Feeling Chipper about the Great Outdoors
Rowell notes, “My role has evolved as needed to support and assist IAG Media and Stephanie in the growth of the property and message. It has ranged from typical pre-production assignments like character design, storyboarding, conceptualization / scripting to animation production, applications development, illustration and design.”
Michels remembers, “Doug and I first collaborated together on a pilot for Big Hill Pictures called E Is For Elephant. It was a children's show that showcased different animals with a live action host, with animated cutaways and animated gags involving the animals. It was a lot of fun and very educational!”
Rowell explains the production process. “Let's Go Chipper was created using three software systems with Flash as the main platform for pre-production and production and Adobe After Effects and Premiere for post-production along with Final Cut. Flash was used as an illustration, inking, rigging and animation tool for character and background design to animation and cycle development to asset library organization and archiving.” The flexibility of Flash enabled the team to produce broadcast quality animation at an affordable price. Rowell states, “Mediatavern has a proprietary technique and process for how we develop, rig, and animate characters which streamlines the process without sacrificing the quality or affecting the production schedule.”
Beyond a wonderful team of writers, illustrators, and animators, Chipper and his friends have been brought to life by the guidance and award winning live footage of Bay Area naturalist Doug McConnell. He has received many regional Emmys and other broadcast awards during his long career in television. McConnell has also been recognized for his extensive public service and been named Honorary National Park Ranger, Honorary State Park Ranger, Volunteer of the Year by the San Francisco Bay Trail and Humanitarian of the Year by the Marin Humane Society. He also received the prestigious Harold Gilliam Award for environmental reporting and storytelling in Northern California. McConnell has managed significant communications programs for the President's Commission on Coal, the Governor of Alaska, the University of Alaska, The Institute of Ecology, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and many other institutions.
Rach-Wilson grew up in a 4-H household with a "get out and play" philosophy. 4-H teaches children to pledge their heart, head, hands, and health to enrich themselves, family and community. Commitment to community was instilled at a young age and working with children is her passion. In 4-H, Stephanie learned the importance of living an organic "green" life by respecting the environment and the people you come in contact with.
Rowell reflects, “What I liked about Stephanie’s project is that she started this eco idea from a very interesting place, by asking a very simple, but extremely important question…
When is the last time you heard a parent say, ‘Go out and play.’?”
In his book Last Child in the Woods, (2005), Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder,” referring to the trend that children are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. Nature Deficit Disorder, juvenile diabetes, ADHD and other disorders that affect children both physically and mentally are associated with the sedentary lifestyle of today’s youth who spend much of their time in front of computers and TV. People won’t appreciate nature and the environment if they don’t explore it for themselves. Rach-Wilson’s creation Let’s Go Chipper encourages parents and their children to visit the great outdoors in the hopes that new generations of nature lovers will embrace the importance of protecting the environment.
“It is a great and timely message that comes from a truly authentic place,” states Rowell. “The world where we live and breathe each day is going to be lost if we do not learn as a society to manage our never ending consumption and unsustainable habits that border on insanity. We are living and working with limited resources and we need to understand how to maintain our quality of life without impacting our planet’s eco-system in a detrimental manner.”
Rowell believes in the power and value of edutainment and storytelling. “It is possible to balance entertainment and education [i.e. ‘edutainment’] in a fun, relevant and meaningful way. A great example of this is the hybrid between entertainment and social learning that sites like Funnelbrain.com are engaged in with properties like a Let’s Go Chipper! where the line between entertainment and education is blurred by the use of music, video, quizzes, social study groups and curriculum to make the process of critical thinking more engaging and accessible. ‘Edutainment’ does not have to mean low ratings and anemic profits nor poor quality creative product. Good strong storytelling and a moral message will always find an audience if told in a compelling manner,” observes Rowell. “We who love animation are already dreamers--we should be willing to dream big and believe that best-in-class storytelling and animation can be delivered around a focused social issue.”