penguin Kids, Gorman said that she knew from the moment she first saw Long’s work that “he was the artist for the job.”
“’Change Sings’ is a celebration of hope and light and dreaming, and I knew that I needed an artist that could bring all of that energy and spirit to life,” she said. “...He brings so much color and life and inspiration to every page.”