My name is Christopher Meyer-White. I have worked in Home Entertainment for 15+ years, in both the US and the UK, and on projects for Warner Brothers, Disney, BBC, Paramount, and many other studios.
The most time of which being at Abbey Home Media which was the UK’s leading independent home entertainment company for lots of well-known children’s shows, Care Bears, Topsy and Tim, Peter Rabbit, Sooty, Horrid Henry, Fireman Sam and more.
With a background of design, product management of children’s home media brands, and a passion to create series for children, in 2015 I left my job in London and moved to Bristol (which coincidently is one of the leading UK cities for animation).
I now own and run, Mixed up Pixels, an animation studio based in the heart of Bristol, UK, and am working on 2 pilot episodes for my 2D animated series Polly & Parrot, with a view to get these commissioned in 2024, and currently writing a script for a 2D feature, all animated with Cartoon Animator (CTA).
“It looked too good to be true… when I noticed a 2D program called CrazyTalk (later named Cartoon Animator). I knew Reallusion were magic makers, so I tried the software and instantly loving it! – the workflow was so intuitive, and easy. I loved the way you could make your own character within a certain structure, load it into the software and boom, your character is ready to animate. Its super easy, and you can also keyframe too, which really sold it to me. “Chris Meyer-White | 2D Animator, Series Creator, Owner Mixed Up Pixels Studio
Q: Hello Chris, and congratulations for being part of the Reallusion Pitch & Produce (P&P) program! Please tell us about Polly & Parrot, the objectives of the show, and what the animated series will focus on?
Hi there, and thank you, its a privilege to have been selected for this program, and a real honour to be able to bring my brand to life with the assistance of Reallusion.
Polly & Parrot is a show aimed at pre-school children, and also, children of any age really, that follows the adventures of Polly and her magical knitted toy Parrot (the two main characters) as they discover the world around them through fun, play, adventure and education. With Polly & Parrot, as it has a magical element within the show, anything can happen, and the ideas for episodes are endless.
The key focus of the show is friendship, empathy and education, all wrapped up in episodes that are approximately 9 minutes long (however, there is a possibility that the episodes may be around 7 minutes which is more of a sweet spot for episodic episodes aimed at this age group).
Q: Your journey has been a fascinated one as you have laid out the process of how to create your own animated TV series and how to expose it to an audience. Could you elaborate a bit on what that process is from creating the original IP idea, character design, animation, website, games, and even a show bible?
When you come up with a show idea, unfortunately you have to think about how the money needed to fund the show can be generated. Like many users, animating is our passion, however in a series people will need to get paid so you have to put your ‘how to make money’ hat on, right at the start. I’m fortunate that I have worked in the home entertainment side of children’s brands for 10 years, so from the start I had a good idea on what I should do.
The first thing was to think of characters that would work, there are so many different kinds of shows, superhero, wacky comedy, and adventure to name but a few however, I’ve always been a fan of shows where there are 2 main characters, who are best friends, and they have fun and adventures together.
I think this started when I was little, and my favourite show was called SuperTed, where you had a magical teddy bear and his sidekick Spotty Man who had adventures together. So, I started to think on a combination and Polly & Parrot was a combination that sounded like it worked, and felt like it was already a brand (which it wasn’t, thankfully).
With all characters, you have to think of something that makes them unique, so in this case Parrot is really the unique character as he’s a magical knitted toy that so happens to have magical powers. So, I designed the characters, copyrighted them, and that’s how the IP was really born.
The next thing to do was think of a theme tune. I wrote the theme tune in about 10 minutes, and it was really simple to do, all I did really was think of the aspects of the show, and described them, what they do, and also wrote in a few words that welcomed the viewer to join them in the adventure. From research I did when at Abbey Home Media, we found that children love to feel included within a show, so that’s really how I came up with the theme tune, which is a really important part of the brand IP.
The lyrics really do explain in a simple way the ethos of the show :
There are two best friends,
One’s called Polly, ones called Parrot,
They have fun and adventures,
You can come along and join them,
So many things to do,
There’s always something new,
With Polly and Parrot
The style of the show is also a very important thing to get right. I absolutely LOVE the very flat, 2D, bold colours of shows like Hey Duggie, but I felt like this show needed to have a tangible feel to the style, so randomly I tried adding paper/paint/fabric textures to the characters and slowly a style started to appear which I liked, but didn’t at first love. However, after showing the characters and a short clip to a few people, they said that the style was really beautiful so that was positive feedback to continue using this style for the entire show.
One thing I do want to say is that I came up with this concept back in 2018. The reason why I wanted to say this is because sometimes things can be shelved for a few years and when you come back to them, and the times are right, everything feels right to really get cracking and start the project. So if you have something you’ve shelved, the time will come when you feel its time to start working on it again.
In 2022 I looked back at the designs, and really didn’t like them. So I re-designed them (with the same style) and they looked so much better than they did before. I then animated an episode but the original voice actors didn’t really sound like they suited the characters so what I did was turn the episode into a book.
Then in early 2023 I picked up the brand again, for a 3rd time, and started to put a website together as well as a few interactive games in the hope to use these as examples to show people the concept and give the brand another try. It was then when Reallusion contacted me to see if I would like to take part in the Pitch & Produce program they were running. I jumped at the chance.
Going back to the beginning of this question, when I mentioned about having to think about ‘how to make money’ so you can fund the brand bible. I personally think this is just as important as the pilot episode. A bible is really a brochure of your brand, where you can introduce the characters, the idea of the show, the stories, and most crucially how merchandise can look. I used Cartoon Animator (CTA) to create all the character poses within the brochure and on the merchandise, which again shows the power of the software as you can also use it for print, as well as for animation.
Q: You have been using Cartoon Animator (CTA) for many years. What would you say are the big advantages of using Cartoon Animator in comparison to other tools like Adobe After Effects, and Adobe Character Animator?
I could write a lot for this, and I most likely will. I have tried all animation software including Moho, Adobe Animate, Adobe Character Animator, After Effects and numerous others. And for some reason, I can’t get my head around them. I have no idea why as I’m a very logical person and can usually work things out, but I just couldn’t get to grips with them, and I found that incredibly frustrating.
I could just about make a character move in After Effects, but before I discovered CrazyTalk (as it was named at the time) I was going to give up any hope of animating. Then there was a sponsored advert on Facebook that worked for me. I was just giving up when I saw an advert for iClone which got my interest… I clicked on the advert and was amazed by what it could do to be honest. It looked too good to be true, so I played around with iClone for a while, and was getting to grips with it when I noticed that they had a 2D program called CrazyTalk (later named Cartoon Animator). Again, this looked too good to be true, but as I had played around with iClone for a while, I knew Reallusion were magic makers, so I tried the software and instantly loving it! – the workflow was so intuitive, and easy. I loved the way you could make your own character within a certain structure, load it into the software and boom, your character is ready to animate. Its super easy, and you can also keyframe too, which really sold it to me.
The software is also updated very frequently, and I’m sure Reallusion updates and create additional plugins more than another company. The community is also really friendly and supportive, and the yearly competitions are encouraging for users, as both veterans and new motivation to animate shorts. I do still use After Effects, and with the export to After Effects plugin, it really is the dream pipeline, and one that I will always use going forward on all of my animations.
Q: Character Design was one of the first stages in your development. How did you design these characters and why did you choose to create them in multiple angles (front / side) ? Can you also talk about the advantages in the rigging process with Cartoon Animator?
Character design is the key to your brand, as well as the style. All the characters were designed in Photoshop. There are two reasons for this; at the time Cartoon Animator only really used rasterised images (unless you used G2 characters), and also I had been using Photoshop for much longer than Adobe Illustrator. However, now Cartoon Animator 5 also includes vectors, which is a game changer, but due to the textures used all the characters (and scenes) are created in Photoshop.
All the main characters have front / side / back versions, and the reason for this is really so I could create additional camera angles. Sure, you can absolutely design a series where all the characters are side angled, and to be honest, Polly & Parrot could solely include side angles only. However, adding in a few additional angles really makes camera limitless, so its definitely worth considering when you’re designing your initial characters.
Creating these multiple angles were also really easy to rig as all I had to do really was swap out a couple of images in my PSD. This allowed me to change the bone positions, very slightly in Photoshop, and then my character was 100% workable to animate – rigging really is a doable in Cartoon Animator as the pipeline between whatever design program your using and the software is flawless, and the powerful 360 Head Creator, and of course Spring Bones, are both easy to use, and easy to setup. These tools ultimately add so much more dynamic movement to your animations, saving you a lot of time.
“Rigging really is a doable in Cartoon Animator as the pipeline between whatever design program your using and the software is flawless, and the powerful 360 Head Creator, and of course Spring Bones, are both easy to use, and easy to setup. These tools ultimately add so much more dynamic movement to your animations, saving you a lot of time.”Chris Meyer-White | 2D Animator, Series Creator, Owner Mixed Up Pixels Studio
Q: Cartoon Animator has some powerful tools like Spring Bones Dynamics which allow you to effortlessly create secondary animations, as opposed to keyframing everything like other software. How fast is it to set this up, and what how much time can professional animation studios save by adopting Cartoon Animator?
I’ve sort of answered this above, but Spring Bone Dynamics are so good that I will write a bit more here. Spring Bones are amazing! You can easily add spring bones to new characters, and also older characters that you may have made before this feature was available.
All you do is add the Spring Bones onto your character, usually on the hair, select the type of effect you want the spring to have, bounce or stretch for example and also the intensity, and thats it – the magic then happens when you animate your character as the hair moves flawlessly, saving you a lot of time as key framing the hair, and the physics you would take a lot of time. And from an animation studios perspective time saved, is money saved. But ultimately the subtle movement adds a natural feel to the sequence and really helps polish off any animation.
“The magic then happens when you animate your character as the hair moves flawlessly, saving you a lot of time as key framing the hair, and the physics you would take a lot of time. And from an animation studios perspective time saved, is money saved. But ultimately the subtle movement adds a natural feel to the sequence and really helps polish off any animation.”Chris Meyer-White | 2D Animator, Series Creator, Owner Mixed Up Pixels Studio
Q: For the series animation you were able to tools like Automatic Lip Syncing, Face & Motion Key Editor, Face Puppet, Pre-Made Motion Files, Content Store Assets, and the Facial Mocap plugin. Could you elaborate on how much time these tools save your studio, and why you think other studios and even television networks should consider all this?
As I designed and animated the pilot episode of Polly & Parrot by myself, if it wasn’t for Cartoon Animator and their magic box of tools, it would have taken me much much longer to do than it did.
Life got in the way when making this episode, so, it took a little longer than I had hoped, but that was down to me, not the software, if I had been working on this Monday to Friday, 9-5 each day, I reckon the whole animation, from start to finish would have taken about 2-3 weeks, and, I think that’s super fast. All the features, help speed up the process, these start with the powerful lip syncing, I simply loaded in each characters dialogue for each shot, let the software automatically sync the mouth shapes, slightly tweak them in places, and within minutes your character is talking how they should.
I have a HUGE archive of motion files, that I have either purchased on the marketplace/content store, animated in 3D and converted to 2D motion, or manually made and created a motion clip via ‘collect clip’ – these really speed up the animation process, you can of course go into the motion files and tweak the motion if needed, but you can have a sequence in minutes, which could easily take a day or two in something like After Effects.
The LIVE FACE facial mocap for iPhone is also a brilliant plugin, and I highly recommend this to people who doesn’t have it. I can’t believe how easy this was to use – all I had to do was install the plugin, install the app on my phone, link my phone to the character via an IP address, tweak a few settings, and then, via the camera on your phone your character mirrors your movement. Sure, you could manually animate the face in Cartoon Animator without the plugin, but, it speeds things up, and, to be honest, really fun to use.
Q: You utilized the After Effects script for Character Animator where you exported as an image sequence. What are the advantages of using CTA in conjunction with Adobe After Effects? What effects can be added in post-production?
This feature was an absolute game changer for me. I have been using After Effects for many years, and when Cartoon Animator added the ability to export you project to After Effects, it really completed my pipeline. Basically, when you export via the plugin you choose your resolution, tick the assets you want to include in the export, and Cartoon Animator created image sequences of all the characters, images for all the files, audio files and a .JSON file, that you then import into After Effects via the plugin, and then creates a comp from the .JSON file of the sequence you’ve animated.
Now, in a dedicated compositing program, you can really go crazy, and utilize all the plugins and effects that After Effects have to offer. the effects I use all the time are, motion blur and light wrapping, these help blend your characters into the background a bit more, as well as lighting and camera movement.
You can, of course, control the camera and create parallax movement within Cartoon Animator itself, but, its always great to have options to help speed up your animations, which is why Cartoon Animator by Reallusion will always be my number 1 go to software as its easy to use, and fast.
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