As the creative director and founder of new UK indie Jouska Entertainment, Michelle Forde is helping hatch a new animated kids comedy series that destigmatizes mental health issues—based on a picture of an egg that broke the Guinness World Record for most-liked Instagram post.
For people not up to speed on the viral sensation, a mysterious Instagram account was activated on January 4, 2019 with the handle @world_record_egg. In a bid to compete against the then-World Record holder (a photo of Kylie Jenner and her daughter with 18 million likes), the mystery account challenged the broader Instagram community through an organic campaign. The photo eventually received 53 million likes. British ad exec Chris Godfrey was eventually outed as the man behind the picture.
Godfrey, alongside his friends Alissa Khan-Whelan and C.J. Brown, pitched Hulu a 30-second animation in which the egg (named Eugene by fans) would crack under the pressures of social media and encourage others suffering to seek help.
To further the message that “it’s okay to not be okay,” Egg Gang is developing a self-titled 52 x 11-minute animated comedy series for seven to 12-year-olds, and tapped Forde’s Jouska to executive produce.
“The idea for a [kids] series came into being because mental health issues often begin during the school-age years,” says Forde. “It’s becoming more and more apparent that mental health education needs to start at an early age.”
In early development as a mixed media series that blends animation with real-world elements, Egg Gang will examine life through the fragmented shell of Eugene the Egg, whose biggest fear is cracking. Set on a planet where eggs are the dominant species, the show kicks off after an incident nearly breaks Eugene, so he signs up to a self-help group known as “Feel all the Feels.” He soon befriends an eclectic mix of characters in the group who become the Egg Gang.
Destigmatization will also be supported through multi-layered stories that explore themes such as gender, sexuality, social identity, environmental issues, ethnicity, belonging, loneliness, bullying, peer pressure, bereavement, body confidence, family dynamics and disabilities, says Forde.
She adds that the TV property will extend to other platforms to best leverage the existing online community of more than seven million people. Designed to be a multi-platform experience, the producers also plan to create original digital content for apps and games.
Forde is helping the group put financing together for the series, and bring production and broadcast partners on board. Within the UK, the project is up for funding from the Young Audiences Content Fund and plans are in the works to pitch it to the international market for the first time at Kidscreen Summit in February.
As for Jouska’s growth strategy, Forde expects to build a larger slate of all-ages content. Along with IP creation, Forde provides a consultancy service, including creative development and script writing, and recently signed a deal with London-based Coolabi Group (Clangers) to serve as a development executive.
Before setting up Jouska in London, Forde most recently served as senior development producer at Beano Studios where she developed So Beano for Sky Kids, and was also story consultant on the first season of Emmy-nominated CGI series Dennis and Gnasher Unleashed for CBBC and Netflix. Prior to this, she was head of development for BAFTA-winning, Belfast-based production company Sixteen South and worked on shows such as Lily’s Driftwood Bay and Claude.
“I have been very fortunate to gain a thorough grounding in the industry from my previous roles,” says Forde. “But I have long held a desire to develop my own slate of projects so the time feels right to utilize this experience with my own company.”