Gumball rolls in
They have problems like any ordinary family but this bunch is anything but normal. Welcome to theamazingworldof Gumball.
TO mark its new look starting this month, Cartoon Network has kicked off The Amazing World Of Gumball, a mixed-media series that notably combines 2D and 3D animation in a live-action setting.
While it takes place in an amazingly imaginative world with nonsensical creatures, the show is fundamentally about a family (the Watersons), its joys, and the challenges and chaos it faces.
At the heart of the tale is Gumball, a blue cat with a giant head who goes through the trials and tribulations of any 12-year-old. But unlike a normal kid his age, his capers include being chased by a rampaging T-Rex, having a robot steal his identity and dressing as a cheerleader to impress the girl he fancies.
Dad is a 193cm (6’4”) pink rabbit who stays at home while Mum works in the rainbow factory in the town of Elmore. Completing the extraordinary suburban family are Gumball’s little sister, who’s a genius bunny, and Darwin, a pet goldfish who becomes part of the family when he sprouts legs.
The Amazing World Of Gumball is the brainchild of 28-year-old French-born Ben Bocquelet, who worked on all aspects of production, including writing,ing, storyboarding, animation and directing.
The show is the first British-produced full-length animated series, and has been aired on Cartoon Network in 166 countries. A second season has been greenlit.
Here’s a peek at Gumball’s world through the eyes of show creator Bocquelet and executive producer Daniel Lennard, also Cartoon Network Europe’s vice-president of original series and development. Where did you get the idea for The Amazing World Of Gumball?
Bocquelet: I got the idea for the show while working as a development artist at the Cartoon Network Development Studio based in London. Previously while working in commercials, I’d created a load of characters. These characters, with their variety of styles and formats, inspired the visual mash-up that became the final look for the show. Why did you call it The Amazing World Of Gumball?
Bocquelet: The show has always been called Gumball. The name, in fact, came before the character. I wanted to call it something which reminds you of childhood, of something a kid might have in their
pocket. Is it true that the show is loosely based on your own childhood?
Bocquelet: Some aspects, yes! My sister is very clever, and like the character in the show, she’s not to be messed with. We have always been very close, and still are. She’s now a computer programmer. My dad is a real character and, yes, at some points he was a stay-at-home dad. My mum is incredibly strong and she really held our family together. We went through a lot but we always had a good time. We’re a close-knit family and we found our strength in laughter.
Mixing 2D with 3D sounds ambi- tious. Why did you choose to do that?
Bocquelet: I had always wanted it to be 2D, 3D and live action. In my mind that’s what makes the show distinctive. The Gorillaz videos were a big influence on me in animation school. I just loved the way they mixed their awesome designs with photos or films.
The technology now allows for this kind of approach on a series scale. It’s really exciting to be part of this, and also that Cartoon Network committed to making the show in mixed media, despite the challenge of the process. Tell us about the initial development process.
Bocquelet: I decided to base the show on the archetypal family sitcom, replacing normal human characters with nonsensical creatures. I wanted to treat the show like a sitcom and use the funny aspects of the characters and the freedom of animation to expand the humour and the stories into places that wouldn’t be possible in live action.
Do you think The Amazing World Of Gumball will raise the bar for quality animation produced out of Europe?
Lennard: I think it raises the bar for a kids’ cartoon in general, and what can actually be accomplished. It doesn’t need to be dumbed down and overly simplistic. It doesn’t need to look flat and move in a stiff manner.
A few industry people advised me that there are plenty of good reasons that a mixed media series on this scale hasn’t been attempted before – it’s technically difficult, it’s expensive, it’s unlikely to integrate effectively – but I’m thrilled we went ahead and produced a truly groundbreaking show. Some of the characters are voiced by real kids, aren’t they?
Bocquelet: Yes, Gumball was voiced by Logan Grove, Darwin by Kwesi Boakye and Anais by Kyla Rae Kowalewski. They each completely got their characters, were spontaneous and funny, had phenomenal range as actors, and also had fantastic comic timing. I wish their mums would sell them to me. How big was the team who worked on the series?
Bocquelet: Pretty big, at some points there were at least 100 people working on it. How long did it take to make the series?
Bocquelet: About two years, like a baby elephant (laughs). Do you think this show will appeal to adults too?
Bocquelet: I really hope so. We tried to multi-layer jokes and stories as much as possible. I like the idea of a cartoon that is for everybody and not just for children. Kids are also much more sophisticated than we often give them credit for.
My wish is that people watch the show together as a family with the lights off, like we used to do with my parents when Looney Tunes was on.
Lennard: At its core, Gumball incorporates the fundamentals of what’s important in kids’ lives – family, school and friends. They’re universal in pretty much every culture.
There is a lot to identify with in the show; it has lovable characters that you enjoy watching, with realistic relationships that just happen to be set in an amazingly imaginative world. What shows did you watch as a kid?
Bocquelet: Film, animation, TV shows, I loved them all. The Simpsons was a big influence, and I’m also a big fan of South Park.
Lennard: Live-action shows like The A-Team, Happy Days, The Wonder Years, The Incredible Hulk and Monkey, a dubbed Japanese show. I’m not just saying this because I work for Turner (Entertainment International), but I loved a lot of the Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros cartoons such as those on Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Captain Caveman. I was also a fan of Battle Of The Planets. n TheAmazingWorldOfGumball premiered on Cartoon Network (Astro Channel 616) on Oct 1. It airs every
Saturday at 9am. tion to Anais, treating Darwin like her own child and encouraging Gumball. Anyone who dares threaten the ones she loves, watch out! Dad – Richard Dad is a giant pink rabbit and stay-at-home dad who looks after the kids, while spending most of his time playing video games and watching daytime TV. He’s a well-intentioned, supportive and devoted father but also just a little under-prepared for life.