Australian animators are as busy as bees

‘Maya the Bee 3: The Golden Orb.’

While most live-action production has shutdown, an army of more than 250 animators from Flying Bark Productions are working remotely across Sydney and in other states on a TV series and two feature films.

The production company owned by Belgium-based Studio 100 delivered the 100% Wolf feature to Universal Pictures at the end of last year and is working on the eponymous series which will premiere on the ABC and Germany’s Super RTL after the film is released in cinemas.

Flying Bark is doing the service work on two other features, Maya The Bee 3 – The Golden Orb and Mia & Me – The Hero of Centopia, both co-productions between Brian Rosen and Su Armstrong’s Studio B Animation and Studio 100 Media.

“This is a terribly challenging time for everyone in the screen industry; however we are fortunate to be able to relocate our business to a remote pipeline, albeit an incredibly complicated logistical exercise,” Barbara Stephen, Flying Bark Productions MD and CEO of content, Studio 100 International, tells IF.

“Both parts of our business – independent production and animation services – are continuing. Our co-production models do present obstacles as we are reliant on a few companies to be effective in their own remote setups while adhering with their governments’ instructions, which are of course changing all the time.

“Nothing has ground to a halt to date so we are feeling hopeful all our teams can continue work. Studio 100, our broadcast partners and clients from around the world have been extremely supportive in our efforts to maintain a workflow, without which we couldn’t have saved these jobs.”

Flying Bark is looking to hire several new creative roles and by the end of this year expects its Sydney office to grow to 300.

‘100% Wolf’ TV series.

Its new Los Angeles-based studio headed by chief creative director Ian Graham continues to expand, although the team there is in lock-down.

Rosen tells IF: “Our animated films with Studio B are still in production with everyone working from home and sending into the mainframe for the director to review and give notes. All that takes a bit longer, but at least we are still going.”

Produced by Studio B Animation’s Tracy Lenon and directed by Noel Cleary, Maya the Bee 3: The Golden Orb is scripted by Fin Edquist, adapted from a German novel by Waldemar Bonsels published in 1912.

The stories revolve around the bee named Maya and her friends Willy the bee, Flip the grasshopper, her teacher Mrs. Cassandra and myriad other insects and creatures, and follow Maya’s development from an adventurous youngster to a responsible adult member of bee society.

The first film in the franchise was a hit in Europe, grossing more than $40 million and selling 1.2 million tickets in France and 860,000 in Germany.

Directed by Adam Gunn, Mia & Me – The Hero of Centopia is a three way co-production with Studio B Animation, Studio 100 and Studio 56 in India.

Based on an original story by Fin Edquist, Tess Meyer and Germany’s Gerhard Hahn, the plot follows Mia, a teenager who, following the death of her parents, is given a game made by her father: A big book called The Legend of Centopia. Inside is magical runic writing and a password, which read backwards, allows Mia to travel to the magical world of Centopia.

Rosen and Armstrong are also developing a feature based on Morris Gleitzman’s young adult book Two Weeks With The Queen, which has sold more than 1 million copies and has been staged as a play by the Sydney Theatre Company, the National Theatre in the UK and in the US, Japan and New Zealand.

The protagonist is 12-year-old Colin, who is on a mission: He wants to speak to the Queen about his brother Luke, who has cancer. Cousin Alistair would like to help but stress brings on his dandruff, so Colin unlocks the back door and heads out alone.

“It has an international following and has been on the school reading list here in Australia for over 20 years,” says Rosen.