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Toonzone Interviews "The Amazing World of Gumball" Creator Ben Bocquelet

(l to r) Ben Bocquelet and Mic Graves in June.

The unique show sprang from the mind of Ben Bocquelet, who worked in-house as a development artist at the Cartoon Network Development Studios Europe before creating Gumball. Bocquelet was kind enough to answer a series of questions about his show via e-mail.

TOONZONE NEWS: When did you first come up with the idea for the show? With such a unique concept, how did you go about pitching it? Was it at all difficult to explain to others?

BEN BOCQUELET: I think that the idea for the show was somehow the fruit of a really lucky work experience.

Before joining Cartoon Network, I worked for a company called Studio AKA. Most of my time there was spent pitching for commercial jobs. AKA was a very inspiring place for me to work. I was drawing alongside people like Grant Orchard, Mic Graves, Marc Craste, Steve Small and even David O’Reilly at some point. I learnt so much from these guys. I was utterly incapable to win a job, but I got to explore a vast array of different graphic styles.

When I left Studio AKA, I was looking for a line of work where I would be a little more successful. Phil Hunt, the creative director there, encouraged me to join the new development studio created by Cartoon Network in London. I was very lucky to be hired. My job mainly consisted in helping people to pitch their projects to the network. While working on other artists’ ideas, my desire to create something of my own was getting more and more urgent. As you probably know, people present tons of show ideas to a channel like Cartoon Network. I had no credits or experience in this industry. I needed to present something different enough in order to generate a minimum of interest.

I started looking back at the characters that I created for commercials. It was a big mash-up of 2D, stylized 3D, realistic 3D and even stop motion. I lined them up and the result looked varied and unusual. I really liked the idea of a show without graphic unity. All these characters had been rejected, they had no purpose. I found that quite endearing. I integrated them in the photo of a schoolyard and was quite excited with the outcome.

I pitched a show about a remedial school for hapless rejected cartoon characters set up in the real world. Daniel Lennard, who is in charge of the development studio, wasn’t convinced. He thought that the concept was too sad and that it wasn’t very cool to make jokes about remedial schools. I have to admit that in retrospect he was quite right. It felt like a mild cartoon version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the concept naturally lent itself to pessimistic and mean spirited stories. But he liked the look of it and encouraged me to pitch a different show with a similar design approach.

I went back to the drawing board and centered the show around the archetypal structure of a family sitcom. Now I wanted to explore the everyday life of these characters, treating the bizarre like its normal. In my head, the show would be character based and deal with the little problems of life. I pitched this to Daniel and I guess he liked this more whimsical approach. I’m not sure if I was making much sense at the time, but I suppose he felt like it was worth exploring.

Yay!, its show page on Cartoon Network’s website, and its official Facebook page.

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