Gary “Doodles” DiRaffaele, creator of Nickelodeon’s Breadwinners and an animator on Netflix’s Midnight Gospel, is tackling one of the biggest brands in kids entertainment: Baby Shark. The infamous earworm that has racked up more than 7.2 billion views on YouTube is getting its own 2D-animated series. Baby Shark’s Big Show! will premiere on December 11 with a 26 x half-hour first season.
DiRaffaele was tasked with helping to turn the viral tune into a global show that can sustain a long-form narrative. As the EP overseeing art and production, he was charged with giving the IP a visual look, a musical vibe and a lot more catchy new songs.
While the viral clip has an iconic style, DiRaffaele turned to his past work on Nickelodeon’s Breadwinners to help him move the Baby Shark brand to television. He began with an animation style that would have global appeal—namely, he simplified the art with a more “western” look—and developed animated characters with big eyes who are always smiling.
“The challenge was in turning the music video into something with heart, appeal and a world you felt like you could live in,” says DiRaffaele. “I focused on cute art, making sure we had a new short song—our idea of a hit single—in every episode for kids, and big set pieces to wow parents, too.”
Because of how deeply associated the Baby Shark IP is with music, the series needed to have an intrinsic musicality, says DiRaffaele. To achieve this, he again turned to his experience on Breadwinners. Working with frequent collaborator (and bandmate) Tommy Sica, much of Baby Shark’s Big Show!‘s musicality will come from a unique way of blending music with action.
Finally, to help production run smoothly, DiRaffaele is employing the same Flash animation pipeline that he used on Breadwinners, with backgrounds done in Photoshop.
Looking to the future, DiRaffaele would love to produce more preschool animation, as well as expand into tween-focused content and experiment with stop motion (perhaps on new Baby Shark’s Big Show! content in the future).
“With the support of the Nickelodeon team, I feel like I’ve been able to turn a viral music video into something that will help kids smile during a dark time,” says DiRaffaele. “I have a sketchbook of ideas now, and seeing the work [animation studios] Titmouse and Exit 73 did on Baby Shark’s Big Show! has inspired me to go back to my roots and work on my own projects.”