Shortly after the title sequence re-vamp commission for the YouTube show "Wonderbirds" in 2020, Dee Anderson pitched me the idea of an animated spin-off featuring the 4 main stars of the show, Dee, Sherrie Hewson, Harriet Thorpe and Debbie Arnold, as a group of "Charlie's Angels" type detectives solving mysteries around the world, with animation allowing for more freedom than was possible during lockdown and to liberate them from the four walls of their respective homes as seen in their Zoom videos on the daily episodic show where they chat and interview guest celebrities.
Using character designs supplied by Hewson's daughter, a graphic designer, a short animated teaser proof-of-concept was produced using Adobe After Effects CC, with animator Yael Biran, who had worked with me on the previous title sequence re-vamp, ultimately splitting the animation between myself and Yael and using the same "cut-out" style animation and possible use of Adobe Character Animator for lip-sync if required.
Dee invited us both to actively collaborate with herself and Sherrie Hewson via phone and zoom calls on the basis that we would be part of the core team if the idea was commissioned and this made the project fun to work on since they were open to ideas and input with the basic premise in place of the team of Wonderbirds visiting various world locations where they would have adventures via the base of a luxury cruise-ship.
I blocked out a fairly simple series of shots starting with a "Charlie's Angels" style opener followed by a shot of a cruise-ship towards which the Wonderbirds are flying - stock footage was used for the backgrounds based on a concept that I had pitched for an economic use of animation combined with stock live-action, stills or specially filmed footage to give the proposed show an unusual look.
What was interesting was that this was for an animated show clearly aimed at an adult audience, rather than children, and intended to reflect their no-holds-barred YouTube channel - a harder sell admittedly but it was interesting to see how far such an idea could be pushed and especially since we were not answerable to a commissioner at that stage.
Having landed on the deck of the cruise ship, the 4 birds magically transform into their part-bird, part-human counterparts of the Wonderbirds and then convene in the closing sequence set in the ship's bar where they have a brief humorous exchange.
Originally the intention had been for an expletive-laced exchange between Sherrie and Dee, as per their humorous and good-natured exchanges on the YouTube show and necessitating lip-sync animation based on a recording session between Dee and Sherrie, which was actually done by Yael before they decided that a less controversial approach would be preferable.
I suggested speech bubbles, which would make for an unusual inclusion in an animation, and Dee approved this approach with a quick re-scripting of the dialogue.
It remains to be seen if the idea is commissioned but it was fun to work on during a very quiet period work-wise and if nothing else is a useful showreel piece demonstrating what can be achieved with minimal tools. Additionally, it was great fun for myself and Yael to interact with Dee and Sherrie in a very collaborative and inclusive way.
Ravi Swami 2021
"Wonderbirds" and teaser are copyright of Dee Anderson / GloTime TV.