Thanks to WarnerMedia, Toonsphere had the opportunity to interview the director and the producer of Mush-Mush and the Mushables, the newest animated series to air on Boomerang EMEA. We asked Joeri Christiaen and Perrine Gauthier about the animation techniques they used as well as the challenges during the development of the series and more.
As we know, the original idea of Mush-Mush and the Mushables was conceived in 2015, when Elfriede de Rooster created some 3D figures. When did you join the crew?
Joeri: [showing a figure to us] We always have one [with us].
Perrine: So basically, what happened is that Elfriede contacted us, to initiate work for us, to offer her services and so I went on her website and discovered her work, I found a picture of this guy, exactly this one. We found the character so unique, beautiful, fun and cute that they really deserve a TV series, so that’s why I proposed to her to start to develop a TV series together. At the beginning we mostly worked together to define what she wanted to do with this project. Because when you work on a project, there can be a lot of intentions, sometimes too many. So we would’ve like to define what the core of Mush-Mush was. So we worked together for the first year in 2015 and then Joeri came onboard the next year.
Joeri: We shared two companies together, so it was our companies to pick up the show. At that time I was still working on my previous show, so I joined later, and then started working on the animation.
Perrine: You can see that this little character is very cute but we had to adapt him to TV because he doesn’t have legs and his expressions are limited.
Joeri: We have to make sure the characters are compatible for TV. Everybody confirmed that he was so cute and my goal was to really preserve that cuteness. With adapting it to be a TV series, we wanted a show that has a lot of fun, action and acting that we can relate to so, he wasn’t very equipped body-wise, he was missing legs, eyebrows, teeth and all those things from a story telling point of view that you need. Those [body parts] were the first things I was focusing on for the first storyboard of the first episode, I discovered as I was drawing, I was like, ‘oh!’, they need legs, then I talked to Elfriede about the subtle changes, I had to make sure I had to preserve her vision and her designs as much as possible.
Please summarize, are there any refreshingly new contributions the show brings into the world of animated series?
Perrine: Mush-Mush and the Mushables is a show that follows the forest adventures of Mush-Mush and friends Lilit and Chep as the community explores, how fun being outdoors can be. So it’s a show about self discovery, and how it can be a big adventure and all that through the use of comedy. What is distinctive about this show is, first of all, the focus on the community that is not a thing you find in every animated show, the community, which have many different personalities of course, many different shapes and looks of mushrooms and also different generations. They are a little bit like us: they evolve through different stages of life, which we find very fun. They are born as mushies (baby mushables that don’t even have arms and legs), then they evolve their mischievous mushlegs, they become mushrooms, like our heroes, then they turn to adults (mush-ups) and mush-elders. So you really have a lot of story and comedy coming from the relationship between the different generations.
Joeri: What’s fun is that the elders, they’re not really the wisest, I mean they can be wise but they’re so fun. They can be grumpy, moody, they overreact, they overdramatize, extremely funny to work with from a story point of view, they’re a bit kid-like still, they’re not like the old wise characters, they jump, they do karate, they do all kind of stuff, it’s really fun.
What was the biggest challenge whilst making the series?
Perrine: The other distinctive aspect is the look, it’s something we’ve really worked on, with the art direction with Joeri and the work with Elfriede on the designs, it’s quite a beautiful and high quality series we try to offer to the audience and we hope they will enjoy the very lush forests.
Joeri: It was a challenge to create such a warm and rich environment. Normally, at the TV shows there are some restrictions you have to work with. We used the 3D software, Blender, it’s one of the first time a series of this volume has been used with this software. The rendering was a challenge because there were so many objects in every scene, for example there’s tree, the trees have canopies, small and big plants and moss everywhere. To make it realistic it was an artistic choice to make sure to preserve the vision of the characters and make sure the characters stay cute. We made a very realistic background versus stylized characters so they always stand out.
We find it creative that you brought 2D elements into the 3D animation. Why did you do this and how did this idea come into your minds?
First of all it’s something we’ve done on our previous show, It’s a fun way to refresh the storyline. What we would like to avoid, like what we said we like comedy, we like challenging animation and fun episodes, the moment a character has to explain something and he does so by just talking to the camera or his friends, it tends to get less interesting, so we decided to make a completely different animation style when we’d like to tell something. We can go from perfect 3D and go for something extremely basic, kids-like drawing, it can also be used for flashbacks and daydreams.
Both of you also worked on My Knight and Me. That show targeted an older age group, which was children between six and eleven years old. What is the difference in making a series for younger children? Did you face any challenges or did it help to boost your creativity even more?
Perrine: Mush-Mush and the Mushables is more 4-7 [years old], but it depends on the countries and the broadcasters.
Joeri: So when you watch certain characters in My Knight and Me and then you go and watch Mush-Mush and the Mushables, you will realise that they’re not the same but still have same funniness about them, for example the lead character in My Knight and Me – Henri, is a character that does think much before he jumps into action which always provokes a funny story or funny situations, and while working on Mush-Mush, I didn’t change the way I handle characters and the way I wanted them to move, it’s not like I tone anything down for younger kids.
Perrine: We didn’t sit down and decide to make a pre-school show, we just wanted to make a fun show in this world, the stories and ideas came naturally in that sense.
Perrine Gauthier is a French producer with 12 years of experience producing animated content. Her producer credits include the TV series MY KNIGHT AND ME (2017) and MUSH-MUSH AND THE MUSHABLES (2020), both sold internationally to Turner, now WarnerMedia. After graduating from New York Institute of Technology, Perrine Gauthier became the assistant of independent producer Ben Barenholtz (Requiem for a Dream, Barton Fink, etc.) while also writing, directing and self-producing live-action short films. She entered the animation world when joining New York-based distributor Branscome International, where she worked with cult animator Bill Plympton. After moving back to France, Perrine joined animation studio TeamTO where she worked on the development, financing and production of over ten animated TV series and a feature-film. In 2014 Perrine joined THURISTAR in Belgium as partner and producer, and in 2015 she founded LA CABANE in France to develop, finance and produce exciting animated projects together with her three partners.
Joeri Christiaen is a show creator, art director and director, born in Belgium and currently based in Paris. His directing credits include the TV series MY KNIGHT AND ME (2017) and MUSH-MUSH AND THE MUSHABLES (2020), both sold internationally to Turner, now WarnerMedia. Joeri Christiaen studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium, before joining the team of THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE as lead animator. While directing his first TV series PLANKTON INVASION in 2010, Joeri also wrote and directed the short film 850 METERS, produced by his Belgium-based company THURISTAR. He then helmed the short’s TV spin-off, MY KNIGHT AND ME, coproduced by THURISTAR and completed in 2017. The series was picked up worldwide by Turner/Cartoon Network. In 2014, Joeri co-founded LA CABANE in France with Perrine Gauthier and two other partners. Joeri is the director and art director of the series MUSH-MUSH AND THE MUSHABLES, created by Elfriede de Rooster. The show has been picked up by WarnerMedia internationally.