Cartoon Network is preparing to launch the new Cartoon Network Original series Monster Beach which is produced, written and directed in Australia.
The adventure series includes the voice of Rove McManus and features writing by Scott Edgar (member of Tripod) and Lorin Clarke (co-writer of Bluey).
The show follows the adventures of surf-siblings Jan and Dean as they enjoy an endless summer vacation on the island of Iki-Iki hanging out with their laidback uncle and a bunch of mischievous, thrill-seeking monsters. And will premier on Cartoon Network on April 11 at 6:30pm (Foxtel channel 713 or Fetch channel 149).
Ahead of the series premiere on April 11 Mediaweek spoke with series writer Lorin Clarke and Leslie Lee, APAC head of kids content Cartoon Network and Boomerang, about how the show came about, the importance of Australian content and what was the process of creating an international production at a company like Cartoon Network.
Monster Beach actually began as a telemovie in 2014 and Lee said that this is a great way to test the waters of a show before committing.
“Shorts and movies are great ways of testing an idea with audiences – as well as a studio-network relationship – without committing initially to a full series.
“Monster Beach, the telemovie, was very well received by audiences across the Asia Pacific when it was launched in 2014. We felt that there were many more stories we could tell with these characters and that it could easily extend into a series format.”
Clarke describes the show as a bonkers idea which took influences from books such as Where the Wild Things Are and said that it was quite an achievement that a crazy show like this got made.
“These kids have to navigate the world together without much parental supervision and this comes from books where kids are in charge of imagining so much of what’s not there, and Monster Beach invites you to imagine what’s in this world as these characters go on this journey. All bets are off and its kids trying to make sense of the world.”
Clarke said that one element that she has seen in the stories of Monster Beach is the idea of kids being left to experience adventures without too much parental supervision.
“I heard an early childhood expert say you should let your kids play by themselves and these days we don’t do that. The expert said to think of the most intense memory from your childhood and put up your hand if a parent was involved and then like two people put up their hand.”
Monster Beach is truly an international production with teams in the Cartoon Network offices in Hong Kong and Singapore driving the production, a Malaysian team working on the animation, and a crew in LA all working alongside the teams in Australia. This was the first time that Clarke worked on a project with Cartoon Network and said that the lovely thing about doing something like that is there was a system set up for doing it.
“You would be talking to someone on the phone and halfway through the conversation, you would realise that you have no idea where anyone was. And you worry that it might rob you of some creativity, but with this concept, you can be creative in such a broad framework.”
When asked what was the secret to creating a great kids show for Australian audiences after her time working on Bluey, Clarke said that the show had a playfulness but at the same time they take it really seriously.
“When I ask my kids, what was that about they give you a one-sentence answer, and you want kids to be able to do that when it comes to a show. It can be quite complicated when it’s a room of adults trying to figure out how to do that.
“You need to be able to have fun with it but be honest with the character and honest with yourself about the elements that are working or not working.”
The launch of Monster Beach comes at a time where commercial networks have stated a desire to move away from Australian content quotas including producing local TV content for children. Clarke said that it is a dangerous direction for Australian TV and she hopes that it is not going down the path that it looks like it is going down.
“The success of a show like Bluey and local Australian content show how much kids love seeing their own culture reflected back at them.
“You have got to think that you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. And if you want to have wall to wall streaming cartoons from different parts of the world played on a loop to your children I just don’t think that’s what Australian’s want.”
Monster Beach joins a list of recent Cartoon Network animation produced in Australia which includes Bill & Tony, The Sketchy Show, Lasso and Comet, and Exchange Student Zero. With these productions receiving support from government bodies like Screen Australia, and MDEC and FINAS in Malaysia or IMDA in Singapore.
Asked about Cartoon Network’s stance on producing content in Australia and the broader APAC region Lee said that the company casts a wide net when it comes to developing content that resonates with kids around the region.
“We want to partner with storytellers and creators from anywhere in the Asia Pacific that fit Cartoon Network’s tone of voice and brand values, regardless of geography.
“Great content can come from anywhere, it just happened that Monster Beach is launching at a time in Australia when local broadcasters are pulling back.”
Premiering on Cartoon Network on April 11 at 6:30pm (Foxtel channel 713 or Fetch channel 149)