Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Pool, Umbrella, Swirlywind


Mr. King's Pool was a fun little episode about taking advantage of a friends generosity. It's a very hot day, which Mr. King does not like, and he's inspired by the fish who are always nice and cool in Peaceful Pond. He asks to borrow a little of their pond water so that he can have a pool of his own but ends up taking a lot. (Even though he meant well by wanting to make a bigger pool of his own for his other friends.) I think the best part of this episode comes from the characters reactions to Mr. King having a pool. Their comic reactions are more typical of adult humor, stopping midway complaining about the heat to exclaim, "Why, Mister King...You have a pool." But I think the younger audience will get the very quick change in emotion. For some reason Rolo reminds me of Jon Lovitz in this ep.


I was really looking forward to doing an episode with rain and may be one of the few people who actually prefer it to sunny days. (Scottish heritage partially to blame.) One of the earlier notes on the outline of this script was regarding playing Mr. King as being bored. Bored being perceived as a negative emotion. In the end we treated Mr. King's initial bored reaction quickly and comically because I felt it was a primal feeling that all kids experience but tried to then shift focus away from him actually stating he was bored to him trying to find ways to keep the day fun. Add to that the short episode length and I think we arrived at a nice gentle balance. I believe this was also the first episode to show the exterior of Kaleidoscope Woods (design). Originally the design was to include a bit of Jim's house, Harriet's tree, Skit and Skoot's tree, but I wanted it to be more generic. Almost a symbol of the forest. This greatly simplified things and helped us avoid any future orientation issues. (As in I thought Jim's house was to the right of Mr. King's house etc.)


Swirlywind completes our seasonal themed episode with our first look at winter.. Don provided beautiful colour keys for this one. The challenge being that Mr. King's world has a lot of white space in it so how were we to show snow? The most obvious thing to do was essentially to flip the world. White snow on the bottom with blue tinted skies. The next challenge was how to make the swirlywind stand out on the white snowy ground. By adding a subtle blue gradation to the ground. It all may sound obvious to all the art directors out there but I think Don brought a special extra to the overall look. Everything fit together so nicely that it was if it had existed for years. The final challenge was to ensure that the characters swept up in the swirlywind were never in peril. I handled this by what became a standard strategy when dealing with such things. A quick, comical little yelp followed by showing everyone is okay and not overly concerned with their peril. All that being said, I think now that winter is upon us a swirlywind fan might be readily welcomed by most.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Picnic, Rainbow, and Stars


Mr. King's Picnic was a cute little episode where Mr. King tries to keep one step ahead of some pesky ants who seem intent on stealing his lunch. We took care to give each of his friends lunches that were indicative of their characters. Chanelle has Broccoli sandwiches. Bert, Honey buns. Tex, Tomato treats (pronounced tomahh-toe). And Mr. King, what else...Turnip sandwiches.
 I tried to keep the amount of ants to a minimum in order to help animation. In earlier drafts of the script I seem to remember there being a concern that the ants showed a bit too much emotion throughout. The problem with that was that it made Mr. King look like an ass, ignoring their pleas for food. So in the end we kept the ants somewhat emotionless until the end of Act 2. This helped portray Mr. King as unaware and really concerned with having a fun picnic with his friends. Only when the ants tiny little tummy rumbles does he realize what he should have done in the first place, share. I wonder if we'll get any notes from parents about their children feeding ants in the house.


Rainbow was very whimsical with Mr. King trying to help Rolo catch some of a beautiful rainbow in a jar. There was a bit of a challenge with showing a rainbow, gently fading, in each location. It need to be subtle but not so subtle that our audience wouldn't notice. In the end I asked Emanuel Rego, our technical director, to try a dappled light effect on it. It's a similar effect that you would use with shadows being cast by the leaves of trees. Only instead of dark shadows we used light/white shadows. This along with the gentle use of an acoustic rain-stick sound effect helped sell the rainbow fading in a unique way. Rainbow was also one of the premiere episodes to showcase Rolo and his prickly pout. I think Rolo should get an Emmy for his performance. Lastly, I ran into a problem where I was too smart for my own good. Jim gives Mr. King the idea for keeping the memory of the rainbow alive by taking a "Thought picture." I had originally wanted this to be a "Snap thought" which I thought was quite clever and something that might catch on with parents watching the show. Unfortunately, Snap thought was a good idea and was registered trademark which our legal department was not anxious about messing with. So Thought picture it was, and is. Not as catchy but it gets the point across.


Mr. Kings Stars ended up being a really funny episode thanks in large part to another great voice actor, Mark Edwards. Mark provided the voice for PJ, the bunny, and all his little sibling bunnies as well. When Mr. King turns the day into night so that PJ's little brothers and sisters can see the stars he inadvertently causes them to grow sleepy and go to bed. When Mr. King excitedly runs in he is shushed by a nervous PJ. I think we can all relate in one way or another to the fragile nature of getting a small child to sleep. The rest of the group running around in a whispered panic was quite funny me thinks.
In trying to figure out a way for Mr. King to make it night during the day I resorted to a strategy whereby I tried to imagine how a group of Preschoolers/ Grade Ones would solve the challenge. Children of that age rarely draw in perspective, which fits naturally into the art direction of our show. They usually draw the thing of greatest significance the largest. Also, most children that age haven't fully grasped the science of our sun. Generally speaking, the sun provides light and when it's not there, it's dark. And since most children have experienced what happens when their curtains are closed it seemed a logical choice for Mr. King to use curtains to block out the sun. And how else would one get up there to hang the curtains? Why a ladder of course. I could picture a child's drawing depicting this exact set up, with Mr. King standing on a ladder that's just tall enough for him to reach the sun. And that's what we went with, science be damned!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Play, Finding, and one Itchy Scarf


For some reason Mr. King's Play, written by Andrea Robin Skinner, always felt quiet to me. Not really sure why. Not in a negative way...more in a peaceful way. Like a moment in time in Kaleidoscope Woods.
As someone who finds himself in a leadership role I really love the message in this ep. You may write the thing. You may direct the thing. You may have even created the thing. You have all these ideas for how things should go and when they don't you really have only two choices. You double down on thinking you know the best or you open your mind and listen to others. I'm a firm believer in a good idea can come from anyone, anywhere. This strategy has helped me out of quite a few dead ends. As a leader you may not have all the answers but if others working with you are working in an environment where they feel comfortable sharing, you will find solutions.
I'd also like to thank Laura Bennet, BG Artist extraordinaire, for doing some 11th hour fixes to the main location. I originally wanted to just have regular trees as the audience but realized, rather late, that the play was called The Pine Trees Wish. Obviously we needed pine trees in the audience. Thanks Laura.


Finding was another great story from our creator Genevieve Cote. A simple message on the surface, that being to leave nature to its own business. However, the story has a much deeper meaning which I think revolves around the fact that we're born one way but often grow into something different. And we're constantly changing/growing still.
This was a really cute episode which takes place in only two locations. Harriet's nest and a river bank. Very friendly from a production standpoint. I think a nice balance was achieved where we maybe had a few more character designs needed but offset this with virtually no new props and the two locations. I also wanted the baby versions of each of the characters to be stills. Mainly for aesthetic reasons but also to save on rigging. The baby versions were designed by the amazingly talented Bora Nah and look as adorable as anything.
 I'm also glad Mama Turtle was so understanding, and that Mr. King wasn't arrested for turtle-napping.

Itchy Scarf

Itchy Scarf was written by the incredible Andrew Sabiston and has the distinct privilege of being the one script that went through with the most minimal of notes. Everyone on the team loved the script as it was universally relatable. Who hasn't received that gift, that sweater, that scarf, that is incredibly itchy? What do you do? You don't want to disappoint the gift giver. I personally remember getting an authentic Scottish sweater from my Nana which was made of pure wool. I think I wore it twice. I remember my mother telling me to wear a turtleneck shirt underneath however, like Mr. King and his three scarves, I could feel the wool poking right through it. It was a lovely sweater though. Looked great in my closet.
 I also particularly like Mr. King's struggle to maintain the "everything is fine" illusion until eventually having his meltdown. Laurie and I have this theory though that Jim knew exactly what he was doing all along. (By giving Mr. King his itchy scarf.)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Machine, Concert, and Turnip


Was the very first episode to go into production. It was also based on the book Mr. King's Machine by Genevieve Cote and Andrew Sabiston worked incredibly hard in staying true to the book. I made it a point to storyboard the first episode in order to set the tone, visually/compositionally. I tried a few things which I abandoned on subsequent episodes. (Such as Mr. King jumping up into his thought bubble.) I also cut the majority of the leica in order to give Rob Hornsby, my editor, a clear idea of the pacing which I believe/hope was helpful.
Though it was a long time ago I do remember how magical it was to hear our cast all together. I knew there were some who weren't sure that we cast everyone correctly (Jim) but upon hearing them I think we couldn't have imagined anyone else in their roles.
 There were a lot of firsts with this episode. Music, sound effects, technical accomplishments (the animated textures), animation, backgrounds, the opening credits etc... and usually a series takes a few episodes to find its groove but I have to say, with a few exceptions, Mr. King's Machine hasn't felt out of place with any other episode.


One of my favourite episodes is Mr. King's Concert, written by Andrew Sabiston. The inspiration for this story came from some of Genevieve's sketches showing Mr. King holding a drum mallet like a conductor's baton. The original idea was for Mr. King to want to help the group with their song eventually trying to conduct them. There was something about the original premise that I kept bumping up against even though most of the group was liking the direction. It really came down to what message I wanted to get across and I was really set on the idea of how playing a small instrument can be vital in a big song. This was to appeal to all the kids out there that either weren't confident enough to play or didn't get to pick the instrument of their choice. There was also a moment early on where the concert was to be for the rest of the group of animals inhabiting Kaleidoscope Woods. This also felt a little jumbled and I wanted to avoid having such a large cast in our second episode. (It also felt a little generic.) I think this was my first attempt at thinking well outside the box to problem solve a story. What could be more whimsical than playing a song for the stars? And what better song to play than (royalty free) Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star? In the end Mr. King still tried to help the group by wanting to play bigger and bigger instruments only to realize that the little triangle was the perfect instrument and the biggest help.


This was a wonderfully fun story idea from Genevieve that I believe was originally intended as a fourth book in her Mr. King Series. With a strong GMO message the theme itself revolved around patience. Some fun facts...
This is the first episode to feature the lovable, though technically problematic Rolo and his prickly pout.
The Little Big Hill that Mr. King plants his Turnip on is based on two hills that existed across the street from my childhood home..the Big Hill and the Little Hill. (Now that I'm older they both look kinda little.)
The episode was animated by the last group of 3 animators that made up our crew and as it was the last episode in Show 1 they did not have a lot of leeway when it came to finishing on time. They came through big time however, even in spite of Rolo's technical issues.
It was also our first "Seasonal" type episode and it was no coincidence that it played on Thanksgiving weekend.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Party, Moon Adventure, Mystery

I will be honest. I thoroughly disliked the original premise for Mr. King's Party. It came out of our second writers summit and I had concerns that the story ideas being pitched this time round were becoming too generic. Party was one of them. It felt like you could replace Mr. King with Little Bear or Franklin and have the same story. (Please note I love Little Bear and Franklin.)
Andrew and I struggled with finding the right approach for this one for quite some time. It was originally going to be Mr. King throwing a surprise party for Chanelle, who didn't like surprises. (The theme here was also a little too close to an earlier completed script.) Then it was Mr. King throwing a party for himself but not thinking about what his guests would like. (Closer but still on the generic side.)
Sometimes when I'm stuck on a direction I try swapping out one character for another and seeing if their personality is a better fit for the story. This time, however, every character we tried to swap ended up with the story still feeling generic. Then I thought of what other characters we already had designed and came across a snail. Ironically we had some generic snails that were used in another episode and suddenly it felt a lot funnier to have Mr. King throwing a surprise party for a snail. I pictured the frustration and anticipation of Mr. King waiting for the slow moving snail to show up. Suddenly the story felt less generic. And just like the party I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out.

Moon Adventure
Moon Adventure was the first professional script that I have ever written. I can tell you it's far easier to give notes on a script than it is to write one. Sounds obvious but keep in mind I knew this show inside and out. Knew all the characters and how they sound. I had already gone through 31 episodes working with Andrew on editing them in to what they would become. You would think I would have a pretty good idea on writing one. Well in theory I did. I now thoroughly understand the significance of the writing for television process. Springboard, Premise, Outline, 1st draft, 2nd draft, Polish, Final. Any of which could have a "revised" attached to it. This is to make sure you don't spend all your time rushing to the finish line without knowing what race you're running or where you're going. Andrew and the group were very supportive and helpful throughout and in the end I had completed a fun and whimsical script. Now for the big lesson. When this script went out to be storyboarded. my storyboard artist emailed me to let me know that she was half way through roughing out the board to the natpause(rough dialogue track roughly timed out like a sort of radio play) and it was already well over our 7 minute episode length. Close to 10 minutes overall! Essentially I had written too much action and a bit too much dialogue. I asked her to stop and send me what she had. I then went through and edited two and a half minutes out. (I alluded to this event in an earlier post.) The whole experience was great and I definitely learned to be much more focused with my approach to the second script I wrote. In the end, watching the completed show, I don't think you'd ever realize anything was missing. I particularly enjoyed Neil's use of theremin in the underscore.

Mystery was another episode that originally felt a little on the generic side. However, the idea of seeing fog in Kaleidoscope Woods was too intriguing. And who doesn't like a mystery. The big challenge with this episode was that it also came in really long. I tried for quite some time cutting it down to time but struggled to get it under the 8 minute mark. It was then that I knew I had to make a very difficult decision. I needed to cut one of the characters out, and it would have to be Chanelle. She was our only female character in the ep, and I really wanted to keep her in, but it would require a major re record to find lines that would work with removing one of the others instead. So in the end I just had to grin and bare it. Once she was gone the story fell neatly into place and within the 7 minutes we needed. It actually gave me a little more time to fill out a few other scenes which were feeling a little too quick paced. Some times a good thing has to go in order to support the greater good. Mystery solved.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Colours, Quiet Time, and Treasure

So Treehouse TV started the season with what was actually our second episode. (The previous images were from the first episode we produced.) No worries as these three are great as well. Here's a little info on the making of Colours, Quiet Time, and Treasure.

Two main things I wanted to accomplish with this episode was the message and the whimsy of Mr. King's world. The message, at its core, is that every colour is special. (Know what I mean?) Also that too much of one thing becomes less special. The whimsy was clearly illustrated when I had Mr. King painting the clouds purple along with the pond. I thought it funny that when he cleaned up everything he only sponged up the purple in the water as opposed to the water itself.  On a side note I love how Don, the art director, kept the backgrounds interesting and unique when shifting to a monochromatic palette. Chanelle appearing out from Mr. King's house could have been spooky but I think came across funny and weird, as intended.

Quiet Time
Quiet time was an interesting challenge as it encompassed a lot of what clients would have concerns with, and did. First, it's an episode about being quiet. (Concerns about there not being enough action, thus losing the attention of our audience.) Next, there's mainly just two characters throughout, and rarely together. (See previous concerns.) Third, the collapsing of the house might be too violent. This was actually a concern from Genevieve at the script stage. Although all of these concerns were valid I was confident that with the timing of the leica and the vocal acting I could maintain enough action/humor to keep the audience thoroughly entertained. As for the collapsing of the house, I had planned to have a very light/funny sound effect to help keep if, well, light and funny. Again, I think timing helped there as well.
Although maybe not originally intended I've since found this episode to be along the lines of mental awareness. Sometimes we drown out cries for help because we are too absorbed in our own lives/wants. Sometimes we need to stop the music and listen.

Mr. King's treasure is a pretty straight forward episode with the clear message that one persons trash is another ones treasure. There's also a subtle message regarding greed and keeping something that really doesn't belong to you by quickly rationalizing it.
Originally I wasn't crazy about the idea for this one but was quickly won over by the comedy of contrasting views between Mr. King and Skit and Skoot. (Cory's Skit and Skoot performance was stellar!)
The second Oopsie though has to do with an out of sync Mr. King in one of the scenes where he's digging. Oh well, adds to the charm and organic feel.
One of the best parts of the episode was and continues to be when Bert rides his bike into the hole Mr. King had dug. Bert's, "I'm in a hole!" gets funnier every time I hear it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Going forward by going back

So now that the season is done I thought I'd share some additional thoughts or stories on the making of each episode as they air.
Episode 1A, B, and C airs this Saturday at 10:10 a.m. ET.

The episodes are titled...
Mr. King's Machine

Mr. Kings Concert

Mr. Kings Turnip

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Mr. King on the air

The Remarkable Mr. King gets an air date.
Premiering on Treehouse TV (In Canada) on Saturday, October 5th, at 10:10 a.m. ET. (Also my birthday. I couldn't ask for a better present!)

Can't wait.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The end, or is it?

We did it! The Remarkable Mr. King Season 1 was completed a day and a half ahead of schedule and I believe a little under budget. I can't believe how fast that went. Couldn't have done it without the amazing work ethic of the entire crew. Fingers crossed that season 2 gets picked up soon.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Final scene approved

Title says it all.
Today at approx. 12:03 I approved the final scene for The Remarkable Mr. King Season 1.
Bittersweet to say the least. I'll try to compose a more eloquent thank you post but for now let me just say how incredible this experience has been. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to have discovered Mr. King and to have been allowed to push it forward. Couldn't have asked for a better crew. And even though I'll see them around, working on other various productions, I will miss them.

The final approved scene.