Feature Pitch – Ben Bocquelet

I had always wanted it to be 2D, 3D and live action. In my mind that’s what makes the show distinctive. The Gorillaz videos were a big influence on me in animation school. I just loved the way they mixed their awesome designs with photos or films. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen animation mixed with live action though.

Windsor McCay had a show where he interacted with his cartoon dinosaur back in the 1900s and there have been landmark films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which blew my mind as a kid.

The technology now allows for this kind of approach on a series scale. It’s really exciting to be part of this, and also that Cartoon Network committed to making the show in mixed media, despite the challenge of the process.

It gives it a really unique look, which we hope, gives it an instant appeal. I also think the live action element adds to the scope of fantasy more than if the show were solely animation, by creating a possibility that the world might actually exist.

It excites the human mind to see the boundaries blurred between the real world and invented characters.

The Watterson’s’ house and the Robinsons’ houses were filmed in Vallejo, near San Francisco. It’s a place, which has the type of 1950s/1960s houses where you’d imagine a family sitcom to happen.

Ben Bocquelet [1]

In an interview Ben spoke about his influences and reasons for using mixed media and why he does it, it’s really interesting to see just how passionately he speaks about it and how it affects his art.

Ben hasn’t done a lot of other work – Gumball is his biggest and main success, but he is definitely one to watch for the future!

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I love this 3D ape/monkey character and how it works/looks with the 2D characters:

Mixed media films that have served as some inspiration in this project:

Augmented Reality – crazy awesome animation

Caveirão by Guilherme Marcondes

Gorillaz – Music videos

JUNK is the multi-award winning short film produced at London animation studio Th1ng by house director Kirk Hendry in association with the UK Film Council. [2011]

Hair despair – Student film from Freddie Elsom and Giedre Kaveckaite mixing 2D Flash animation and 3D Maya animation and models.

Award winning short film

An experiment to combine traditional animation and timelapse photography to tell a story.

Mixed media is commonplace in a lot of films – life action and CGI animation go hand in hand in big budget films, but the more mixier you get, the less there is! I think that this is something that is slowly changing – as artists and creators realise audiences are ready for more visual experiences and unlikely clashing styles can work cohesively if used effectively. It does NOT have to look like a mess! I think the above examples help to represent the versatility of mixing your medias!

I remember watching something that was a normal 2D animated show, and for comic relief a Sock Puppet is used for a random character that pops up – from what i remember it was very funny. But these kinds of things are not completely uncommon, the mixed media is used as an aside instead of for the main. I think it could have been stop-motion now, either way it was hilarious! I think there is a possibility to utilise this comic relief character idea for Mr Benn as well!

Mr Benn Animated Film Reboot Words:

MAGIC – DRAGONS – WIZARDS – KINGS – WONDER – COSTUMES – FANCY DRESS – HALLOWEEN – FAMILY – TOGETHER – ADVENTURE – CARTOON – FUNNY – CHARACTERS – TELEPORT – FANTASY – MEDIEVAL – GOOD VS EVIL – SHOPKEEPER – KNIGHTS

References

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Feature Pitch – Pitch

The Amazing world of Gumball was created by Ben Bocquelet for Cartoon Network, it is about a young cat (Gumball) and his fish brother (Darwin). But its not the story that interests me, it is the style, the design and the look of the animation. It is not your ordinary animated TV show..

One unique feature of the series is its lack of stylistic unity. Characters are designed, filmed, and animated using different styles and techniques (stylised traditional animation, puppetry, photo-realistic CGI, stop motion, Flash animation, live action, etc.) [1]

This is one of the main reasons i have chosen this animators style, it is modern and cartoony – but it is also open to so much by using all kinds of animation and mediums, certain characters can reflect that, or certain worlds the characters enter into can. I like the realistic looking environments and the 2D and 3D characters together -the success of Gumball has shown that audiences (especially ones aimed at the same as Mr Benn age-wise) are not bothered by the contrasting styles.

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I am going to be rebooting Mr Benn, an English children’s television series from the 1970’s, about a man from London who visits a fancy dress shop each episode, and then he exits through a magic door which takes him on an adventure (which like most children’s TV shows contains a moral – a lesson to be learnt and remember by the audience). Mr Benn’s animation in the 1970’s was really simple, less moving pictures and just pictures with narration over the top, but i am taking the idea from Mr Benn and using the Animation styles from The Amazing world of Gumball.

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The character design here is clearly very dated and in need to bringing up to date and making more visually appealing to audiences. Can he get away with still wearing a bowler hat in this day and age? I feel like he could, like James Bond or The Kingsman, they main character, the British gent; is so suave that he wears a bowler hat and suit when going to work, and he always carries a black umbrella. But he wears less formal attire when he is at home with the family.

Interesting things about Mr Benn:

  • Mr Benn was created by David McKee as children’s books.
  • In one of the original books Mr Benn dresses up as a convict in one of his adventures and encourages the inmates of the prison to decorate their cells. It was not made into a TV show as the BBC thought it was too controversial a topic for children.
  • In 2001 David McKee wrote a new story where Mr Benn becomes a gladiator.
  • The animation was narrated by Ray Brooks.
  • Mr Benn dressed up as a Gladiator, Cowboy, knight, Hunter, Clown, Balloonist, Wizard, Spaceman, Cook, Caveman, Zoo Keeper, Aladdin and a Pirate!
  • Mr Benn always takes a memento from everywhere he visits that he takes back home after his adventures.                                                                                                                        [2]
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The main location in the TV series, the costume shop with the magic door and magic costumes that transport Mr Benn to magical lands. It would be very important to the movie as well and a wonderful location filled with amazing things to see – a bit like a Mr Magoriums Wonder Emporium – a visual treat for the eyes (and its kinda magic).  
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Mr Benn ends up befriending a dragon when he is a knight – its always a happy ending with Mr Benn – lighthearted and moral story-lines, which makes sense with the demographic that watched it…

The intro for the animated series of Mr Benn shows the street that he lives on with the terraced houses and really gives an idea of location and time. The story for the film would have to be a little bit different than the television series, obviously, as they are made for much shorter length and with very few main characters. The movie would also have to have some conflict, a little bit more drama than the old animated show ever had.

This has some really good examples of the reasons why i will be using Ben Bocquelet’s style, it just works so well, looks so good and i thin it would work really well for Mr Benn.

Mr Benn is the perfect early animated TV show to reboot and make a film out of. Although it doesn’t have a huge cult following or anything, plenty of people fondly remember Mr Benn  – and i believe the is good enough to stand alone from its history and be interesting to new audiences. Think about it – A character that visits a costume shop and can then travel on adventures to other magical worlds! It has a very Dr Who feel really, and i think a travelling companion for Mr Benn would be good for the film version.

David McKee (Mr Benn creator) was asked some questions about what it was like to go back and make another Mr Benn book..

Easy? Not completely. When we visit old friends after some years apart, we see how they have aged and it shows us how we have aged. Mr Benn doesn’t age, but I do. To revisit him was to go back in my head to that point in my life when I made the films. A bit like finding myself at that age again. I think it disturbed one or two things in my mind. I did it with pleasure but also with some fear. [3]

A film was proposed for Mr Benn again – although it sounds like it was made with a more mature audience in mind (trying to cash in on that nostalgia money – which is one way to go, but the main audience for Mr Benn are children, and i believe they are the audience that should be targeted with this movie reboot..

Plans for a live-action feature based on David McKee’s 1971 animated children’s favourite were announced in early 1999. John Hannah was slated to star as the besuited, bowler-hatted occupant of 52 Festive Road, while Ben Kingsley was due to play the owner of the fancy dress shop whose changing room was a portal to adventure. The storyline was to chronicle Mr Benn’s search for lost love Monica McBride (Jane Horrocks), in what director Jevon O’Neill called “one man’s journey to fulfil his potential”.

But Mr Benn seemed doomed when the sponsoring UK Films Group collapsed. As if by magic, Erinfilm stepped into the breach in March 2000, promising a budget of £4 million. However, the green light was extinguished again in April 2001 and the project has since remained dormant.                                                                                                         [4]

I will be specifically adapting the first ever Mr Benn story – Red Knight, this is the synopsis for that:

In this very first episode, Mr Benn has been invited to a fancy-dress party. He dislikes parties, but enjoys dressing up, so he looks round the shops for a costume to wear, but everywhere he finds only ordinary everyday clothes. Turning into a small lane on his way home, Mr Benn comes across a costume shop where he chooses an outfit of red knight’s armour. Changing into the armour, Mr Benn passes through another door in the shop’s changing room and finds himself in another world. He stumbles upon a dragon, and at first thinks it is someone else in fancy dress. He soon realises his mistake. He learns that the dragon used to be the King’s pet, until an evil match-seller started a fire and made sure the dragon got the blame. Mr. Benn helps the dragon regain the King’s favour.                                   [2]
First ‘proper‘ Draft: Outline/Story Idea/Synopsis:

Mr Benn has a family now (unlike the source material) – a wife and two young kids (a boy and a girl) and he lives at 52 Festive road in London. Halloween is coming up and they are going to a big dress-up party, so they have to get some costumes, so Mr Benn takes his children to get some from a local costume shop that they drove by when they were lost the other day. Mrs Benn reminds Mr Benn that he must bring the children home in time for tea (I’m actually thinking about Hugh Laurie and Geena Davis, the parents in ‘Stuart Little’ when i think about their relationship dynamic and character).

The owner of the costume shop is a very strange man wearing a funny hat. The children try on costumes and  then go into the changing room and disappear – Mr Benn’s children are magically transported to another world and Mr Benn has to go after them even though he doesn’t fully understand the magic. Mr Benns is very worried for his children, but the shopkeeper is not so worried and explains it is a magic shop and when Mr Benn puts on costume he can travel to other worlds. Mr Benn is scared and annoyed (EMOTIONS) – did the shopkeeper put his children in danger? Mr Benn puts on a costume and goes after them! (The shop-owner is not evil – he just is mysterious and is allowing the characters to get into trouble and grow on their own  – so they learn a valuable lesson/ Mr Benn is spending too much time away from the family, working all the time (introduced at the beginning when he’s asked to go get costumes by the mom who is overrun and tired, he begrudgingly agrees, but over the course of the adventure he is closer to his kids and has a good relationship with them, he has also stopped caring about work more than anything and now his kids come first). This is the main lesson that he learns in the film.

He has to find his children, but hes just an ordinary working man? So he will have to step outside his comfort zone, for his family, which of course he will. The children were kidnapped and Mr Benn must rescue them, which he does – only when he has learnt his lesson does the shopkeeper magically return them back to the shop and congratulate them. They then leave without buying costumes, much closer and more together than they have ever been, they only want to go see mom and eat tea.

When Mr Benn finds himself in the fantasy land, there are dragons and magic. It turns out that the children have supposedly been kidnapped by a dragon, the same dragon that is destroying the kingdom – or so says the wizard. Mr Benn goes after the dragon alone, because all the bravest knights have disappeared when they went to fight it. Mr Benn is very scared and has to travel across the sea in a small boat, through a haunted forest where meets a funny ghost, and finally up the mountain to the dragons cave. He is ready to fight the dragon but learns that the dragon is not the problem, its the wizard! The dragon used to protect the kingdom but the wizard wanted the power for himself, Mr Benn finds all the knights that came for the dragon and his children and they go back to the castle on the dragons back to face the wizard. The wizard is powerful but they defeat him and he is thrown into jail. They hear a voice in the sky – the costume shopkeeper, and they find themselves transported back to the shop. The shopkeeper asks if they had a good time? Mr Benn just smiles and says he is sure they will be coming back soon for another adventure! The film ends with the family at home, all happier and together and lovely.

These days, my advice for anyone who wants to pitch scripts or ideas to studios is this:

Don’t pitch. Make it yourself then create an accompanying trans-media fan experience online. [8]

Pitching your idea is not always the easiest thing to do, for many different reasons, so planning and getting your pitch the way you want it is important. The quote above goes on to say you don’t make the whole thing, just enough, a short that introduces characters and stuff.

You are much more likely to get your project in front of an audience (and that audience would likely include industry folks) if you just make it yourself and get it out there.

I think this advice is great in theory, but pitching is not going to go away and sometimes we are pitching for things that we would not create on our own (business/corporate jobs etc).

If you end up with an original, innovative, engaging, quality project and about 1,000 true fans the studios will probably come to you. Just ask Axe Cop.                         [8]

As a fan of the Axe cop comics i knew it was discovered and are a big success story in part to their online following. The story is written by a kid and the comic artist and his kid brother sit down and come up with everything  then he draws it. Really if you make something, and then it becomes popular – you’re going to be onto a winner and its more likely a studio will produce it!

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So popular now there are action figures now! I think this alone highlights the great character design of Axe cop – seriously check it out if you haven’t its crazy awesome!

Something that should be remembered when writing the pitch is that the goal of every single screenplay and movie, novel, story, and ultimately every work of art is to elicit emotion from the audience. The art should move us emotionally in some way. When pitching you must provide the buyer with a positive emotional experience, and convince them that the story will create a bigger emotional response/experience. [9]

A list of key story elements that should be included in your pitch:

  • Protagonist/hero – Mr Benn
  • The hero’s compelling desire – To rescue his children
  • Location/settings – London high-street, costume shop, family terraced home, fantasy worlds.
  • The conflict – Losing his children to a magical world and having to travel through the unknown to rescue them.
  • Antecedents (previously successful films/novels that are similar in genre/ plot elements and or audience demographic – Is there a market for the film?   –  Chitty Chitty bang bang/ Finding Nemo/ The Incredibles/ Peter Pan/ Narnia.
  • Style – Mixed media elements, etc.
  • Target Audience/ Demographic – Family (young children to parents)

Character designs for Mr Benn and his children:

References

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Amazing_World_of_Gumball

[2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr_Benn

[3]http://web.archive.org/web/20020628131738/http://www.mrbenn.co.uk/news.html

[4]https://www.theguardian.com/film/2008/aug/13/1

[5]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-27536659

[6]http://chrisoatley.com/animation-pitch-pitfalls/

[7]http://chrisoatley.com/animation-pitch-bible/

[8]http://chrisoatley.com/2pitchnot2pitch/

[9]https://www.writersstore.com/the-8-steps-to-a-powerful-pitch/

 

 

Feature Pitch – Ideas

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Adventure Time

Adventure Time is an animation aimed at a fairly broad audience and is the classic story of a hero and a princess in a fantasy world. Its a story as old as time, but it really isn’t, Adventure time tells its own story using all our favourite classic character tropes and popular culture references. There is an episode (at least one) where all the characters genders are reversed, and really its a whole new world but its the same world. Funnily enough the dog (Jake) becomes a girl cat in the new world, so not just gender reversal, but also the classic enemy of a dog as well. Gender swapping main characters could work for another cartoon that i want to reboot – but so could swapping gender roles of characters -so the classic superhero who saves the day is a woman rescuing a man (although now fairly common as a thing now) there are more subtle ones, and also negative-ish ones as well.

Harvey Birdman, Attorney at law

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Harvey Birdman, Attorney at law is a character from a 1960’s TV series called Birdman and the Galaxy trio. The main character was reboot as an aging superhero who now practices law in the modern day – and they occasionally mention his crime fighting ways and arch nemesis’s in this future. Its a parody of its former self and plays on a lot of popular culture references, and features other golden age animated characters that come into the practice for Harvey’s help, which i think really fleshes out the animation, as i had never really heard of Harvey Birdman, but i have heard of a lot of the famous characters that appear on the show. Its as every Hanna Barbara cartoon character lives in the same world and time, and it can get pretty surreal actually – which allows the characters and stories to be more interesting and involving.

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I really like the ‘famous’ cartoon characters that feature in Harvey Birdman, they really help to make the cartoon more engaging and interesting as each episode you don’t know who its going to be and what problem they are going to have that Harvey will try to help them with. Perhaps i could reboot two cartoons into one cartoon?

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The Power Puff Girls

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The Power Puff Girls are three super hero children who save the world on a daily basis from evil bad guys like Mojo Jojo! They live with their scientist creator dad. A reboot could see them all grown up. Although i like the idea of rebooting them as they are in the regular world. They are actors who don’t have super powers, and the story is about life in the real world as child actors. The girls would still be seen as action heroes, on screen and also when they do incredible things in real life. It could be that when they are portrayed as being heroic in the real world its in a realistic and loving way, like sacrificing something they like to help someone  – just being good people. This would mean that they could be seen saving the world as action heroes, but also as more rounded and real people who in a world like ours, where none of us have powers, they are just decent people (which is rare enough and would be good role model stuff and stuff).

Topcat

Topcat is an animation about a gang of alley cats in New York, the leader is called Top Cat and he comes up with ingenious plans for the gang to get into trouble! Its a great set of characters that could be rebooted with a new series for a modern era.

The main character are the gang; Top Cat, Benny the Ball, Choo-Choo, Brain, Fancy-Fancy, Spook and Officer Charlie Dibble. Six members to the gang, Topcat the leader and five followers/henchmen! They are wise-cracking and smart animals who are down on their luck and figure out schemes that will make them rich or at the very least fill their bellies with food. its honest, but also cheeky, they sometimes go too far, seemingly, but its all in good fun and in classic cartoon fashion its all ok in the end. 

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Rebooted in the modern day – what are the differences? How does this translate? I guess their scams will be updated – and they will be more tech savvy? Although they were always very practical.

What could the gang do? They would all need to work together somehow, either as a load of lazy alley cats in modern day New York, hustling their way through life like the original. Or it would have to be some kind of Harvey Birdman style, where they now have jobs, whatever those jobs are… Perhaps they could just live together and all the characters have their own thing going on, like ‘Friends’ or ‘How i met your mother’ or something.

They could be a private eye organisation, it could be their latest in failed jobs/ companies that they make reference to now and again (like for example maybe ‘this never used to happen when we were a salon’. Topcat is still the leader still, and their clients could be unsure about using them as they appear somewhat dodgy (in a funny way) – because they are always hustling their own stuff as well. Anyway each episode a different character comes to them for help and they do what they can to help – investigating things and people, stealing things back from people (like a pet from an ex wife) and getting into trouble like that.

Feature Pitch

Reviving classic content and characters is very common in Hollywood at the moment and creating long running franchises a viable business model. Given the chance what property from the golden age of animation would you reboot and how would you go about it?

 

Task:

 

In the style of a comix artist / indy animator of your choice, design and write a pitch for an animated feature film aimed at a mature audience. The pitch should last no more than 5 minutes and should summate the story, the visual style and the context [market place] that the movie will be aimed at. 800 words maximum…

 

Objectives:

 

Learning to identify interpret and utilize a range of styles and sources is a useful skill that will enhance your range as a developing animation designer.

 

Suggested:

Gilbert Shelton: Fabulous Furry Freak Bros/Fat Freddy’s Cat

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I don’t really know what to say about this. The stop motion animation, taken from these dirty farscapesque cartoons is really interesting though.

John Kricfalusi: The Ren and Stimpy Show

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It came out in 1991 with a pretty fresh look, it has such an interesting style, breaking away from traditional stuff.

The Simpsons – Intro By Ren & Stimpy’s Creator John Kricfalusi

Here’s a look at the creator making an iconic Simpsons intro, where his style shines through.

Marc Craste: Jojo in the stars/Stuck on a Sunday/Varmints

JO JO IN THE STARS is a 12 minute story of love, self-sacrifice, and jealousy played out against a black and white world that is both nightmarish and hauntingly beautiful.

(BAFTA award winning)

From the description:

Director Marc Craste
Producer Sue Goffe
Produced by Studio AKA

AWARDS:
BAFTA 2004 Winner, Best Short Animated Film
Cartoon D’or 2005 Winner of Cartoon D’Or 2005
Clermont Ferrand 2004 2004 Best Short Animated film
Sicaf 2004 2004 Short Film Grand Prize
Bradford Animation Festival 2004 Grand Prix
Brief Encounters – Bristol 2004 Best of British
Aspen Shortsfest 2004 Special Jury Prize
IFCT 2007 Award for Most Innovative Animation

This is a very interesting animation style, all in blacks, whites and greys, with very original character designs. It was Marc Craste’s debut film, interesting to note the use of ‘title cards’ which use text to move the story along and transmit information to the audience.

Here are some more possibilities that could be rebooted for this project..

  • The clangers – 1969

A classic British stop motion animation. (actually would the wombles be another stop motion animation that could be rebooted?)

  • Top Cat – 1961

A fantastic Hanna Barbera cartoon with brilliant characters with a fantastic group dynamic.

  • UPA (Gerald McBoing Boing) produced thirty-eight films from 1948 to 1959, pioneering the use of limited animation.

Jolly frolics contained:

Robin Hoodlum (1948)

  • The fox and the crow

These two characters starred in several funny animal comic books published by DC comics, from the 1940s well into the 1960s.

They even had a cameo in who framed roger rabbit which was cut for some reason..

The Fox and the Crow are a pair of anthropomorphic cartoon characters created by Frank Tashlin for the Screen Gems studio. The characters, the refined but gullible Fauntleroy Fox and the streetwise Crawford Crow, appeared in a series of animated short subjects released by Screen Gems through its parent company, Columbia Pictures, and were Screen Gems’ most popular characters.

  • Space Ghost

Another Hanna Barbera cartoon that became popular during the golden age of animation, it had a reboot in the 80’s and the 90’s so its probably due for one soon. I really like Space Ghost and i think a remake that follows something like Harvey Birdman would be great- not the same audience or humour as original cartoon, but using the same characters and info (loosely).