Interview with the Producer of KAZOOPS!

I've got something exciting happening today - a first for Teacher Types! I get to interview the producer of Kazoops, Patrick Egerton. You may have read my post yesterday, explaining the importance of imaginative play and how Kazoops encourages children to use their imaginations to make sense of their worlds (if you haven't read it here), so this is the perfect follow up. We get an insight into how the ideas for the show came about and a snapshot into how it's created. Patrick shares what it's like being a producer, and even some future plans for Kazoops.

Did you know that "Moops" was the original name of the show? But it was already taken, so they experimented with different made up words that could express fun, surprise and wonder! And that's how Kazoops started...

1. We love Kazoops and the imaginary world our kids get to explore. The characters are loveable, relatable and adventurous! Where did the inspiration for the show come from? Are the characters based on anyone in real life?

We optioned a concept from a group of colleagues here in Sydney. Scott Langley had written some cool songs about a boy called Monty and a pig called Jimmy Jones who go on imaginary adventures. Anthony Aston, a sound producer, had worked with Scott to produce the songs and then Darren Price at Mighty Nice studios had worked up some beautiful designs for how these characters and their world might look. There was so much to love about the materials so we decided to develop them into a TV show for pre-schoolers.

It took a couple of years to work into something that was ready to produce as an episodic show with a clear repeatable format and narrative structure. We also had to bring the ABC onboard here in Australia, and other networks internationally to finance the series and that always takes time.

There’s a retro-coolness, but also an innocence and wonder to Kazoops which seems to charm kids and parents alike. Monty is like any child of his age - curious, even awestruck by the world around him - and Jimmy Jones is a cute, mute but hugely expressive character who Monty can project emotions and thoughts onto and show empathy towards, which is something all children do with their pets. None of the characters are based on any particular real life people, but I think when people watch the show they want to see a bit of themselves in the whole family because they’re so much fun.

2. Why is play, imagination and critical thinking so important to the success of the show?

The major creative breakthrough when we were developing the show was the simple idea in each episode Monty challenges a pre-conception or accepted wisdom about life. This gave us the missing impetus for Monty's imaginative journeys which he embarks on with his best friend Jimmy Jones, the family pet pig. Because the imaginary adventures are his way of exploring the preconceptions he is challenging. As parents of young children this felt right because our kids clearly use imaginative play to road test ideas and build their understanding of the world. But we still consulted a child development expert in the UK, Dr Jacqueline Harding, for some corroboration. She was thrilled with the show concept and saw it as the perfect expression of the research she was conducting into how kids use their imaginations to learn and grow.

3. So Kazoops first aired in the UK? And then it was brought to Australia on ABC Kids? Are you based here in Oz? Can you tell us more about where and how the show is made?

Cheeky Little is based in Manly but as a kids animation producer we need a global perspective because we require a network of partners around the world to finance and make our shows. Kazoops was mainly financed with license fees from the ABC, BBC and Netflix where they pay in advance for the rights to then broadcast the show for a number of years. To get them to commit in advance like this is very challenging and competitive so you really need to have passion, stamina, a unique idea and be a producer they trust to deliver a quality show.

The show was a truly international production which we managed entirely from our little office in Manly. We did our scripts and voices in the UK, animation in Malaysia, while design, storyboards, music and post production were done here in Australia. It’s quite common to spread the work across the world like. When you have broadcasters from different countries contributing to the budget they invariably want opportunities for their local industry. Also because it’s so hard to finance a series, you sometimes have to put work into countries where subsidies exist that can help you meet the budget.

4. What does a typical “day in the life of a TV producer” look like? (I’m curious).

As a producer you have to wear two hats which is what makes it so interesting. Your creative hat for reading and commenting on scripts, evaluating designs and animation and looking for that next new idea that gets you so excited that you want to start the whole journey over again. Your business hat is for finding the finance for your productions, putting together budgets and schedules and hiring the talented teams that will help you make something brilliant.

5. What is your hope for Kazoops in the future?

We’d love to make another TV series, some more special longer episodes and also a feature film.  We’re working on an app to allow kids to immerse themselves more interactively into the Kazoops world and characters. We’re also putting a lot of energy into expanding Kazoops into some cool toys with Tomy and lovely books with Penguin.  So watch this space.

Thank you so much Patrick. How fascinating to learn what a TV show actually comes about and makes it to our screens. 

Just imagine what will come next!

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