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Q&A: Martin Baynton brings cinema to the small screen

The WotWots, created by New Zealand's Pukeko Pictures and produced by Academy Award-winning animation studio Weta Workshop, is going into its second season on ABC Australia and Channel Five's Milkshake block in the UK, taking the curious alien puppets from zoos to the barnyard. Kate Calder caught up with The WotWots producer Martin Baynton to talk about how Weta makes kids TV shows with a cinematic flair.
October 1, 2009

The WotWots, created by New Zealand’s Pukeko Pictures and produced by Academy Award-winning animation studio Weta Workshop, is going into its second season on ABC Australia and Channel Five’s Milkshake block in the UK, taking the curious alien puppets from zoos to the barnyard. Kate Calder caught up with The WotWots producer Martin Baynton to talk about how Weta makes kids TV shows with a cinematic flair.

How are you making use of cinematic storytelling techniques in TV production?
Very often in TV, you’ll move from set to set because you can’t afford to build walks within those four walls and then cut to the next set. For Jane and the Dragon, we built a set that was open-ended so we could have camera moves that were very cinematic. The camera will swoop with the dragons all the way through the set.

We wanted to do the same thing with The WotWots. We have camera moves that allow us to actually have the little characters on their chairs pulling stunts, and then track them as they sweep down the pathways.

How do you create a feature film look on a TV budget?
We knew that the only way we could make a show at the level we wanted to was to set ourselves certain technological goals we had to achieve at the front end that would allow us to do compositing and lighting at almost cinematic levels, but with an automated process that would allow us to use TV budgets. You have to think smart. You can’t throw money at television to solve problems the way sometimes you can in film. You have to throw brain power at it. You hear about people making a TV show and they are always playing catch-up because the pipeline isn’t working. And the only way then to deal with it is to throw money at it with over time, extra animators, etc.

What can we expect next from you on the kids TV side?
We would love to do a further series of The WotWots where we go underwater and turn the spaceship into a submarine. We’ve partnered up with Chapman Entertainment in the UK for Trooper Tom and Moodini and the Dairy Devils. We also have three other shows we’re developing in-house that we aren’t ready to reveal just yet.

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