|Q Pootle 5 by Blue Zoo|
The series was based on books by writer and illustrator Nick Butterworth, who was looking for a production house to bring his hand-drawn characters to life. Nick came in just as Blue Zoo had begun looking for children’s book properties - so the timing was perfect for both partners.
To get started, and to show potential broadcasters that they were serious, Blue Zoo made a fully animated teaser, which they took to Cartoon Forum in 2009, to pitch their idea in front of European broadcasters and distributors. At this point of course they had to spend their own money, in order to get the project off the ground - development of this sort is always a risky enterprise.
|Cartoon Forum - the place to pitch animated TV series|
The key to the cast is that they are all strongly contrasting characters. The stories are about the everyday things they get up to; in effect they are kids pretending to be adults.
|Small black eyes are a challenge for eye expressions|
|British Leyland Austin Cambridge. Photo: Wikipedia|
To render it they used Mental Ray, using Final Gather. They had a number of difficulties, especially aliasing problems with the grasses.
The production is all made in the UK in London, there is no outsourcing to Asia. One advantage of this is great communication between the departments - nothing gets lost in translation. They had a very diverse cast, which they were able to record ensemble in the sound booth in Soho - which really helped to get a great performance from the voice talent.
|Redboard - storyboards and 3D previs combined into one process|
In terms of the overall pipeline, they had three animation teams going at once. At the top of the pyramid was the director, below him three animation directors (one for each team) and three post production supervisors to oversee the technical process.
At the end of the talk I asked a few questions, such as how much work was each animator asked to produce every week? They had five animators on each show, working over 3 weeks to produce the whole episode. Each episode is ten minutes long, so that's two minutes per animator. That works out at around 40 seconds a week per animator, or 8 seconds a day. That is a ton of work. But, on the plus side, with smaller teams, you get more ownership by each individual artist. And, frankly, we're lucky these jobs are staying in the UK, and not going overseas.
(Editor's note: For more on Blue gfx, check out our post here. Also, to see more about Blue Zoo, click here. To read about how you might pitch a TV series at Cartoon Forum, read this article, and for the equivalent event to pitch movie ideas at Cartoon Movie, see this post. )