CASE STUDY: 01 Waybuloo – Children’s Series

  • 150 x 19 minute episodes, 50 x 11 minute episodes.
  • Mixed animation and live action landmark pre-school series
  • Produced by CBeebies/The Foundation/RDF Media/Zodiak Media/DHX Media
  • Series producer: Simon Spencer (“Thomas & Friends” , “Zack & Quack’) Lead Director: Dirk Campbell (“In the Night Garden”). Executive Producers: Nigel Pickard & Vanessa Hill.
  • Composition and production of all music, theme and incidental.
  • Scoring of successful pitch film presented to BBC by The Foundation & RDF (Zodiak Media)
  • Soundtrack single, video and album released on Demon Music
  • Creation of music for Fisher Price/Mattel Plush Toys
  • Lead Broadcaster CBeebies, sold to 80 territories, reaching over 10 million individuals, over 35 licenses sold, “Time for Yogo” video no 1 video in Kids i-tunes chart.
  • Featured in Televisual magazine case study on leading media composers.

Concept Summary

Waybuloo, a landmark pre-school series, transports children into Nara, a world of happiness and friendship and home to the adorable animated characters called Piplings.

In each episode the Piplings – mischievous Yojojo, wise Nok Tok, creative Lau Lau, and loving De Li – are joined by six children who arrive from the hill to lay “Peeka” (hide and seek), practice “Yogo” (yoga) and explore the world of Nara. Live action blends with the magic of CGI. Through warmth, friendship and co-operation , Waybuloo shows children natural and spontaneous routes to happiness.

Piplings are joyful and gentle creatures who personify positive emotion through the natural ability to float when they’re happy. They have a childlike innocence and sense of wonder, making them inquisitive, impulsive and funny. Naturally selfless, thoughtful and sweet-natured, they take care in their relationships with each other and the world. When a Pipling is truly happy, does something good, or makes someone feel better they achieve “buloo” – a warm feeling of emotional harmony that is experienced by Piplings as floating. So Waybuloo is a journey to happiness – floating, spinning, dancing and soaring above the clouds of Nara.

Press

“Yet the most impressive element of Waybuloo is its wonderful, tinkling music” –The Radio Times
“Childrens TV doesn’t get much bigger than Waybuloo” –The Daily Telegraph

Broadcast

Creative Story

My first contact with the world of Waybuloo was being shown sketches of the idea by the concept creators Dan Good and Lucy Chesher as we crowded round my kitchen table. Dan explained the core idea – that these creatures the Piplings who lived in the magic land of Nara understand harmony, happiness and how to achieve these things. Their quest in life is achieve these moments of blissful harmony through experiencing harmony in themselves and wth others, and when they do they float up off the ground…they do a kind yoga to help with this…I was sold.

Since then 150 x 20 minute and 50 x 10 minute cutdown episodes of the show have been broadcast in over 80 countries worldwide to millions of children and it still screens daily whether on CBeebies in the UK or on CCTV in China. It has been accused of promoting New Age religions to children and it has introduced yoga to a generation of children. It sparked one of the higher impact audience responses in recent years, when the parents’ outrage at the introduction of a narrator forced the BBC to return to the original version of the show the very next day. Waybuloo also presaged the success of cult shows such as Googlebox with parents uploading to youtube clips of their children watching it.

Through Waybuloo I have scored some 3,500 minutes of television, written a single, produced a soundtrack album, provided music for Fisher Price cuddly toys, and even provided the soundtrack for mass yoga displays. I have worked with, and for, some of the most talented people in children’s television – series producer Simon Spencer, the production manager Matt Porter, lead director Dirk Campbell, executive producers Nigel Pickard, Vanessa Hill and Angus Fletcher, creator Dan Good, the then commissioner of CBeebies Michael Carrington, production supervisor Emma Fernando and sound mixer Paul Guiver.

My first chance to explore musical ideas for Waybuloo came when I was asked to score a pitch film that RDF were presenting to Michael Carrington, the then controller of CBeebies. It was a very simple, moving sequence. It showed an animated Piping interacting with a real child in a Japanese style garden. I wanted the music to be timeless rather than located in current styles – to ‘breathe’ more than the typical style of music that was dominant on children’s television at the time – to carry distant resonances of of asian culture without being defined by them. I explored early Tudor music wind instruments , asian pipes, harpsichords and celestas. Something in the scale of the eventual world of Nara with its lush hills and backdrops nodded towards orchestral textures, although full symphonic music would have been overpowering. We needed a light trace only . There was also something reminiscent of rave and club culture in the show’s idea with the rising and falling of the Piplings’ emotional arcs. Again we needed echoes of those moods, not direct stylistic reference. The style established in this successful pitch film became the foundation of the music and the actual piece of music was used by the lead director to help structure the Yogo sequences (a version of yoga that the Piplings perform). So when I returned to work on the full series the musical ideas were already woven into the show’s identity and I could draw out these musical threads for the different sections of the episodes and storylines.

Other aspects of working on a multi-episode live action-animation series are very practical and analytical. The schedule is all, you are still making the shows as it launches and there is a finely tuned workflow spanning timezones and countries from offline cuts to final cuts with animation, from first passes of the music through to the final sound mix. You are a small supporting element in a large, complex organisation.

Creatively there is a kind of modular system too. In Waybuloo’s case this involved creating the recurring assets – the titles, credits and generic sequences for the Yogo and Peeka ( a version of hide and seek) sequences that were used in groups of 10 programmes. For these 15 sets of 10 minute generics the score was continuous throughout, often picking up on fractional sync details such as the glint of sun on a crystal. So that’s 150 minutes of continuous writing.

This left 10 minutes within each episode for unique episodic scoring – 1500 minutes in total – that responded to the story and its specific moments. This writing also drew on a body of themes – the motifs of the lead characters, recurring guest characters, moods and actions.

In this way we wove together an evolving musical fabric that could both enhance individual episodes while being consistent, coherent and memorable. We were making a tv series and also building the foundations of a global brand that needed to be concise, commercial and to transcend geographical boundaries. Motifs needed to be identifiable and work as well when a button was pressed on a soft or within a picture book as they did on television. The title theme had to be fresh, unique and act as a clarion call not just for the programme but for the whole world of Waybuloo.

That is really what the job was – to write and produce a musical world, that while seeded in each individual episode would then transcend it.

It was a phenomenally fulfilling experience to help conjure that world and to watch Waybuloo grow from its initial idea to a global phenomenon.

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