Mogu is a big, gentle, timid monster, who loves nature; Perol is a small, charming, explosive creature with a passion for cuddles and adventure. Together, they invite us to share in the joy, color, and creativity of their day-to-day life on the marvelous little island of Mori Mori!
Mogu & Perol
Director: Goulwen Merret
Authors: Marianne Barbier and Cédric Guarner (Original author: Tsuneo Goda, dwarf studios)
Scriptwriters: Mathilde Arnaud and Vincent Souchon (Adaptation from Mogu & Perol directed by Tsuneo Goda, dwarf studios)
Main Producer: David Sauerwein (Zephyr Animation, France)
Co-Producer: Yuriko Okada (dwarf studios, Japan)
Format: 52 X 7’
Target audience: Pre-school 2-4
Techniques: Stop-motion / 3D digital
Mogu & Perol is a universal stop-motion animation TV series for a pre-school audience, based on an animated short film of the same title directed by Tsuneo Goda and developed by dwarf studios, a leading stop-motion studio in Japan. The project was pitched at Cartoon Forum 2022, catching the attention of the hall filled with animation professionals.
It will depict fun short stories of clear messages for pre-school children featuring cute original creatures in a fascinating worldview of the story’s universe. The characters’ variety of experiences that leads them to their self-discovery and awareness of others will be shared with the audience through the stories centering on cooking, food and more.
To find out the story behind this exciting French and Japanese co-producing stop-motion TV series, we interviewed Tsuneo Goda, the director of the original animated short, David Sauerwein, the main producer of the animation series project, and Yuriko Okada, a producer from dwarf studios.
Interview with Tsuneo Goda
Hideki Nagaishi (HN): I would like to hear about the original short film. What kind of story is it? And where did the initial idea of the story and characters come from?
Tsuneo Goda: I wanted to create something that children would enjoy.
It started with an inspiration I got from my then 4 year old niece, with whom I had dinner together. She was so engrossed in her meal that neither I nor her family was in sight. Watching her made me kind of happy, and I thought that having good food is a very happy thing, and from there I created the story and characters.
The story is about Mogu, a great cook, and Perol, a foodie who can’t cook, and through eating, they realize what they are missing in each other.
HN: During the pitch at Cartoon Forum 2022, I saw a new character you designed for this new animation series project. I’m curious about how you are involved in this project. Could you please let us know about that?
Tsuneo Goda: I am involved with APC/Zephyr discussing ideas about the story and designing additional characters for the series.
HN: In addition to the previous question, could you please let us know about the things you especially take care in terms of your creative contribution to the new series?
Tsuneo Goda: We want to deliver what children can truly enjoy. I believe we share this hope across borders.
I am hoping we can create something new and different by nurturing the characters born in Japan combined with stories built up in Europe.
Interview with David Sauerwein
HN: Could you please let us know what part of this animation series you think will be the most appealing or attractive to the prospective audience?
David Sauerwein: There are many aspects of this series that I believe will be appealing for the audience. First and foremost, Mogu and Perol’s amazing designs by Tsuneo Goda are what I think will draw the audience’s attention.
Their very different but complementary personalities will allow all kids to identify to one or the other.
And I also believe that the series’ natural environment, the beautiful island of Mori-Mori, and the way nature will take part in the stories, is something quite universal that will speak to all audiences around the world.
HN: Could you please let us know the theme or topic of the series, as well as the outline of the story of the series, in brief?
David Sauerwein: Whereas the short film was really focused on food and how it can bring us together, the series will be about Mogu and Perol’s friendship and life on Mori Mori island, and how they both have a lot to bring to each other, despite the fact that they’re so different. The stories will address themes such as learning how to overcome one’s fear, how to let go, how to be mindful of others, learning that everything has an end, and many others. Nature will also play an important part of the series (Mogu is very much “connected” with nature), and we want to convey the sense of wonder that one experiences when observing nature and promote a lifestyle that is in harmony with nature.
HN: How did this animation series project start?
David Sauerwein: We were very fortunate to come across the original short film presented by dwarf studios producer Yuriko Okada back in 2018, the year it was completed. The film we immediately fell in love with was directed by Tsuneo Goda and we started to speak with dwarf studios about developing a series based on the film and shared our vision of what the show could become. Once we found an agreement, we started developing a bible for the series with writer Marianne Barbier, and wrote a first script. We then signed a development deal with national broadcaster France Télévisions, which allowed us to produce an animation test with the help of Director Goulwen Merret, and Oscar-nominated studio Vivement Lundi !, and we’re now writing some scripts and will soon start producing an animatic for a full 7-minute episode.
HN: What part of the original animated short film attracted you the most?
David Sauerwein: Well, I have to admit that the first thing that struck me was to see Mogu cooking in his kitchen. It really made me hungry! The quality and the elegance of the animation really blew my mind, and again the compelling designs of the characters. This beautiful and unique short film immediately made us think that we should start talking to dwarf studios about adapting it into a series.
HN: What part of the story and visual elements of the original animated short film do you think can attract children in France and other European countries?
David Sauerwein: I believe the original short film’s look and character designs will be appealing to all audiences, as well as the characterization of Mogu and Perol, which we’ve adjusted slightly for the series bible. We really want to make Mogu & Perol into an international series, and we’ve already received very encouraging feedback from broadcasters all around the world.
HN: In terms of the visual design of the original short film, what do you think is the most attractive part of it?
David Sauerwein: The character designs, for sure. They’re simply amazing and unique. For our two main characters as well as for the secondary characters that we shortly see at the end of the short film. And of course the high quality of the animation. dwarf studios will participate actively in the preparation of the series and work with French animators to ensure we achieve a high level of animation.
HN: Will you and the French creative team work on new and original visual design works for this series? If so, what will you take care in the most for that?
David Sauerwein: Most of the new design work will have to do with the backgrounds. There will be new locations, and we really want to be able to visit different places on the island of Mori Mori and make the nature as alive and vibrant as possible. We are currently studying the best way to approach these new designs.
HN: What can you tell us about the music for the animation series at the moment?
David Sauerwein: For the animation test that we presented at Cartoon Forum in September 2022, we worked with French composer Guillaume Ferran, who’s worked on live action series and documentaries for Canal+ or Amazon. We’d love to keep on working with him, but we’ll discuss this with our friends at dwarf studios to make the best decision for the series.
Interview with Yuriko Okada
HN: What was the main reason why you decided to produce this new series together with Zephyr Animation, a French studio?
Yuriko Okada: As soon as the original short was completed in 2018, we aimed to get it watched by as many audiences as possible all over the world, so we submitted to various film festivals. To date, the film has been screened at a total of about 150 festivals in over 40 countries and has won awards at 20 festivals, including the Hidalgo Film Fest in Mexico and the Alameda International Film Festival in the United States.
At the same time, I have presented the characters with its debut film to various producers, distributors, channels and platforms at markets such as MIFA/Annecy and MIPCOM hoping to find partners for international development.
There were several producers and distributors who were interested in working with us, but APC/Zephyr stood out from the rest with their respect for the original concept and for the Mogu and Perol personalities. They were willing to work with us patiently to sublimate elements of the original film to make them more universal, rather than denying or changing them. Mogu’s cooking and the food element are to be kept as important elements for the show, and Perol’s seemingly overly self-centered behavior and her relationship with Mogu will be expressed in a fun and interesting way in the series.
HN: What is your studio’s main role or contribution to this project?
Yuriko Okada: We, dwarf studios, will supervise the entire series as the original author. Goda will be in charge of all character designs, and we will also be overseeing the series’ plot, script, and art ensuring that they reflect the core of the original world and concept of Mogu and Perol. We will be supporting the quality of the animation, such as sharing the ideal movements of each character. dwarf studios will also be responsible for distributing the series in selected regions such as Japan and Asian markets.