Monday, 29 April 2013

Sarah and Duck

Over the past few months, I've been absolutely bowled over with this lovely new series currently airing on CBeebies in the UK - the premise for Sarah and Duck couldn't be simpler. A little girl called Sarah (voiced by the adorable Tasha Lawrence) and her best friend Duck embark on gentle adventures packed with huge amounts of imagination. Whether it's baking a cake, stargazing or buying a new chair, creators Sarah Gomes Harris and Tim O’Sullivan have no trouble at all adding such charm that really appeals to children and parents. Compared to a lot of pre-school series today, this one has a special blend of its own, and I can't enough of the episodes aired so far!!

It's as timeless as Mr. Benn where anything here is possible, and with a host of fun characters to add - including Scarf Lady and Bag, Rainbow, Donkey, Moon, the Ribbon Sisters, some friendly little Shallots and the Storyteller (voiced by an unseen but enthusiastic Roger Allam).

So delighted was I in this series that it's fair that I do my bit to spread the word as much as possible. As luck would have it, I got in touch with one of the animators of the show, Hannah de Spon, to hear a little more;

Rainbow pays a visit!
For folks who are unfamiliar with you, tell us a bit about yourself;
Ok well I'm a 28 year old traditional animator from London. I've been into cartoons and animation since I was a kid and it's the only job I've ever really wanted to do. I currently work for Karrot Animation studio where we make Sarah and Duck.


Who / What inspired you to want to become an artist?
This is always a REALLY hard question for me, because there wasn't one single thing or moment that made me go 'gosh I want to do that!'...but I think it really helped having family who encouraged me. Even when I was drawing amazingly naive comics and colouring them with highlighter pens they would encourage me to do more.

Plus watching a LOT of cartoons up until now keeps inspiring me further. There's so much quality animation around, kids today are so lucky!



What caught your interest first - drawing or animating?
Drawing :D I didn't even realise you could do animation as a job until I saw a promo trailer thing for Disney's Pocahontas which showed animators animating. And then finding out later I could STUDY it too? WHAT. I WANT THAT


How did you become involved with Karrot Animation? What's a typical working day there like?
I became involved when I was introduced to one of the studio's founders before the studio was even created. I was still a student at the time but had made some contacts through some articles I had written about animation festivals, and two of those contacts introduced me to him. Then I did some other jobs for a while when he contacted me again asking if I wanted to join his new company. I would have jumped at the chance but I was already on another work contract at a school and could not break away.

Thankfully I kept in touch and once I'd finished at the school I worked part time for him and the slowly growing Karrot Animation before I was finally taken into the fold full time.

A typical S&D day is fairly intense but I think we have a great work environment. We all get on really well as a team even if we are in our separate groups so when there's a problem we all help each other out to get the job done. Plus there's the awesome commercial team on the top floor of the building (who work on other Karrot projects and commissions) who are also a great bunch of guys and girls!



What did you think about "Sarah and Duck" when it was first developed / pitched?
I loved it. I know I'm bias because I work on it but seriously, Sarah and Duck is a totally unique and different looking and feeling show. Though the show has developed a LOT since the original designs by S&D created Sarah Gomes Harris I think it's still retained a lot of the essence of what she was going for; a quirky and unique show about a little wide eyed girl and her flappy duck companion on their odd mini adventures.


What was working on this series like? Did you had any idea how much interest it would receive when first aired?
Again I'm bias because I was so excited and happy to be working on the show. Every time I get a scene approved it's an amazing feeling...even if it's just a shot of a character blinking! I knew the show would get some attention for being different. So far the feedback we've been getting from review sites and twitter and parents (and kids!) has been so uplifting, we are glad everyone loves this show as much as we do.
Sarah and Duck at Scarf Lady's house
Who is your favourite character from the show, and why?
Scarf Lady. Really there is no part of her I DON'T like. Everything from her design to her voice acting is brill, her banter with her Bag always gets a laugh from me, and she's a fun model to animate too.


As S&D is pretty vast in imagination, how would you describe this series to first-time viewers - or parents looking for an ideal programme to watch with their children?
Oooh there's the million dollar question. I would say firstly that Sarah and Duck is unique appearance wise. I don't know of any pre-school show that has so much detail put into the character designs and backdrops (seriously, this show is loaded with little 'easter eggs' and sight gags) to make the whole world fit together. Plot wise it's more like a kids story book, a relaxing and quiet show that isn't trying to force a message, in my opinion it's perfect 'just before bed' viewing.

Plus it's very gender neutral. Sure the protagonist is a girl but she's a curious, good natured and focused little soul who is balanced out by her boisterous and blustery friend. I think most children can see themselves in the characters, even Duck who is...well...a duck.



With wild speculations that "2D animation is dead" and "British Animation is being phased out", do you think that this will peak interest again from across the Globe, and open up new possibilities for Animators / Artists in the UK? More to the point, where do you think the current state of Animation in the UK stands at this present time?
I hope so! The UK animation scene has been struggling these last few years, but we have still managed to maintain a strong preschool legacy and kept work 'in house' rather than sending it abroad. I don't know how big an impact Sarah&Duck will make on the global scene compared to other big preschool shows, but I would like to think it helps prove that preschool animation has the capacity to be smart, beautiful and a little outlandish. So the more kids who like it the higher the bar is raised.

I'm afraid I can't say much for other animation (film etc) as I really don't know. But Great Britain has always had a knack for producing quality animation with a look that is all our own, and I think people internationally recognise and respect that. No one can produce British animation like Britain can! 



Thanks for your time! Any final thoughts for fellow "Sarah and Duck" fans out there?
THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH. The number of people who have told me how much they enjoy the show warms my heart every time I hear them. And this is from adult fans of the show as well as the kids! It's a great feeling to be working on this show and when the going gets rough and the hours get long it's the support of people like you that make it all worth it. We'll keep making the show great for you!
Duck wants to be a penguin!

LINKS OF INTEREST:
Follow Sarah and Duck on Facebook and Twitter!

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