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CMC @LBF 2018 – Session Report: Don’t Forget the Creator

Posted on: Sunday 15 April 2018 11:35pm by Simon Bor

John Lomas-Bullivant quizzed the people behind the new Disney Junior show: ‘Claude’ – a successful adaptation of the already popular series of books by the same name.

He introduced the creator, author and illustrator, Alex T Smith, and asked him how he came up with the original idea for ‘Claude’. Alex said that it came from a doodle in his sketchbook, a small plump dog in shiny shoes –  with a sock as his best friend. His influences were not only the comedy he was brought up with, such as ‘Allo ‘Allo and the Carry On films, but his accident prone grandfather. It all came i=out relatively fully-formed. He put together two pages of illustration and some written work and sent it off to his agent, who pitched it to Hachette Children’s books.

Karen Lawler, executive Manager of Licensing at Hachette, was one of the people who looked at it at the outset. She said that everyone in Hachette loved it. There was a lot of debate about format and they wondered how they were going to place it, but liked it too much not to go with it. In fact, Alex added, it took nearly two years to sort out the format. The first book was published in 2011 to a slow start, but independent bookshops and Waterstones help to grow the book and more followed; initially in paperback, with hardbacks following later. Karen was talking to producers at Mipcom in 2012 when she showed it to Colin Williams of Sixteen South. A year later, Sixteen South signed a contract to develop Claude as a series.

Alex said that the TV happened quickly once Colin was involved, and one thing that excited him was the prospect of creating employment in Northern Ireland. Colin already knew the books, as his children read them. He liked them because they were not condescending and didn’t talk down to kids. He also, as a graphic designer, loved the illustrations.

It was always envisaged that Claude’s companion, Sir Bobby Sock, wouldn’t have a voice of his own, but would have his words provided by Claude. When Disney became involved, that changed. Orion Ross didn’t want to miss the chance of Sir Simon Callow playing a sock. “It was the right call,” admitted Colin, with Sir Bobby Sock almost acting as a narrator in the series.  Other voices include Su Pollard (Alex insisted), Brian Murphy and Jane Horrocks. Claude is played by a real ten year old child.

Orion said that the series was not like other Disney Junior shows, but that was what attracted him – the chance to create variety. There were some doubters – especially of the sparse colour palette in the illustrative style.  Bu in the end it was a perfect fit. “It’s awesome and we bought it!”  ‘Claude’ will be broadcast from June 2018.  The audience at London Book Fair closed the day of conferencing with a sneak preview of the new series – the first time it had been seen in the UK.

Simon Bor

About the author

Simon Bor

Writer

Simon studied Animation at Farnham, and, more recently, was awarded an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University. He set up Honeycomb Animation with Sara Bor and has been involved in children’s television since the mid 1980s. As a writer, Simon has co-written and created several shows including Milkshake’s 'Funky Valley'. As a director and… Read more

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