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“It’s What We All Want, to Connect to the Earth…We All Remember that Sense of Wonder We Had as Children”

“It’s What We All Want, to Connect to the Earth…We All Remember that Sense of Wonder We Had as Children”

30 Jun 2022

Producers Behind the Blast

We’re back with Jetpack’s Behind the Blast, where Gráinne Mc Guinness, creative director of Paper Owl Films, lifts the lid on their beautiful 2D animated preschool show Ladybird & Bee.

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How did the idea for these shows come about?

With all our shows, we like to encourage young audiences to think differently and see the world in different ways. Ladybird & Bee was born out of us thinking about the planet and the environment and how the littlest critters have a big job to do maintaining balance in the world. Plus toddlers are much closer to their level, so there’s a natural connection. We wanted to create a show that celebrates nature and small things, and how even the smallest of us has a part to play.

It was devised by Claire Handley, David McGrath and myself. We were chatting one day, having recently been working on big shows, and we contemplated how nice it would be to do something small, pure and simple.

We all love nature and the outdoors, it feels magical but at the same time it’s very real and very close to the hearts and minds of our little audience

So, we thought we could do something really simple, yet powerful with a ladybird and a bee, and the message that all of us - even the smallest, play an important part in creating balance in the world

Ladybird and Bee are two besties, are they inspired by any real relationships in your world?

The relationships are inspired by the fact that small things matter. And that the best friendships involve looking after each other, sharing joys and discovering the world together.

Does Wild Meadow draw on influences from the real world? And, if so, what?

Yes, nature, as Ladybird & Bee is set in ‘Wild Meadow’. Even if kids only have access to a window box or a patch of grass, that would be ‘Wild Meadow’ to a little critter like a ladybird or a bee.

We want children to get outside. Nothing is better for mental health and - through the show - we encourage outdoor exploration and play. But this can also happen in a small space.

The 2D visuals are very striking, what influenced this type of look and feel?

We wanted to create something quirky, random and unexpected! When we look at a lawn or meadow we see certain things, but close up it’s very different. That’s what we tried to reflect on. We love photo real textures and elements combined with wall papers and assets we create from scratch. Having a mixed bag visually communicates the idea of bringing different elements together to create something beautiful.

The show has a central message about everyone having a part to play in helping the environment. Can you tell us a bit more about why this is important for toddlers?

From a young age, it’s important to teach kids that we can all do something. And that the things we do can inspire other people. Ladybird & Bee are helping in a very natural context, such as helping worms survive the rain.

Most people agree that the tools of production are powerful in delivering messages for all age groups. We know young children absorb the content and take its meaning on board. It’s also important they have fun watching, and the show is funny and resonates with them.

If you watch most young kids playing outside, you’ll see them come alive! A show that connects with nature will resonate with kids. They love mud, planting flowers, digging in the soil. It’s what we all want, to connect to the earth.

Which character in your shows do you most identify with and why?

Both Ladybird and Bee are autobiographical for me, because they are discovering the world together. We can all remember that sense of wonder we had as children, being outside with your friends as we did in the olden times (1980s). The wonder of the world is a universal concept for kids, it’s timeless.

I’d also love to be able to fly - that would be my chosen superpower!

What inspires you creatively? Music, TV, film etc?

Being outside is the thing that inspires me the most, including playing, swimming, running, camping and walking. These are the times when I feel my creative energy renewing.

The incredible ideas and creativity in the kids content industry is something that I find continually inspiring. In this world, you can do anything! We have some real treasures in the UK kids space, content which puts its audiences at its heart. I’m also inspired by the variety, but we do need more funding and better ways of getting our shows out there!

What do you watch/listen to?

I regularly listen to Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4 and a wide range of music, from classical to 80s. I also get introduced to the music my 13 year old is listening to. I’m a sucker for a good story, so I love ballads! In terms of TV, I’m very much enjoying the golden age. Killing Eve is my current favourite.

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