The Adventures of Figaro Pho in full-swing

It was an afternoon in late-2005 that children’s character Figaro Pho was born. Luke Jurevicius was sitting around the family dinner table when he was offered an after-dinner mint. He backed away from the offering, in what he describes was similar to when a vampire backs away from garlic.

From this, Jurevicius thought it’d be funny to explore other fears and soon began work on a number of ideas. Phobias ranged from spiders and jelly to body odours and beards.

The idea for the look of the character itself came together in a pub when sitting with art director Deane Taylor – best known for A Nightmare Before Christmas, Popeye and Ren & Stimpy.

“We were coming up with various ideas for the character of Figaro and literally, the character that we drew was actually on a napkin,” Adelaide-based Jurevicius, who still owns that very piece of cloth, told a launch party.

“And really it’s amazing that when you have ideas and thoughts you just grab anything that you can draw on – because it’s those little treasures that mean so much.”

The drawings and ideas were turned into a 26×90-second short series for ABC TV in 2008, and it netted Best Animation Series in the World at the 2009 Kidscreen Awards and two AFI gongs.

Now it's time for an extended version. Jurevicius and a number of industry heads were on hand on Thursday (November 11) in Sydney to officially launch the upcoming ABC3 series, The Adventures of Figaro Pho. Production has commenced on the 13×30-minute (39×7-minute) CGI project, which follows the charming and mischievous character, Figaro Pho, who suffers every weird and wonderful phobia from A to Z.

Chocolate Liberation Front and Ambience Entertainment have teamed up for the project, in assistance with ABC3’s commissioning editors Carla de Jong and Simon Hopkinson.

Former head of Multiplatform Production at ABC TV, Dan Fill, and Frank Verheggen – both of CLF – will produce, while Omnilab's Christopher Mapp will serve as executive producer. Taylor will add his unique and imaginative art direction on the promising new series.

A team of about 80 – comprising of animators, writers, designers, layout artists, modelers and so on – have been employed (22 are in Adelaide, 47 in Sydney and 10 in Melbourne).

“They’re not here by chance – they’re actually hand-picked,” Jurevicius indicates.

“We actually go through all of their reels…and we make a specific decision about who we want on this team so it’s by no accident that everyone’s here.”

Fill says “we really believed in Figaro Pho and we really believed in Luke’s vision and we weren’t alone”.

Those joining were financing partners, which included ABC, screen agencies in South Australia, Victoria and NSW, Screen Australia and Omnilab Media. There were also distribution advances from Germany (ZDF Enterprises) and Canada (Distribution 360). ABC Commercial holds distribution rights for the rest of the world, including Australia, the US, Asia and South America.

De Jong says the ABC has no fear that The Adventures of Figaro Pho is set to become a landmark property for the children’s channel.

“[It’s] a timeless, ageless classic that will delight children not just in Australia but all over the world,” she says.

“We have all learnt something very special from Figaro – that you must face your fears in order to make something extraordinary. And we have Figaro to thank for that lesson and we have Luke to thank for Figaro.”

The series will air on ABC3 in 2012.

At the launch are (from left): CLF Producer – Frank Verheggen; ABCTV – Tim Brooke-Hunt; Line Producer – Barbara Stephen; Omnilab Media Managing Director – Christopher Mapp; ABC3 TV Commissioning & Development Editor – Simon Hopkinson; Ambience Entertainment Producer – David Webster; Creative Director – Deane Taylor; Series Creator/Director – Luke Jurevicius; CLF Producer – Dan Fill; Screen Australia CEO – Ruth Harley; Screen NSW CEO – Tania Chambers; ABC3 TV Head of Commissioning & Development – Carla de Jong; Omnilab Media Executive Director – Matthew Street.

Screen Australia's CEO Ruth Harley, Omnilab Media's Matthew Street and ABC3's Tim Brooke-Hunt

ABC3's Simon Hopkinson, series art director Deane Taylor, Ambience technical director Oyvind Nostdal and CLF's Frank Verheggen