Vertical Gigglebug

Gigglebug flips storytelling with vertical show

Gigglebug is turning the traditional storytelling format on its head with Tadpoles—a new vertical show with a universal theme.
February 14, 2022

The rules are made to be broken, or so the saying goes. Yet there are certain rules in film and TV that are rarely challenged—chief among them is that on-screen stories need to be told horizontally. Finnish animation studio Gigglebug is looking to break free of this tenant with its newest series in development, The Super Epic Tadpole Journey to the Surface of Croak Creek (or Tadpoles, for short).

The 78 x seven-minute show for kids ages four to seven follows a pair of tadpoles as they make their way from the bottom of the pond to the surface, facing obstacles like alligators and hungry fish along the way.

Based on an idea generated by character designer Said Omar Eshaq and storyboard artist Romain Beuriot, at a glance Tadpoles would seem to be a typical kids show that stars two small animals desperate to grow. Look deeper, however, and you’ll see that everything else is flipped on its side.

The story will be told in vertical aspect ratio, which means everything from story-boards to scripts need to shift to tell the story vertically, says Beuriot. “In a typical character’s journey, the artist uses a technique where the cartoon is always walking from the left to the right of the screen,” says Beuriot. “We’ve changed it so the characters are going up instead.” Even the smallest of details, such as the direction characters’ eyes point, needed to be rethought.

“It’s totally different,” says Beuriot. “You’re [storyboarding] something that you do every day, but you normally do it horizontally. You have to see everything differently.”

Gigglebug’s CEO Anttu Harlin challenged his employees with creating a vertical story in May as a way of stretching their creative muscles. In the mix were ideas filled with skydivers and castles, but Eshaq and Beuriot’s universal concept of kids growing up—while literally venturing upwards—stood out. Harlin vetted the concept with his own kids, and each night they’d ask to hear more, which showed him the story had legs.

Gigglebug fast-tracked Tadpoles‘ development, and plans to pitch it at Kidscreen Summit Virtual in March. The creative team has a pitch deck and a storyboard for the first episode ready, and is working on an animation test. They’ve also developed a companion mobile game to accompany the IP.

Gigglebug isn’t breaking entirely new ground. Mobile-friendly social platform Snap has been commissioning vertical content native to its platform for a few years now, with only middling success. The now-defunct Quibi famously tried to make mobile-first content—which could all be watched vertically—the norm. And, of course, people watch vertical content on their Instagram Stories every day.

While the prodco will target mobile-friendly platforms like YouTube and TikTok, Harlin doesn’t want to close the door on more traditional linear or SVOD partners that have horizontal aspect ratios. Even if the story is told on a horizontal screen, enough of the storytelling and design is vertical that it will still be a differentiator for the series, and that will help draw audiences in, he says.

“We’re going to do a bit of a roadshow with all of the players we don’t know that well,” says Harlin. “We don’t know if they’re commissioning this [type of content], but we’ve trail-blazed before, so we’re going to give this new route a go.”

About The Author
Alexandra Whyte is Kidscreen's News & Social Media Editor. Contact her at awhyte@brunico.com

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