The Timmy Time creator discusses Aardman's first preschool series now airing on Playhouse Disney.
Jackie Cockle (Bob the Builder: Project Build It) knew the instant she started developing Timmy Time that she needed to get the lovable youngster out of the adult environment of Shaun of the Sheep, so "he didn't get into any trouble." She didn't require much research, relying on her own memories of preschool, and discussed her experiences with Timmy, which currently airs on Playhouse Disney.
Bill Desowitz: How would you characterize Timmy Time?
Jackie Cockle: Whereas Shaun is very much a silent comedy with slapstick, Timmy is very funny and very relatable and all about growing up. What it's like going to nursery and leaving home for the first time and making new friends. I think it's also really nice for kids to know that while they're going to nursery, Timmy is doing exactly the same with all this animal friends. It's also nice that parents can sit and watch Timmy because, of course, we've all been through that growing up thing.
BD: What's the biggest challenge?
JC: I guess one of the biggest challenges in terms of the animation was making it very bouncy, as kids are at that age. The characters tend not to walk anywhere but bounce and jump and run, which means a lot of rigging in the animation. But I think it really pays off because it's a lot of fun to see the energy of the characters, which is a really big part of Timmy. And when I was designing it, I wanted it to be very bright and very colorful and quite stylized in the way that kid's drawings are when they paint suns and trees and flowers. There's a nice naïve quality to that and I wanted to echo that in the whole design of the sets and the characters.
BD: What kind of rigging do you do for the puppets?
JC: Well, we tend to use metal rods and ball and socket joints and heavy-weighted stands. So it's a challenge in terms of making sure you rig things properly on set, so that it's not too much of a nightmare when you're in your online suit painting those rigs out. You need to make sure that you don't have them crossing in front of characters and are behind.
BD: And what's the size of the puppets?
JC: Approximately six inches. And obviously the smaller the character, the harder it is to animate. The Timmy in Shaun was a lot smaller than the Timmy that we're using but that's because he's the main character now and he's very energetic and got a lot to do and a lot of emotions to portray.
BD: How many Timmy's are there?
JC: We have a cast of 13 characters and we have nine Timmy's and four of each of the other characters. We've got a crew seven animators that work across 14 different sets. So you need a lot of characters to keep the animators working.
BD: And how's it working out shooting digitally?
JC: There are plusses and minuses on both sides, really. You gain in the quality and get a really nice depth of field, but you kind of have to readjust your thinking when you're directing as to how you can get the shots that you want. But it's fine and we've all got used to it by now. It's much easier to post-produce, obviously in online edit suites, but it takes more time on the floor when you're setting up shots and all the checks that you have to do and the management of all the data.
BD: How many episodes have you finished?
JC: We have 52 episodes delivered and we're now in production on the next 26 and a further 26 to follow. So we will end up with 104 episodes come 2012. We produce about five minutes of animation in a week, which is a pretty good going given the high production values.
BD: What are your favorite episodes?
That's a hard one: it's usually the last ones you've done. But I've got one episode that I love and always will, which is Timmy's Hiccup Cure [the second]. He cures a kid of hiccups and there's something about that episode that I really love.
BD: And what is his cure?
JC: That's a secret: you've got to watch the episode.
BD: So what's in the future for Timmy?
JC: I think, because you're preschool audience is continually renewing itself, I would probably keep him in nursery for quite some time. But there is potential for characters to go on to other things. But personally I would keep him in preschool.
BD: What other Aardman projects do you have in the works?
JC: I have two other preschool shows in development and so it's a very, very busy studio, with more Shaun in the works and two features, Arthur Christmas and Pirates! and all the commercials.
BD: And when will we hear about more Wallace & Gromit?
JC: I would think in the very near future… yeah.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.
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