Sunday, May 29, 2011

Something for the Kids: Connal Orton

Connal Orton is Executive Editor of the CBBC In-house Script Unit. You can look him up for the rest of his extensive, and appropriate, career. Suffice to say he developed, produced and wrote for My Parents are Aliens and I think that says it all.

What I write here is not a transcription, it is my interpretation based on my hit-and-miss notes. So it may not accurately reflect what Connal said, or what he meant to imply. It's my interpretation of what he said.

Connal had a cool presentation based a flash thing which zoomed in and out - which it would be impossible to represent here. It was essential a compilation of those things that he observes work in Kid's TV. Not that he was saying that this was the be-all and end-all, just that it's what he's observed.

So essentially I can only reproduce in text form the sort of thing he had in a fancy graphic, plus notes as he went along.

  • Children at the centre
  • Active child protagonist
  • Child's point of view
  • Often the Kid's name in the title
  • It's about: Standing out and Fitting in
  • Needs likeability
  • Should be aspirational
The World
  • Everyday: Home and school - children's worlds are shrinking, because of the supposed threats in the environment being pounded into parents by the media. It's identifiable and relatable.
  • Fantasy - LoTR, Narnia but Connal thinks pure fantasy is limited: once you;ve beaten the bad guy, the bad guy is beaten. No legs. (I don't necessarily agree with him but I know what he's talking about.) It's escapism, an alternate reality, imaginary.
  • High concept - The Queen's Nose, My Parents are Aliens etc. A mix of everyday and fantasy, a dramatic metaphor and the ability of the child antagonist to actually do something and make a difference, when in the real world they couldn't.
  • Dynamic action
  • High stakes
  • Emotional intensity (clear differentiation between emotions)
  • Values (clear moral centre - stuff that matters)
  • Visual
  • Renewable - has it got legs?
  • Powers - abilities - wishfulfilment - empowering
To be continued...

What's on the turntable? "1984/Dodo" by David Bowie from "Sound and Vision"


Jon said...

I'm probably being desperately thick but why is pure fantasy limited and 'legless' (!)?

Surely, fantasy is the one place where bad guys can come back limitlessly.

My brain hurts. ;)

Adaddinsane said...

Connal explained what he meant as "once you've beaten the bad guy he's beaten" (not his words).

And yes, I agree, that's a very limited view of fantasy.

What we have to consider is that this is his view of what he's observed. So, if he's watched fantasy TV shows that deal with one bad guy and then finish, that would make his view valid.

I also got asked to clarify about animation: Connal meant that the BBC won't make animations, but will broadcast them.