Pop Paper City is a vibrant 3D craft show with adventure, set in a place where dreams can become reality. The series focuses on a group of unique paper friends who live in Pop Paper City, the capital of the stunning and endlessly peculiar paper world. In each 11-Minute episode, the characters in Pop Paper City find a new way to have fun together by creating new parts of their already impressive world, using craft to solve their challenges and complete their adventure. Live action montages within the 3D world of the show inspire children to make their own paper creations, encouraging ‘Doing as well as viewing’

Pop Paper City
Director: Sunny Clarke
Author: Georgina Hurcombe
Producer: Georgina Hurcombe (LoveLove Films, United Kingdom)
Format: 52 x 11′
Target audience: Pre-school 4-5
Technique: 3D digital / Live action

Pop Paper City is an attractive pre-school animation series project pitched at Cartoon Forum 2020. The show actively encourages creativity and imaginative play in the world of craft, making a bridge between a vivid and imaginary world and real physical experiences that kids can actively participate in.

We immediately saw the attractiveness and universality in this project with its vibrant and appealing design of the characters and setting, all enriched with harmonious colours. This is a series that we will meet with high expectations.

We introduce the project in detail though the words of Georgina Hurcombe, the author and producer, and Sunny Clarke, the director. Here is the insightful story behind this exciting project.

Interview with Georgina Hurcombe and Sunny Clarke

Hideki Nagaishi (HN): Could you please let us know the key points of your animation series project that you would like to appeal to the prospective audience?

Georgina Hurcombe: Pop Paper City is all about inspiring creativity and imaginative play in the audience. We want children to feel inspired by the adventures the characters go on, and the adventures to be a catalyst for children to craft along with the characters.

Everything seen in Pop Paper City is built in a way so that it could be recreated in real life. In this way, children feel truly connected to the Pop Paper City World, knowing that they can strive to make anything they see in the show themselves. The audience’s version of the world doesn’t have to be perfect and look exactly like on screen; as long as children know that they can make their own version of the world, they’ll feel inspired to get involved with crafting, and use their imaginations to imagine their very own Pop Paper City adventures.

It’s like a small child drawing a horse: It’s much more likely to look like a one legged dog with a giraffe’s neck, and that’s OK, because it’s the creativity and imagination that’s gone into the drawing that counts, and that’s what we want to emulate with the show. We want the audience to look at Pop Paper City with all its vivid colours and textures and think, “Wow, I want to have a go at making that race car, flower, or rocket!” It’s not about perfection, it’s about children creating their own unique pieces of the Pop Paper City World, having fun, and becoming immersed in the adventures themselves!

The main crafts that are made in each episode – with the help of friendly guardian character Helping Hand – are often very simple such as a party hat or a rocket depending on each episode’s adventure theme. We also envisage a line of ‘how to’ video content, as well as fun templates and activity packs, so there will be a lot of supportive content for the child to engage with, both on and off screen.

HN: How did the project start? And where did the initial idea of the story and universe come from?

Georgina Hurcombe: When I was growing up, I loved creating and making things. I was inspired by great British craft shows like Art Attack (1990-present) and Blue Peter (1958-present), which showed British audiences how to make so many fun creations. I remember making a terrible version of Tracy Island from Thunderbirds that was on Blue Peter, and was always playing with Play-Doh® and Duplo® as a small child. I loved the idea that children can use Pop Paper City as a catalyst for creative play, as at the core of the show, it’s about encouraging children to have fun and be creative.

I wanted to see a revival of the craft show format, but aimed specifically at a young audience. We had these great British craft shows (Blue Peter and Art Attack) in our minds when we first came up with the idea for Pop Paper City. The team and I wanted to make something that combined craft with fun 3D adventure, using the excitement of the storylines and characters to encourage children towards ‘doing as well as viewing’.

As we developed the idea further, we realised that what made the series special was that it had the potential to encourage imaginative play through the characters, immersive world, and captivating storylines.

HN: What was the most difficult thing, on the creative side, in getting to the current state of the project?

Georgina Hurcombe: One of the most difficult things from a creative perspective was working out how to blend the craft sequences with the adventure storylines. We knew that mixing live action craft with adventure could be a winning combination, but we needed to figure out how this would work.

Throughout development, we spent lots of time trying to decide exactly how long the ‘craft’ part of the show should be, and where in an episode it should happen. While this was a challenge at first, we knew that was so important to getting Pop Paper City right; we’d received such high praise for the visuals and ‘unique look’ of the show, so it was just a matter of getting the structure right.

We were lucky enough to get development funding via the BFI’s Young Audience Content Fund, as well as from UK Broadcaster CH5 Milkshake which really was a game changer for us creatively and helped us develop the show further, and get a good understanding of how the adventure and craft elements would best work together, In addition, having Aardman onboard as our distributor has been extremely helpful as they have so much knowledge as a creative animation studio as well as our distributor, so we have really been lucky to get great support with the development.

I’m confident now that the craft and adventure ingredients work together, and both are vital to the story of any Pop Paper City episode. Whenever the characters face a challenge on their adventure, they need to make something to help them solve it, and this is where the craft element comes in. This way, the crafts become the way the characters are able to finish their adventure together.

As the entire world is made of paper textures, craft is literally a part of Pop Paper City’s world. The fact that a child feels inspired to build their own version of Pop Paper City at any moment means that the crafts and storylines are an inspiring hybrid. We hope that the show will not only encourage young children to have a go, but we hope it also encourages family units to build parts of the world together!

HN: Could you please let us know the most important characteristic of the visual design of characters and the universe for the story?

Sunny Clarke: The fact that everything in the world – including the characters – appear to be made from paper is the most important part of Pop Paper City‘s visual design. From the very beginning, it was always important to us that the world looked exactly like paper. Not only this, but it needed to look like it could be recreated at home with paper, card, and other materials that are accessible to children. We wanted kids to be able to build their own unique versions of Pop Paper City and play with the immersive world of the show.

That’s why every object in the show, no matter how big or small, has been designed using paper textures. A child can choose to build smaller objects like flowers or logs, or they can have a go at recreating something a little bit more complex like a boat for instance. The visual design of the show is a huge part of what will make it so inspiring to audiences. We understand that a child’s version is never going to look exactly like the model in the show, but that’s really what excites us! We can give them the inspiration and the steps, and then they can go away and create the craft totally unique to them as an individual.

HN: Could you please let us know about the music for the animation that you can share with us at the moment?

Sunny Clarke: The music for Pop Paper City is by award-winning composer Alex Baranowski. Alex has worked with an array of esteemed directors, and we were really impressed with his ideas for the music of the show, which he actually developed with the help of his own small child, who responded to the music each time he’d finished a draft.

As craft is so important to the show, we knew that the music had to capture the ‘sound’ of craft in some way. Pop Paper City is also an incredibly sweet, heartfelt show about a group of loveable friends, so we knew that the music had to reflect this as well.

Alex came up with some demos following this brief, and the theme song you’ll hear at the end of our Cartoon Forum presentation is one of those. He also recorded sounds from paper and scissors, and incorporated these into the soundtrack, which is a really nice touch!

We are really pleased with the music produced for Pop Paper City so far, although it is still in demo stage. It captures the world perfectly, and really gives you a sense of everything that the series is about, and we are incredibly excited about working with Alex who is just so great in the future!

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