Disney's Squeak and Boo puppets teach kids a lesson
[Mon 04/03/2013 04:17:43]
By Rodney Appleyard
The model for Boo.
This article originally appeared in IF Magazine Issue #150
Twin piglets Squeak (female) and Boo (male) live on a farm and love going on crazy adventures. Creature NFX Workshop’s Paul Trefry was tasked with creating Squeak, the free-spirited one out of the two, and Boo, who likes to question everything and keep Squeak out of trouble.
Trefry says Disney wanted the new puppet-hosted short-form series to not only be entertaining, but teach pre-school children valuable lessons about life.
"It will actively engage their imagination through magic storytelling, music and entertainment and the use of early learning, educational content," Trefry says.
"It was important that we designed the puppets so they would come across as non-threatening, cute and friendly for the viewers. If we didn't get this right, it would have been harder for the children to connect and relate to them as if they were toys they would play with."
Disney was impressed with the high level of expertise it found in Australia. It hired Trefry based on his track record making a number of successful animatronic effects in the past, such as the sharks seen in documentary Oceans.
At the start of production, Trefry was sent an artist's impression of how the characters would look and interact from Super Duper Studio in Melbourne. He used these drawings as the basis for giving Squeak and Boo a friendly and accessible manner.
This involved creating small maquette's of the characters in clay, which he sent back to the studio for approval. Once Trefry received the green light, his team built full-sized puppets by sculpting, making moulds and casting skins.
"As soon as the main structure of the puppets were in place, we then added subtle animatronic elements to make them more life-like, such as the eyes. The bodies were then covered in stretched fabric and fur to make them seem cuddly and cute. They were then airbrushed and dressed with the appropriate clothing so the characters would seem convincing to the children. It was a very delicate operation."
Trefry believes that the children will find common ground with the characters because Squeak and Boo notice the magic in everyday moments, just like normal children.
Many of Squeak and Boo’s adventures take place in a cubby house made out of an old mailbox, near to a veggie patch, daffodil field and wombat burrow.
They are also very good friends with Digger Dave, who is a wombat and acts as the guiding figure in their lives, although sometimes he comes up with silly answers just to make them laugh.
"Squeak and Boo reflect on the lives of the viewers. They have a contagious sense of fun and an adventurous spirit; they are imaginative and are eager to learn and they have clearly defined personalities and quirks. And of course, my job was to ensure that the puppets could convey these multiple levels of their personalities and emotions. They are basically little people in the bodies of piglets."
Although it sounds straight-forward, Trefry says it is far more difficult in practice to transform lumps of clay into appealing characters that young children will want to watch over again.
But Trefry is confident the puppets will do their job in teaching children all about the alphabet, counting, singing, losing a tooth, birthdays and many other milestones that children go through.
Disney has also been careful about making sure the characters are realistic by allowing them to face the same mistakes and new discoveries that every child experiences throughout their early years. Based on the studio's impeccable record of delivering successful TV programs for children, this new production should have no trouble engaging a young audience.
Each show will range between 20 seconds and 2 minutes in length. They will be shown on Disney Junior via Foxtel in Australia and on Sky in New Zealand in February 2013.
[Mon 04/03/2013 04:17:43]