Following in the footsteps of Angelina Ballerina’s recent sauté into CGI, HIT is producing two more of its best-know series, Thomas & Friends and Bob the Builder, in CGI. Executive producer and SVP of production and programming at HIT, Christopher Skala says the switch will take the characters out of their restricted static environments and bring more fluidity to their movements. In particular, he says, CGI will allow them to show detailed facial expressions that will make for a stronger, deeper connection with kids. Skala says that in Thomas & Friends, enabling the formerly live action engines to speak for the first time and be a part of the storytelling will make the episodes more dynamic and engaging. He adds the live action style that worked so well 25 years ago was in danger of being superceded by other shows in today’s kids broadcast landscape.
Though both properties are moving into the CGI world, Skala says that each will have a different and distinct style and look. Production on Thomas & Friends is being produced at Vancouver, Canada-based Nitrogen Studios and will bow on Five’s Milkshake! in the UK in late 2009, as well as other territories (excluding Japan). For Bob the Builder, HIT is working with LA-based prodco SD Entertainment to bring the stop motion series into CGI. Delivery for the new format is scheduled for late 2009 for CBeebies in the UK and PBS Kids in the US. Skala says HIT will continue to produce Bob the Builder stop frame episodes for the direct-to-DVD series Bob On Site.
Skala says the new formats will create expanded licensing and merchandising opportunities that will incorporate not only the refreshed aesthetic, but also the potential for new products that incorporate talking Thomas products, for example.