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Science-educational “Messy Goes to Okido” Hits CBeebies Today

// Interviews, News

Today sees the launch of new CBeebies series “Messy Goes to Okido” – a science-educational show following a monster called Messy. Using a unique blend of live action, CGI 3D and 2D animation, the show communicates science in a highly visual and imaginative way, and brings it to life using stories, comedy and adventure.

The basic premise of the show is that Messy Monster finds the answers to everything a 2-5 year old child would want to know: each episode sees him pose a question in the real world and then travel to the fictional world of Okido, where he finds the answers to his questions. The show brings science to life using stories, comedy and adventure. The series is directed by Bafta winner Liz Whitaker, who has directed other hit shows such as Pingu, Timmy Time and Bob the Builder.

Origins of Messy Goes to Okido

Messy Monster was created by OKIDO, the arts and science magazine for children. Originally conceived by parents on a kitchen table in Brixton, the magazine has grown from strength to strength to become a trusted educational periodical for curious kids and their families.

In 2011, Okido Magazine joined forces with Squint/Opera, an entertainment company based in south London to bring the magazine to life as an ambitious educational project. Unlike most production studios, every aspect of “Messy goes to Okido” has been created under one Battersea roof – an extraordinary and unusual feat. Squint/Opera have raised the bar for kids TV with this show, the high-quality animation and humour will inspire children to be curious about arts and science. From scripting, to storyboarding, 2d and 3d animation, to live footage, sound, music and editorial, EVERYTHING was completed in their Battersea studios in London.

We caught up with Jules Coke [JC] (Squint/Opera CEO and Series Producer) and Ollie Alsop [OA] (Chief Creative Director and Art Director for the show) to ask a few questions about the making of the show…

How did the partnership between Okido Magazine and Squint/Opera come about? Who approached who?

JC: Alice Britton, Squint/Opera Director and Co-Founder, is friends with Gabby Dawney, who sometimes writes for the magazine. Through Gabby we got in touch with Sophie Dauvois and Rachel Ortas, the magazine’s creators, and began exploring how the magazine could be transformed into an animation. That was back in 2011, so it has taken over four years of very hard work to realise our ambition!

Could you tell us a little about the process and any challenges of taking a popular magazine and adapting it for the screen?

OA: Turning a 2d printed magazine into a 3d animation and keeping it beautiful was a real challenge. We had no visual clues about the world which Messy Monster would inhabit. We had to use a lot of imagination from the beginning. Questions like ‘which universe would Messy be in?’ and ‘what were the rules of the Okido world?’ had to be solved, it was like playing God. In the end we decided to make the world a macro world which could exist on a craft table – that scale. As well as choosing a style, we also mapped out the entire Okido world, we needed a lot of different eco-systems to give flexibility and allow us to explain the many different aspects of science covered in the show.

The style was also an important consideration, Messy looked amazing on a graphic backdrop in the magazine and we didn’t want to lose that magic, so we designed very graphic backdrops for the show too. We used faceted folded paper to help create single flat planes which allow the characters to leap off the screen and tactile textures to reference the beautiful paper and arts and crafts of the magazine.

Was there a lot of collaboration between the animation production team and Okido Magazine, or did you have a lot of freedom to take the show in the direction you wanted?

OA: Yes, there was a lot of collaboration. When the show went in to production, Okido Magazine actually moved in to our studio and we worked closely with them at every stage to make sure everything we created was true to the ethos of the magazine. Rachel Ortas and Alex Barrow designed most of the characters directly to keep consistency across the magazine and TV show.

It’s great that this show has been made not just entirely in the UK, but also under one roof. What led you to that decision, and not the more common co-production route?

JC: We wanted to keep a lot of creative control in the studio and felt the quality would be better working this way, we were able to have good communication across the whole animation team in our studio. It’s also been a really nice experience for the people who work here, the atmosphere has just been so much fun, every week we have a few beers and put the latest episode up on the screen and the whole team watch the show together. Everyone gets on and together with the rest of Squint/Opera and our Doodle Bar, there’s been a really good vibe, we’re like a family.

Tune in to CBeebies at 16.20 tonight (7th September) to catch the show!

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