Monday, 21 May 2012

For kids with imagination: WULFIE, the first book

“Once upon a time there was a little girl called Libby. Her family didn’t like her very much. She tried to be nice to everyone but it wasn’t much use.”
“You’re not telling it right.”
“Am too…”
“Are not! Should be ‘Once upon a time there was a Big Bad Wolf...’ Every good story has a scary start. You should start with Rex being eaten.”
“Once upon a time, a little girl called Libby bopped The Big Bad Wolf on the head with her notebook and told him to mind his own toenails.”
“If you’re going to be like that.”
“Like what?”
“All huffy and snooty and GIRLY.”
“This is my story Wulfie… You’re just in it.”
“Oh,” said Wulfie and shrank a bit. He did this when he was upset. Or sad. Or feeling unloved. It’s much easier to feel unloved if you can curl into a ball and fall asleep in someone’s pocket.

Despite stated intentions to work on a stage play - which sits in pieces on my kitchen table, promising to be funny - I have found myself drawn back into the world of WULFIE and his pal Libby, aged 8. It's a book for 5-8 year-olds, based on an animation series I developed, which was based on stories I made up for my own daughter when she was about 7.

I had already honed the first three chapters so that they were ready to go out but then I asked my sister and niece to try them out on my little great nephew. It is such a fantastic help if you can get people to read your work before you send it out. But based on initial comments (there was mention of a similarity in the writing to that of Roald Dahl to which I am clinging with glee), I decided, just in case he likes the first three chapters, I need to have the rest of it polished up too.

The next reader is in Canberra. Apparently, so long as it doesn't mention the slaughter of cows, it has to be an improvement on the last books he got!

Polishing, in the case of WULFIE means reading it aloud, pretending to be anywhere between the ages of five and eight. But that's not too hard. As plenty of my friends will attest, I haven't really ever grown up, not fully.

It also means having fun with language and image and rhythm, making sure it all fires along at a good pace and is playful to read. Not talking down to kids but making sure the story will carry them along and keep them turning pages.

I'm not sure of the beginning yet. I'm not even 100% sure I'm starting this series with the right story. But I am certain that it will be worth sending out when I'm done.

I hope!

Friday, 18 May 2012

I have finally finished rewriting my comedy with romantic aspirations, The Perfect Man....

Feels very strange not to have her sitting on my shoulder whispering strange and fearsome mutterings!

I'm wondering if, by including the word 'Perfect' in the title, I have added an unfortunate jinx to the script. Something to live up to that most of us can't.

I know that the rewrite was not going well at all while it's working title on my computer screen was 'Perfect'. I tore it apart, tore it apart some more, took all the characters out into their own individual files and tried to put it back together again. And again. And again. It was a case of five steps forward, then a pummel to the stomach and I was ten steps off to one side clutching a hairy monster of a sequence that wouldn't work. And feeling as if I was underwater. I could see how I wanted it to be.... I just couldn't work out the steps to get there.

Then I reverted to its original title, 'Sleep Tight Snow White' for the duration of the rewrite. On the computer screen, it was saved as simply 'Snow' and it became do-able again.

Now she has gone out to readers, who will hopefully have time to read and love it (yup, I'm not looking for much) and then I'll know how to make it better.

But for now, she's off my shoulders, I am trying not to think of her- it's hard, she's been trailing me for months, if not years - and I am feeling physically taller. It's odd. And it won't last. It'll only last till I get bogged down in the next rewrite of another script that is glaring at me from the shelf. Or I get feedback and try to make sense of it so I can work out how to make it better. Sob.

Which is why I'm turning my attention not to another script, not for a week or so, but back to my pre-teen book about my lovely little and occasionally huge-as-a-house purple wolf.

Happy scribblings.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

What Broadcasters (DON'T) Want... # 3

Since we all know the joys of getting notes we don't want on scripts that we want to be perfect, here - again from Alix Wiseman, Head of Sales and Acquisitions, Aardmann Animation who spoke at the Media Focus in Animation seminar last month - are the 'dislikes' she has come across.

1. Too many songs - they're expensive to dub.

2. Narrators - apparently French broadcasters hate narrators in animation

3. Fantasy-based shows. They want the shows to be "relatable".

This may be why a storyline I wrote for a series that was produced was rejected as being too culturally biased. I had been given the title of the episode which involved "... and the North Pole". I wrote a piece with Santa in it, only he'd moved to the South Pole because no-one loved him. When the central character finds him and tries to make things right, all her magic backfires because she's at the wrong pole. Magnetically.

So all her spells have the opposite (devastating/ comic/ chaotic) effect. But it wouldn't be acceptable in Asia or something; too culturally-specific.

4. Excessive violence in boy-skewed shows.

5. Anthropomorphic vehicle shows. Apparently there's a fatigue in the market.

6. Inappropriate content.

Here we come to p.c. gone mad. I developed something once where I was advised that poison could not be put out for a mouse in case some child watching tried to eat mouse poison. Or climb in a window. Or climb a tree. If you think about it in a positive or whiskey-fuelled mood, you could say it forces us to come up with something more brilliant/ creative/ inspired. But there are many other moods to have in between...

And here's the truly mad one:

7. Poo.

The American broadcasters will not accept the depiction of poo in an animated series. It cost Aardmann thousands to digitally remove every poo in their first series of Shaun The Sheep. (

The poo, she was told, was a deal breaker. Series 2, apparently, has no poo.

Not one.

Not even the whiff of a poo hiding behind a burlap sack.


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

What Broadcasters Want... part 2

Continuing the series of What Broadcasters Want...

...based on the presumption that if we know and if that knowledge is filed away like a freshly laundered sheet - the sort you only ever get in hotels - at the back of our effervescent and teeming brains, then maybe, just maybe, the next idea we come up with for a children's animation series will actually fit ALL the criteria and get onto the screen.

These gems are also from Alix Wiseman, Head of Sales and Acquisitions, Aardman Animation, talking at Media's event, Focus on Animation, on April 30th: -

What a broadcaster likes:
1. Publishing-based properties
2. Funny stuff
3. Gender neutral
4. Well-fleshed out characters
5. No dialogue (because dubbing is costly)
6. Strong home-market TV platform
7. Good home and international ratings
8. Compelling on-line strategy. (Ie kids will ow where to find it.)
9. Dubbed-episode/ pilot.

Who said it was difficult?

It's funny but I have a feeling that if I focussed too hard on these specific requirements, I might never come up with another idea. I think the best approach is to find that gem, play with it until it is a fully formed and wickedly imaginative idea, then hone it down a little into something that won't scare people off -- my original treatment for Punky back in 2007, for example, was deemed to have "too much going on" and therefore wasn't saleable/ appealing to animation producers/ commercial; it was a hard lesson -- and then believe in it until lots of other people do.

Yup. Easy!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

What are broadcasters looking for?

Attended a fantastic day in The Lighthouse, organised by Media last Monday (30th) called Focus on Animation.

Among the many gems - and I'll try to share more as the week goes on - was this, from the presentation by Alix Wiseman, Head of Sales & Acquisitions, Aardman Animation.

She asked the question, what are broadcasters looking for?

The answer:

"We’d like a vertically integrated 360 transmedia bluesky fish-out-of-water tentpole comedy show with a popping takeaway please..."

Hmm. Yup, we can all do that. Sure we can. It's just a matter of coming up with a brilliant idea and squeezing it though all the hoops and whining gurneys until it ticks all the boxes and dances on its two left feet. Probably to the Merengue. And makes us all millionaires.

Fortunately, she explained that all they really want is that they want is something that is :

"...Funny, commercial, unique, original and audiences should get the warm tingly feeling of viewer satisfaction at the end of every episode."

Same thing really, possibly without the Merengue. Probably with animals, ideally non-gender specific so the merchandise can fill the pink aisle and the blue aisle at the same time and make us multi-millionaires. Maybe adding in some catchy tunes - without words cos dubbing costs but more on that next time.

Coming up next:

The likes and dislikes of broadcasters considering your animation series... Again, according to Alix Wiseman. And other wise words!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Punky heads to Finland!

PUNKY, THE PHENOMENON OF...: Punky heads to Finland!: Finland, the fifth largest country in Western Europe, has become the latest territory to embrace PUNKY. . "Matkusta hyvin pikkuinen"... wh...