Friday, August 23, 2013

(Bald) Bob The ('Tached) Builder!

I was talking nonsense about Bob the Builder on the Twitter earlier this week, and ended up chatting to Curtis Jobling, illustrator/concept designer extraordinaire, who did a lot of the concept drawings for Hit Entertainment, as well as being the man behind Raa Raa the Noisy Lion. Sadly, all the concept work he did for my Bob episodes is now with Hit, locked away in a big safe because of their raw and terrible beauty, and also the disturbing tentacle stuff and the occult references, but he did have some early concept art he was able to share with me.

I've always been fascinated with concept art, and early versions of now-familiar characters. Did you know Dora the Explorer started out as a large man named Gonzales, for example? And he was a grocer and martial arts expert, not an explorer. And it wasn't animated, it was a eight hour documentary series. Actually maybe I'm thinking of something else.


Curtis explains:
4 things I had to change with Bob, who isn't a million miles away from character who appears on screen.
1) His feet were too small as a puppet, he would've wobbled around and fallen over like a sherry'd up old lady.
2) Hands were too small, couldn't hold and manipulate tools.
3) I thought I was being clever (which I was) giving him a 'tache so that when he spoke we didn't need to worry about lip-sync - one would just waggle the 'tache. Turns out that this wasn't going to work because, according to research, preschool kids are scared of facial hair. Apparently so. I don't know what this research involved. I like to think it involved BBC execs wearing fake beards, hiding in bushes outside a preschool and when the bell goes they leap out and shout BOO at the kids... which would scare me too... so Bob had a shave.
4) Lastly, I thought it'd be hilarious to give Bob a fat pair of burners and when he takes his helmet off he's bald as a coot on top. Bosses said no, Curtis, this isn't funny: give him hair. I insisted they were missing a trick, this would get big laughs. They said: 'Do you want to work on this show???'. I said: 'Let's see what he looks like with hair!' And that's how he got a mop top.
And a couple more:

So there we go. Be you a writer or designer in television, there's always compromises to be made. I had to lose the 'BB' logo from the wrought iron gate too, groovy though it was. Reason being foreign language versions of the show. Works great for Bob the Builder, Bob le Bricoleur, Bob derBaumeister and Byggmester Bob. Not so good for the Finnish Puuha Pete....

Many thanks to Curtis for this - Bob fans should also check out Curtis' site for info on his illustrated kids' books, and for older kids, his Wereworld series.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Holding characters back

Georgia said:
Was just re-reading your previous post as I've just put on hold a sitcom idea to pursue a film idea that's been niggling away at me for ages. I was just wondering why you suggest developing a character who doesn't appear until the second act and one until the third. Is it important to bring in new characters later? Is it to keep the audience's interest piqued and prevent things getting monotonous? I have a couple of ideas for those characters having pondered it so thanks for the tip.
Firstly, you don't always have to put one idea on hold in order to pursue another one. Obviously it depends on how much time you have to invest, but it's worth remembering that if do make a living out of scriptwriting, you'll probably end up having to work on multiple projects at any one time, at various stages of development, so it might be worth getting used to the idea now. On to the main point, I'm not sure it's important, or even necessary to bring in new characters later as such - it's more a reminder for me, as my instinct is to bring in all the characters at the start, make them jump through hoops and then wrap it up.

So I have to remind myself that you don't throw in all the ingredients into the chili pot straight away - sweat the onions first, then brown the meat, then add the chopped coriander and jalapeno right at the end where it'll have the most impact. I appreciate cooking metaphors for writing are a bit trite, but, you know, they can work.

It's also more that a character can represent a shift in the story: it's unlikely Walter White would have met dodgy lawyer Saul Goodman right at the start of Breaking Bad, for example, but him becoming a regular character shows the darker parth Walt is heading down. If Saul had been present from the start, that would have suggested Walt already having a foot in the criminal world, or you would have had a more innocent Saul being pulled down into darkness along with Walt - which is a journey Jesse is already on.

Or if you don't watch Breaking Bad, think how the introduction of Han Solo in Star Wars shows that Luke Skywalker is heading wayyyy out of his comfort zone. So later introduced characters are handy to mark how far a protagonist has moved on since the start of his or her journey. Dunno, is that pointing out the obvious? Possibly, but it's the sort of obvious of which I need to be reminded worryingly often.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

"If LARPERS could kill"

I liked this, from the ever-good Kyan, with @ashens and @thatjennybee. Should perhaps point out there is a teensy bit of gore.

At one point I thought Khyan and I might have awoken the tiniest inkling of interest in something with the BBC, but they seem to have wandered off. A pity. HELLO SKY WE ARE AVAILABLE.