(Status: in production)
We all love to watch David Attenborough reveal incredible facts about the animal kingdom, but imagine how the animals themselves would react to seeing themselves on TV? In this 2D-animated comedy sketch show, featuring stunning live-action nature documentary footage, we get the animal’s- eye-view on nature docs, discover what our furry friends are really thinking, and learn some amazing facts about the natural world along the way! We’ll see owls laughing at otters, badgers telling tall tales on squirrels, foxes fighting over the remote control… Packed full of laughs and amazing takeaway facts, “Critters TV” might just change the way kids (and animals!) watch nature documentaries.
Director: Aidan O’Donovan
Authors: Colm Tobin & Aidan O’Donovan
Producer: Colm Tobin (Turnip & Duck, Ireland)
Format: 52 X 11’
Target audience: Family
Technique: 2D digital / Live Action
Critters TV is a new and family friendly TV educational (and comedy!) series by Irish studio Turnip & Duck, which was pitched at Cartoon Forum 2019 and drew a lot of attention, including investors. The series has a great combination of live-action educational content with wild animals and animated comedy that increases engagement and attention from children.
We interviewed Colm Tobin about this interesting animation series, who is the producer and co-author of the series, and co-founder of Turnip & Duck.
Interview with Colm Tobin
Hideki Nagaishi (HN): Could you please let our audience know the unique story structure of the series, in brief?
Colm Tobin: The series features 6 families of 2D-animated animals watching live-action nature documentaries. Over the course of each 11-minute episode, the families watch a mini-documentary on one real-life animal – so far we’ve covered mostly native Irish wildlife like Pine Martens, Basking Sharks and Hedgehogs, but we plan to cover more and more as we grow the brand.
HN: Where did the initial idea of the project come from?
Colm Tobin: My son went through a phase of watching The Blue Planet (2001) when he was three and I was astounded with the sort of stuff he was taking away from the show. The only trouble was keeping him engaged, you don’t expect a kid to sit down and watch an hour-long documentary! So I became obsessed with finding a way to deliver bite-sized educational content in a really entertaining way – education by stealth, if you will. It was around this time when I had the idea of animals watching nature documentaries. What would the Badgers think of Garden Snails? What would Owls think of Sloths? Imagine foxes fighting over the remote control? This was the hook, and from there the project has snowballed.
HN: The episode I watched during your pitch has a lot of humor that I feel the global audience can enjoy and laugh with. How are you developing the comedic elements of the series?
Colm Tobin: The director, and co-founder of Turnip & Duck, Aidan O’Donovan, and I write all the scripts. We’re comedy writers by trade and have been working together since we were ten. For the first 15 episodes, due to budget constraints and the fact we wanted to keep more control of the development, we did all the writing but we’d like to expand the writing team as the franchise grows.
HN: Could you please let our audience know the unique selling points of the project or what you love the most about the project at the moment?
Colm Tobin: This is a completely original way of educating kids about wildlife and the natural world through the prism of a comedy sketch show designed for a co-viewing family audience. It takes elements of Creature Comforts (1989) and Gogglebox (2013) and fuses them together in a completely unique way. It is also a great project for re-purposing existing nature documentary footage – the live-action content in Series 1 is all licensed from an award-winning production company in Ireland called Crossing The Line Productions – we re-edit and re-voice the rushes with a younger audience in mind. The format can work in any territory either by focusing on local wildlife or internationally recognized animals and we’ve written the sketches with a global audience in mind – it’s all about family dynamics, the most universal theme there is!
We also love the characters we’ve created. Take Mammy, Daddy and Tiny Owl for instance – the hook of that sketch is that the kid is a genius and the parents are completely idiotic. So Tiny is always trying to explain what’s going on in the documentary but his parents keep mistaking Badgers for Panda Bears and Deer for Unicorns – it’s very frustrating for Tiny and hilarious for the viewers! Because the sketches are bite-sized and self-contained, the series is perfect for breakout content and streaming – the show can be easily edited without affecting the overall story, making it an extremely adaptable format for broadcasters and distributors. We’re very excited about where it can travel from humble beginnings.
HN: I remember that you said at the pitch how you already have the budget to develop the first series and are looking for distributors and partners for developing its second season. Is that right? If so, how did you start this project and reached the target budget to complete the first series?
Colm Tobin: The first series (15 episodes) was all funded out of Ireland. The project was developed and funded with the assistance of Screen Ireland, with RTÉjr as the main broadcaster. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the section 481 tax break make up the rest of the funding. Our strategy for further developing the show is to try to get another 37 episodes into production quickly using our existing partners and new international partners including distributors and broadcasters. We’re confident that we’re already well on the way to that point. From there, we see huge potential in growing the brand across multiple, themed series – e.g. an African Savannah Edition, a Deep Sea Edition, a Frozen Worlds Edition, etc. We think it really has legs to grow… No pun intended.