Toronto’s Guru Studio has boarded Sesame Workshop’s new animated series for HBO Max, Mecha Builders (working title).
Guru pitched Sesame Workshop a year ago with an animation test for Sesame series concept and ended up boarding as the animation production partner after Sesame liked the style that Guru came up with.
“It’s a reinterpretation of the Sesame characters in a robot style that’s a little bit more action-oriented and modern,” says Frank Falcone.
The series focuses on STEM themes and was first announced last October as part of a slate of Sesame content for WarnerMedia’s new streamer, launching later this month. The show is in creative development and will enter into production later this month.
Guru and Sesame had hoped to work together a few times over the years, says Falcone, but there was never the right project until this one. Now with a combination of good timing, and clarity of concept, the partnership (this time) came naturally.
“It’s been fun to ideate in this new world that we’re in, and figure out what the process is to create something new when you’re not in the room together,” says Falcone.
That’s not to say it hasn’t been without its challenges. The 3D-animated series is very three dimensional, says Falcone. The show has elements of science and robotics, but the studio and Sesame wanted it to feel as real as possible (“as much as there’s an element of reality with muppets,” he jokes) while weaving in fantasy.
“The challenge for us as a creative studio is to convey the warmth and the tenderness that the soft muppets convey in a form that isn’t soft and fluffy on screen,” says Falcone.
The other hard part is that traditionally the Sesame characters don’t have a bottom half. Guru needed to come up with a way to make the robot versions of the characters move the same way that a puppeteer would move them, even though you can see their full character in animated form. This meant researching the movements a puppeteer makes and then replicating those in animation.
“You can’t lose that way of moving, or you’ll lose the whimsy,” says Falcone. “[We] needed to respect the comedy of how puppeteers move characters.” The animators needed to build on what’s already strong about the property so as not to “betray a generation of kids and parents.”