Thursday, October 25, 2007

Kit and Kerboot to Jelly Jym

I got into animation because I was looking for a way to make an animated series idea I had had while being an at home Mum with a couple of little kids. I was watching programmes like Thomas the Tank Engine, Maisy, Teletubbies and Bob the Builder and thought hey I could come up with a way of putting science concepts into a kids series. I came up with Kit and Kerboot - Kit is a little kid who likes investigating his/her surroundings and has a boot as a comforter. A boot? yeah well I had this old pair of shoes that were starting to split at the seams and started to get a face.... Anyway kids choose all sorts of things to be there go everywhere with them item and Kit chose a boot! In a Calvin and Hobbes type way Kit talks to her boot and the boot - Kerboot replies in a caring fussy grandfatherly way. But Kerboot usually ends up the fall guy when Kit needs a vital piece of equipment in some experiment she conceives.

Anyway one day I saw a small add in the local newspaper calling out for people who wanted to get involved in animation (CADSA at the FTI) and as I had experience in television production and puppets (from previously writing puppet shows) I got in. I did not get to make my Kit and Kerboot idea for almost three years when after working on the Adventures of Duncan Rat and making one episode of Jelly Jym, all as part of CADSA, I finally had the opportunity to use it. I had found people who would realise it for me, Christian Clegg, Shannon Li and Ian Tregonning. I put it in Jelly Jym episode two - Bubbles. It is now an interstitial length... hopefully inside or outside of Jelly Jym it will get more episodes!?

Whatever happens to Kit and Kerboot it was the first in the line of many ideas that relaunched my interest in making TV but now I came at it with new knowledge and passion for early childhood education and entertainment.

Jelly Jym is a half hour show which is a mixture of a presenter and two puppets, little sequences of real kids doing things and short animated stories. The show has a fresh approach to preschool programming. It uses all the tried and tested techniques of songs and activity modeling and stories but it ventures to do something little kids also love doing; investigating and experimenting. Kids that have seen it - love it and watch it time and again and ask for more.

Jelly Jym is a half hour show but second time around I also split it into five lots of five minutes as well as a half hour - so a broadcaster could (and did) show one each day of the week and the half hour on the saturday. (This episode won an Antennae award.) The five minute format also gives a handy internet sized episode. And even each 5 minutes would break down again into smaller packages like the animations, the songs and the explanations.

Science is best done for real by little kids so I want Jelly Jym to be inspirational for the kids, putting ideas of things to try and concept seeds in their head. Jelly Jym also puts science into story, so making it more accessible. Plus I want to provide something for teachers and parents to draw upon to help them do early science with kids. Would you like to see more?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rainbow Dragons 1

The project I am currently concentrating time on is The Rainbow Dragons. I think it has real potential to be a ground breaking, entertaining, educational and even commercial. The Rainbow Dragons could be many things but I think the core of the project is the interactive stories, toys and computer games. All these components I feel are inter-related and therefore should come together - but being realistic they could be developed one at a time - but which first?? I am exploring all the options like- what funding might be available, who might want to get on board and be part of it.

I had the opportunity to develop the CGi at the Animation Centre at the FTI through the Key Frame programme at the start of 2006. I got teamed up with two great guys Dave Ronnert and Bryce Jones who worked incredibly hard over just three months to realise my designs and concepts and do some awesome animations. The wonderful composer and percussion guru David Pye created sounds for the Oobly Dooblies, Fijity Wiks and Scatterbats and wrote (and sung) the theme tune.

Chris Hunt made a promo for the interactive stories and also laid out a treatment for the project. As some time has passed since then, some new ideas of how to progress it have bubbled up making this treatment a little out of date but if you want to take a look email me on

The Rainbow Dragons are Goo, Rhomby and Tina. Basically equivalent to five year old kids. They do the sort of things five year old kids do, like baking cakes or playing tag and come across the same problems such as how to measure ingredients or to decide who has won a game. In the photo at the top they are being surprised by the Scatterbats which are a chaos causing whirlwind akin to baby siblings or parents on the tidy up. Rhomby is a 'steady eddy' - ponderous, cautious, sensible but also playful and determined. He occasionally accidentally breathes fire which has a tendency to get everyones attention. Rhomby has smiling and grimacing Fijity Wiks (aka shapes that tesselate) in his hands that can be called out to help deal with problems of a spatial nature.

Tina has 'ants in her pants' and is highly excitable and silly but has flashes of pure inspirational genius.

Tina has a pouch full of helpful Oobly Dooblies (aka numbers) that bounce and creep and beep and squeak into action to illustrate number in action. There are all sorts of games and programmes about counting and sums but Rainbow Dragons really tries to help kids build a strong conceptual understanding of number instead of just the abililty to count (recite words in order!) The Oobly Dooblies all have a different texture, sound, movement, colour and size to appeal to different sorts of learners. The plan is to have these for real in kids hands when they are watching stories. The kids can then choose to 'be' an Oobly Doobly and get right inside the problem solving. When the kids then hop onto the computer and get into the virtual world to play games, they can customise their own set of Oobly Dooblies (unlimited number) with hats, spines, feet, eyes, tentacles and so on.

I am going to SPAA fringe in Sydney at the end of this week and I have had a T-shirt printed up with half a customised set of Oobly Dooblies and the words "What are your Oobly Dooblies called?" There is so much snigger snigger stuff in writing for preschoolers - if you can't beat it, use it! I will let you know how it goes!

And Goo - I haven't forgotten him - he is the incisive and proactive one the plus or minus or multiplication action in a sum. Yes he is a little bossy and a bit of a trophy collector ie everything they do or make is his, but they wouldn't get anywhere without him. Here is Goo in another one of the four uncluttered locations full of space for action and problem solving.


I am starting this blog (finally after a few years of thinking about it!) to connect with others out there who may be interested in the same thing as me - that is educating and entertaining young kids about science and maths through video, TV and interactive media.
YOU, reading this, may be a teacher or parent looking for ideas to inspire and help your kids or you may want to invest (your time, energy, ideas or money) in my projects!? Either way, you are most welcome. This first blog is by way of introduction......

Here I am in the picture with my often times co-conspirator the multi talented Ian Tregonning (crouching.) We were filming at Scitech Discovery Centre in Perth, Western Australia. We were filming in a puppet set that I conceptually designed a long time ago now when I worked there writing and performing Science shows and dabbling in the exhibit planning side of things (loved that.) They are still in use at Scitech so I used them in my Jelly Jym TV programmes which present and model early science to young children using puppets, real people and animations. Behind the camera lens is my other "wouldn't have been able to do anything without" man, Chris Hunt - see picture below of us all, with our Antennae award for Best Children's Programme for Jelly Jym episode Bubbles.

Of course I have worked with heaps of really talented animators, TV crews and film makers but I can't mention everyone right now. I have made two half hour Jelly Jym episodes through the CADSA programme at the Animation Centre at the Film and Television Institute in Western Australia.

The CADSA programme is now called Key Frame which is the scheme that I developed my Rainbow Dragons project under.
I also made a short film through the FTI's Raw Nerve scheme - this is also educational entertainment, a docu-drama of sorts combining live action drama with animated docu-drama re-enactments (yeah really!) This film is probably for bigger kids (6-12 years) than what I mostly cater for which is 3-8 year olds.

I currently have a submission for a LINK grant in at the FTI and that is for a short stop motion drama for kids which centres around an Elf and a character loosely based on myself and a science centre. Hopefully I will post more on that including how a science communicator is putting elves in stories!

I didn't just jump into making TV programmes - way back I learnt production in sports TV production in England (which is where I was born and bought up along with my seven brothers!) I ended up in Western Australia when I married a Perth boy, software programmer and outdoor adventurer, Rob Wall. I have also made educational and corporate programmes for West One Television which is part of the Education and Training department in Western Australia.

I noticed lately (and you may have done too?) how my life in Western Australia seems to have certain focal points to which I keep returning; Scitech Discovery Centre, the FTI and lately the Innovation Centre. I entered my Rainbow Dragons project in the WA Inventor of the Year competition run through the Innovation centre. I didn't get into the finals but I did get the opportunity to do a business course aimed at me make the most of my innovation, which I certainly hope to do. Here are the rainbow dragons pictured below, Rhomby Tina and Goo. Young kids will be entertained as well as developing strong mental maths foundations while playing with Rainbow Dragons interactive stories, toys and computer games or at least they will be able to when I get the funding to make the project. My daughter Kira (the second of four children) said "Oh Mum I SO want you to be able to put the Rainbow Dragons on the computer." I SO agree with her.
I am working on the Rainbow Dragons pilot script which I started through an animation writing course done through Skype with writer and teacher Jymn Magon in California, which was incidentally at the Innovation centre but was in fact organised by WAnimate in association with ScreenWest and AWG. WAnimate is the West Australian Animation Association of which I am a co-founder and secretary.

So there is my first blog by way of introduction to me and what this blog might be all about. I will be back shortly to post video after I have entered the world of video sharing sites!?