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How Harmony was used for Emmy-winning results on The Treehouse Stories

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There was a time not long ago when broadcasters could rely on Saturday morning cartoons to attract kids’ attention. No longer. Today, children are spending more time online than watching television. In order to keep the next generation’s attention, broadcasters need superior storytelling and amazing animation like The Treehouse Stories.

The Treehouse Stories (also known as La Cabane à Histoires) is a co-production between French studios Dandelooo and Caribara Production. Launched in November 2016 on Canal+, the hybrid series is a mixture of live action and 2D animation, with seven-minute episodes storyboarded in Toon Boom Storyboard Pro and animated in Harmony. The Treehouse Stories was the only French production nominated at the 2018 International Emmy Kids Awards on April 10, where it took home the Kids: Preschool prize.

“Caribara has been working with Dandelooo on The Treehouse Stories since 2014 and its our first production as an executive producer,” says Charlotte Monsarrat, producer and studio manager at Caribara. “Winning the Emmy is an acknowledgement of our work and its quality; I hope this will help The Treehouse Stories be seen even more than it is now.”

 

Monsarrat notes the series’ success may have to do with its dynamic and diverse use of treatments. The live-action portion of each episode sees a group of four children gather in a treehouse, where one of the older kids reads from a storybook. Based on the book’s illustrations, the tales being told are brought to life as a cartoon in Harmony. For each new story, a different style of 2D animation is used, requiring flexibility from both talent and technology.

“We had to stick to the books’ style and design, and create puppets to adapt each character for animation with the right brushes and textures,” says Morgane Schlotterbeck, production manager at Caribara. “You have to reinvent your technique with each new episode, which is both exciting and challenging.”

Each 26-episode season takes approximately 18 months to create. Originally conceptualized by Dandelooo, Caribara was brought on to help secure the animation workflow and for its team’s expertise in Toon Boom software. The Treehouse Stories is the first Emmy win for both studios, which will doubtlessly benefit them as they launch its third season.

dandelooo-la-cabane-a-histoires-toon-boomSource: Dandelooo

Monsarrat notes 14 to 18 Caribara Production staff are working on The Treehouse Stories at any given time, including a director, two animation supervisors, a design lead, two production managers, eight storyboard artists and an animatics editor. The series is created entirely in France, with storyboarding and animatics done at its Paris studio and animation in Annecy. (Editor’s note: Read more about Toon Boom and the French 2D animation industry.)

“We used Harmony because we needed to make the lines move with more fluidity,” says Monsarrat.

She continues, “We need to take designs from the page to the screen and the Line Deformer tool made Harmony our first choice for its natural-looking motion. It also has the right drawing tools to create new designs in the same style, every episode.”

Production on The Treehouse Stories required that Caribara’s lead animator choose between puppet and tradigital animation for each episode. Harmony gave him the flexibility and freedom to pursue either as well as a more CGI-like approach to rigging.

caribara-la-cabane-a-histoires-toon-boomSource: Dandelooo

Rigging in Harmony allowed Caribara’s team to do everything in one program, reducing the need to redraw work and increasing quality. Additionally, because The Treehouse Stories was also storyboarded in Storyboard Pro, production was made smoother by staying within a Toon Boom pipeline. This also meant the studio needed fewer people to do smaller tasks like rendering.

“Whenever we can choose which animation software to use, we prefer to recommend Harmony. It’s designed for animation and is more user friendly than other programs in a variety of areas,” says Monsarrat.

“We were able to complete the project on-time and on-budget thanks to the talent of our Toon Boom animators, and we are sure the results would have been less satisfying in any other software.”

Are you working on any exciting projects in Toon Boom Storyboard Pro or Harmony? Let us know in the comments below!

Banner image source: Dandelooo

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