Chuggington is an animated TV series for preschoolers, broadcast on CBeebies, Playhouse Disney and over 140 other countries.
I was CG Supervisor and Line Producer for season 2. I worked on Chuggington for 18 months, the last 7 1/2 months working from the Animation studio in Shanghai, China, Motion Magic.
I was originally hired to design and create the new characters for season 2. My role soon evolved to include CG consulting and animation supervision. After a few visits to Motion Magic in Shanghai, in April 2010 I offered to spend 4 months there full-time as CG Supervisor, enabling me to work more closely with the animators, and accomplish more than I could working remotely from Australia. This offer was welcomed with the condition that I also took on the duties of line Producer, to help the project catch up to the broadcast schedule.
I worked with Motion Magic to develop a schedule that reflected the work process and pipeline, and continuously worked on ways to make the production and review process more efficient so that quality could be maintained, and even increased, while meeting a much shorter schedule. Following this new plan, the production was able to stay on a very tight schedule and increase in quality without the animation teams working insane amounts of overtime.
In the mean time November was projected as the end date for season 2 so my stay in Shanghai ended up being extended from 4 months to 7.
I am very proud and grateful for the talent, hard work and dedication of everyone at Motion Magic which is evident in the results. Chuggington has continued to be one of the best looking shows on television, a major accomplishment given the scope of the stories.
Along with designing and creating the major new characters introduced in season 2, I also developed new character creation and rigging specifications. I developed a plan and started work to update the existing characters to the same specifications, which is currently being completed for season 3. I also developed a flexible crowd system which features re-usable mix and match assets to create thousands of unique characters.
I helped develop the new train characters for season 2, Hoot and Toot, and Speedy. I modeled the templates for Hoot and Toot, and created the facial expressions and facial controls for Hoot and Toot and Speedy.
To allow for a greater range of character motion and more, steeper track inclines in season 2, I designed and created a new automated coupler and coupling system for the trains, allowing more flexibility and a greater range of motion, which was also faster and easier to animate. I designed a new system for the trains and their wheels to follow the tracks automatically and more accurately, and a new flexible design for joining the wheel bogies to the train bodies. Over the course of the season I implemented a number of other enhancements to the human, animal and train characters, and made plans for even more in preparation for season 3.
As the 3D production was mainly in Maya, which I hadn't had much experience with previously, I had to do a lot of learning very early on to enable all of this. Being thrown into a project is always the quickest and best way to learn software and this was no exception.
My biggest accomplishments were developing new communication standards between the production house in the UK and Motion Magic in China, helping both teams learn to understand each other better, helping the artists at Motion Magic learn to better understand and prioritize the complex requirements, and streamlining the production to be more efficient. Together with the schedule design and other pipeline improvements, these enabled the production to stay on schedule and should continue to do so in the future.
In the process I gained a much greater insight, understanding, and appreciation of Chinese people and their culture. I was always made to feel very welcome by everyone at the studio. Working with the teams of artists and animators at Motion Magic (with over 100 people working on Chuggington) was certainly one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.