Coming up with a great kids show takes a magic combination of clever writing, endearing characters and catchy music. And decades of collective experience creating some of the most iconic kids puppet shows certainly helps, which is just what the three partners of Spiffy Pictures bring to the table.
Brothers David and Adam Rudman cut their teeth writing and performing for Sesame Workshop – David as a 20-year cast member and the puppeteer for Cookie Monster, and Adam as a scribe for Sesame Street, as well as Cyberchase and Noggin’s Oobi. Along with their partner Todd Hannert, who also has an extensive background as a designer, writer and musician in children’s television and video, the Chicago-based shop is gaining traction as a veritable puppet powerhouse.
Following two successful seasons of Jack’s Big Music Show airing on Noggin and Curious Buddies on Nick Jr., Spiffy recently scored a deal with Disney Channel for the 26-episode series Bunnytown, co-produced with Baker Coogan Productions in the UK. The show bowed on the cablenet in the UK and the US in November, and like Jack’s, Bunnytown is filled with humor and has a special focus on introducing kids to all different kinds of music.
But what really sets it apart is Spiffy’s re-engineering of the traditional puppeteering process. Bunnytown’s rod puppets are about eight inches high, a lot smaller than traditional hand puppets. A little trigger on the rod is used to control their mouths, and invisible marionette strings are used to execute elaborate arm movements. The smaller scale, and the occasional use of remote control, allows the puppets to be way more active, driving cars, riding unicycles and even flying away in hot air balloons.
Down the road, the Spiffy trio have aspirations to expand into animation and even some live action, but puppetry will always be a core activity. And David Rudman says they are planning on applying this new small-scale MO to new projects. He is in the early planning stages on two puppet features.
The shop is also developing a website loaded with original preschool and kids programming. Though Rudman was cagey about revealing too many details about the website for now, he said this platform would act as a testing ground for shorts that could potentially grow into series. Spiffy also has Good King Freddy in development with HIT Entertainment, which will include animated stories with puppet hosts.