It turns out you can teach an old dino new tricks. Bumpybox is preparing to start production on the fourth season of the dinosaur-centric preschool series My Petsaurus in July, and the UK-based animation company has had to rewrite the rules after COVID-19 made its old procedures extinct.
“We’re expecting everything to take a little bit longer, and it will be up to us to remain as efficient as possible,” says Sam Wright, Bumpybox’s producer and director. “But that’s where the planning is key.”
My Petsaurus follows a young Chloe as she takes care of her first pet, a triceratops named Topsy. The mixed-media show films first with its actors before adding the CG-animated dinosaur into scenes during post-production.
“The live-action filming required a complete overhaul from how we’d normally expect to work. But for the CG, it’s almost business as usual,” Wright says.
Ahead of restarting production, producers took a safety course from the company’s health and safety provider First Option Safety Group. London-based First Option also helped Bumpybox develop a personalized safety assessment. This was important, Wright says, because the show’s combination of live action and animation makes it unique compared to strictly live-action productions.
In addition to a strict cleaning schedule on set and providing personal protective equipment for the cast and crew, Bumpbox will focus primarily on maintaining social distancing during filming. New software will allow the crew to see shots from their phone or tablet, rather than having to crowd around the monitor. Additionally, different departments will work in waves—for example, the art department will visit set, and once they’re done everything will be disinfected before the lighting team can come in.
“Even very hands-on departments like costumes and makeup will have to maintain social distancing,” Wright says. “For our child actors, we’ll bring in their parents to help. Because they’re in the same household, they can have that close contact.”
There will even be multiple, identical versions of each prop so that cast members can have their own item to work with, he says.
And while the team has planned its tea breaks down to the minute to ensure the crew can maintain social distancing, the actual episodes they plan to film haven’t had to change at all.
“For us, social distancing is almost built into our show because one of the characters is a CG dinosaur,” Wright says. “Generally, we have one child actor filming, and then we need to leave a rather large space on set for her pet dinosaur to be added in later. We always had to leave quite a large space between actors anyway, which means it really won’t feel that much different. In years to come, it hopefully won’t look too odd to have that space, because it will actually be filled with a dinosaur.”
And because Bumpybox has already established a lengthy post-production process to create My Petsaurus‘s CG elements, Wright believes that structure could be used to provide new possibilities while filming.
“It’s possible for us to shoot in different passes with the actors shooting separately and then adding them together in post-production,” he says. “Because we already have those processes in place, it’s not another line in the budget. We have that flexibility in terms of approach.”