How a family brought RTE’s new animated show to life
The creator of a new RTE animated show has revealed how he and his family brought the project to life.
The Imagination Machine, sees sisters Ella & Lucy and brother Blaze go on incredible adventures all over the world and beyond with their big imaginations and magical cardboard box.
Ian Kenny, who directed, edited and assisted visual effects on the series, spoke exclusively to Extra.ie about what happens when a family does a TV show together.
“It’s a total family production, it’s my three children who play the siblings in the series. I came up with the concept for the show, directed it, did a lot of CGI and stuff.
‘My wife Isobel Henihan is an artist, she made the costumes and sets for the playroom. I had the show initially during confinement, I made this little short film with the children. It’s similar to the show you see now… I filmed it in the garden, shot them on green screen and made this fun little short.
“On the back of that, I approached RTE and had the idea of making it a cardboard world. It’s my part to use them as actors,’ he joked.
While some would dread the prospect of working with their children, Ian had reinforcements that helped him juggle the role of father and essentially boss to his children.
He explained: “They say never work with animals or children, especially your own children. It was tricky and luckily I had a brilliant cinematographer, Ronan Fox, and he was able to step in. When the children weren’t listening to me, they were listening to him.
“Children listen to strangers rather than their own parents. He was super nice to them and was able to argue with them, he almost broke them but he was able to step in when they weren’t paying attention to Dad.
Joking that the kids were used to him “putting a camera in front of their face”, Ian was happy to report that they weren’t “thrown into the deep end”.
“We designed the show around their comfort. All of the green screen stuff was shot at their school over the summer. The playroom stuff was shot in a guest bedroom in their grandfather’s house.
“Everything was local, we tried to keep it comfortable because we had a lot of work to do. Now it’s on TV that they have fun. They’re just happy it’s finally on TV,’ he admitted.
In Ian’s eyes, “the whole feeling of the show is about children using their imaginations”, as he wants to encourage children watching to “be creative, play and have fun”.
Irish animation is booming, thanks to recent RTE projects and the success of Cartoon Saloon on the international stage with films like Oscar-nominated Wolfwalkers.
Praising the Irish animation scene, Ian said: “Ireland has such a strong animation history and community, there are brilliant studios in Ireland and they have all strived to create a better content.
“Even with small budgets, everyone in Ireland tries to do their best.” The content coming out is stronger, the production is better and I think it’s a bright future for Irish animation. Ireland has a huge talent pool and we are very lucky for that.
As for the future, Ian hopes to get the kids back for another season of the live-action/animated hybrid, while hinting at a future career on the big screen.
‘We’re hoping to do a season two, the wheels are in place to try and get the funding. It’s a little late in the day because we have to shoot in the summer with the children during the summer holidays. I’m crossing my fingers for that to happen.
“I always have lots of projects in progress. I make board games, I do scripts for films and I would like to get into film production. Working with a crew and working on set with actors is a whole different ball game and something I would like to pursue in the future,” he said.
The Imagination Machine airs weekdays on RTÉ2, at 8:55 a.m.