Ben Bocquelet is a busy man. The second series of his animated show The Amazing World of Gumball is already in production and its first series is about to debut on Cartoon Network Arabia. Anuradha Mojumdar caught up with Bocquelet to find out more about the development and production of the award-winning series. The Amazing […]
Ben Bocquelet is a busy man. The second series of his animated show The Amazing World of Gumball is already in production and its first series is about to debut on Cartoon Network Arabia. Anuradha Mojumdar caught up with Bocquelet to find out more about the development and production of the award-winning series.
The Amazing World of Gumball premieres on October 6 on Cartoon Network Arabia and arrives fresh after bagging a Cristal Award for Best Television Production at this years Annecy International Animation Film Festival in France.
The new programme combines 2D and 3D animation in a live-action setting and follows the misadventures of twelve-year-old Gumball and his unconventional family. Featuring a motley cast of characters, Gumballs school friends include a Tyrannosaurus rex, a cheerleading peanut, and a banana.
The Amazing World of Gumball came about while Bocquelet worked at The Cartoon Network Development Studio helping others to develop projects. When asked if he had any ideas to pitch, the series was conceived.
Bocquelet says he had previously created characters while … working on commercials and hadnt used some of them.
I thought of placing them in a live action background and the result was visually interesting.
Bocquelet focused on creating unique, quirky characters in the town he conceptualised.
This town is an unknown place, where every character is unusual. For example, the sheriff is a doughnut because of the archetype that policemen love doughnuts, and the bully of the school is a dinosaur, a T-Rex. The series depicts a world of excitement and spectacular chase sequences, he elaborates.
Bocquelets name is stamped all over the production he was involved in writing, animation and production of the programme. His experience producing commercials helped him hone his skills to work on the many different roles the project entailed.
When you work in commercials, you tend to work with a smaller crew than a TV series crew so you put your hands into everything. I used to direct, storyboard and animate myself. Since the show is a bit peculiar, it was difficult to find out how to achieve what we wanted. A lot of it was in my head and not obvious to explain. At the same time, I really enjoy working with the crew, being with the editors, designing with the designers and animating some shots with the animators.
The live action background of the series and the presence of so many characters clearly complicates the production process, according to Bocquelet.
The show is a mix of various techniques. It required a certain amount of preparation, which differs from a normal 2D or 3D production. We needed to make sure that everything fell into place starting from pre-production for each episode before it went into animation and background, he says.
One significant part of any pre-production is Final Animatic, which allows animators to gauge how the visuals of a programme such as The Amazing World of Gumball will appear. This was key to producing the desired results, according to Bocquelet .
In Final Animatic, we have 3D elements, photographs and mock-ups that we use for the background. We know all of the camera moves; the placement of the characters and so on. Basically, you are watching the show and you can really tell what is going on with the story.
This gives us an idea of how the show will appear including the expressions the characters are going to have at that point and the technical issues we will face. Therefore, we are able to refine the final product.
Final Animatic is a more complex process than the methods used for purely 2D animation, adds Bocquelet.
This differs from a 2D production where you just have the film storyboard, and that will be good enough to use in the production chain. Here, you need to put in extra effort into the preparation to ensure that all of the elements work together.
The team uses Maya for all 3D projects while Flash is the favourite for 2D animations. FCP is used for editing and After Effects for compositing.
The storyboard driven element of the programme also allows for spontaneous humour to be incorporated.
Some of the artists on board had worked on shows like SpongeBob, where they use a type of storyboarding that begins with a loose outline, but you have a clear idea of your story and its elements. After that, when storyboarding, you create dialogues and add extra visual elements. When new jokes can be added, there is something very spontaneous and it creates great character moments.
Recent technological advances have made The Amazing World of Gumball possible, so much so that Bocquelet says the show could not have been made two years ago.
The technology at the time was exactly what we needed to make and produce Gumball. The challenge is that it comes from a mixture of techniques. If you film a street and you need to include a character walking through it, that means you have to track the whole shot. A lot of it required cinema VFX techniques on a TV series scale, which made it quite challenging. You have much less time to do a lot more footage actually.
The mixture of techniques is also used because each character is created differently and then pulled into a single environment. Bocquelet points out that this variety makes the programme unique.
In a live-action environment or the kind of photo realistic environment used in the series, you would find a blue character drawn by hand and the T-Rex that is rendered realistically in 3D in addition to a character made of clay. All of these are very different styles and techniques. Visually, it looks like a big mash up of a lot of interesting factors that makes it stand out on its level.
One recent tool that has proven to be very useful to the Gumball team is Twixtor.
Twixtor allows you to retime a shot so if you dont have enough frames to make a long shot, it interpolates from one frame to another and allows you to basically have the shot at a time you want it to be. It was really useful to stabilise jerky pictures as well. Apps like these are priceless, explains Bocquelet.
The show was released in the US and has been received warmly by viewers.
It looks like it has gone down really well with viewers. We even have a few fans on Facebook. In fact, I received my first fan mail today, claims Bocquelet.
If The Amazing World of Gumball continues on its upward trajectory, it will not be the only fan-mail Ben Bocquelet will get.