How did the idea for the show come about?
Perrine Gauthier: In 2015, a Belgian artist named Elfriede de Rooster offered her services on our projects. On Elfriede’s website, I found a picture of a figurine named Mush-Mush. I thought this little character was so strong design-wise, so unique, fun and cute that he deserved his own TV show. I suggested to Elfriede to start developing an animated series together, based on this world and community she had started creating. Both of us worked closely to define her intentions for this project and to discover what the core of Mush-Mush was.
How did you adapt Elfriede’s designs into animated characters?
Joeri Christiaen: Our goal was to make a comedy show full of fun adventures and to focus on character-driven stories. As a figurine, Mush-Mush was very cute and stylised, but not fully equipped for animation. As I started storyboarding the first episode, it became clear that he was missing legs – of course – but also teeth and eyebrows. These details allow much more detailed acting, which is key to storytelling and establishing a connection with the audience. But I also wanted to preserve Mush-Mush’s cuteness and Elfriede’s design, so the changes are essential and quite subtle at the same time.
What were your responsibilities while working on the show?
Perrine Gauthier: As the producer of the show, I wear several hats: from closely following the creative development process through all stages (scriptwriting, design, voices, storyboards, music, etc.) to financing the series, finding the right partners and assembling the best possible team.
Joeri Christiaen: As director, my main job is to oversee all artistic aspects of the series, and to bring scripts to life in the best possible way – finding the right pacing, emphasizing comedy and emotions. For example, I work closely with voice actors to dig into each character’s personality and keep it consistent throughout the series. As an art director my responsibility is to define the overall look of the series and create a style that brings out the strength of Elfriede’s original designs.
What does the process of making an episode look like?
Joeri Christiaen: Everything starts with writing stories and scripts, which are then taken to voice recording. I edit the voices with sound effects to lay out the pacing and comedy beats. This is then used by the story artists to storyboard the episode, which the animators closely follow during the animation phase. It’s a short summary of the process – it includes many more artistic and technical steps! Animation is collaborative and every team member plays an important role.
Perrine Gauthier: The writing, storyboarding and directing departments work very closely; there are constant exchanges between the head writer and the director. Head writer oversees every storyboard to ensure the characters and stories only grow stronger as we move forward.
What new elements does Mush-Mush & the Mushables bring to the world of animation?
Perrine Gauthier: Mush-Mush & the Mushables is about self-discovery from a child’s point of view, and how that can be a fun adventure in itself. We hope this will be inspiring for children. The characters go through many different emotions, but we love using comedic relief. The other distinctive aspect is the look of the show which we’ve put a lot of work into. We think the audience will enjoy immersing themselves into this beautiful and unique world.
Joeri Christiaen: The show has a very warm and rich environment. There are so many objects in every scene, which is a challenge in 3D. Another important element is that the series places the viewer at a moss level which allows children to discover the forest in a unique way.
What were some of the challenges making the show, and how did you overcome them?
Joeri Christiaen: Oh, challenges. Every production has some of those 🙂 and I can for sure think of a few!
The first challenge was to preserve the originality and strength of the original characters and the adorable world that Elfriede de Rooster had created. But at the same time, we wanted to make a fast-paced comedy adventure series with rich dialogues. So while the characters were very charming, there were not designed for animation and they looked a little too young. My challenge as the director and art director was to preserve that cute-factor while slightly pushing their expressivity and their personalities. Those are not drastic changes but an evolution of Elfriede’s work, which happened gradually while working on the first scripts and storyboards. So for example, to achieve the right level of expression and emotion, we needed the Mushables to have eyebrows, teeth, and legs among others.
The other big challenge was the technical part. To make sure the characters would really stand out in this world, we opted for a much more realistic style for the sets. This is how this very lush and beautiful forest was born. This is a challenge in CGI, as it means having hundreds of plants, trees and rocks – all covered in moss. The lighting work was also very important, as we wanted to achieve an atmosphere that was a mix of realism and fantasy; dust particles moving through the air, sun rays finding their way through the canopy, etc. All small details that require specific processes in CG – but it was totally worth it. The result is stunning and everyone who worked on this production can be super proud!
Another interesting challenge was the music. We all really wanted to have a natural, organic sound for the show. So, Frederik Segers and Jan Duthoy, the very talented composers and musicians of the series, took their commitment to another level by making their own instruments, in collaboration with a luthier. Made of bamboo and other objects, these ephemeral instruments allowed us to create a unique musical atmosphere for MUSH-MUSH.
How did the idea of bringing 2D sequence into a 3D animation come about?
Joeri Christiaen: The main goal of the 3D animation was to preserve and emphasise the cuteness of Elfriede’s designs. In contrast to the simplicity of the characters, we created a lush and almost realistic-looking forest. The 2D animation is a fun way to refresh storytelling, add comedy and surprise the audience. Every time we show a flashback, daydream or a character explaining something, we cut away to a completely different animation style – drawn almost like kids would draw themselves, using a simple, black-and-white funny animation.
What are the Mushables like?
Perrine Gauthier: Community is a very important aspect of the show and the Mushables are a bit like us – they have different personalities, looks and ages. They evolve through different stages of life and there is a lot of story and comedy coming from the relationships between generations. Every Mushable evolves into becoming his own unique, talented and flawed self – not one Mushable looks or behaves the same. We love that about the show.
Joeri Christiaen: What’s fun is that the elders are not necessarily the wisest – they can be, but they are also grumpy, moody and overreactive. They are extremely fun characters to work with.
What can the Mushables teach children with their ways to protect nature?
Perrine Gauthier: Mush-Mush isn’t an educational show, what it does instead is portray adventures of a community that is deeply connected with nature, in the most fun and beautiful playground there is: the forest! The Mushables’ enjoyment of nature shows that it is natural and obvious to treat it well — because why would you want to destroy something so beautiful and fun?
How do the three main characters represent different aspects of kids’ nature?
Joeri Christiaen: There is the impulsive side, the dream side and the knowledgeable side – and many other subtle traits in-between. One same child can be all of that. Mush-Mush, Chep and Lilit form one kid in a sense. We always try to approach the stories we’re telling from a kid’s perspective – with their enthusiasm, stubbornness, etc. to make the characters more real. We hope that children will recognise themselves in those characters and this friendship.
Which Mushable do you relate to and why?
Perrine Gauthier: What is so great about the Mushables is that each one of us – parents included! – can find one to identify with because they’re so different and none of them is perfect. I relate to Chep the most because, although he can get a little stressed out sometimes, he is always eager on every challenge and would never miss out on an adventure with his friends!
Who is your favourite character in the series and why?
Joeri Christiaen: My favourite is Sushi-Mushi – the village chef. I love how dramatic and theatrical he is! And who doesn’t love a French accent?
What is your favourite episode and why?
Joeri Christiaen: In the series, every Mushable has their own, unique gift. My favourite episode is the last one of this first season, which is a double, special episode, where Mush-Mush finally discovers what his gift is. It’s an emotional journey for him and I was very touched from the beginning of its writing process.
If you had the opportunity to live in the Mushworld, what would you do there?
Perrine Gauthier: I would take a ride on the Fun Tree – it’s a Mushable adventure park up in a big, old tree. It has a trampoline made up from a spiderweb, a zipline, a wooden slide, a pool made of rainwater, and mush mush more!
Joeri Christiaen: I would love to live in Mushworld! I would go to the Food Snail, which is the village’s Food Truck, and try the compost pancakes, compost tacos and compost burgers.
Finally, why do you think young kids would love this show?
Perrine Gauthier: I think kids will love this show because it’s just so much fun being a Mushable!
Mush-Mush, Lilit and Chep are very close friends who basically live in the biggest and most beautiful playground there is: the forest. There is just so much to discover, and so many creatures to encounter.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to take a ride on the Fun Tree? It’s an amazing adventure course up an ancient Oak Tree – customized with a spiderweb trampoline, a rainwater pool, a zip line, a wooden slide, and mush mush (much, much) more!
And while they are surrounded by a loving and fun community, the trio also have a lot of freedom to explore this unique world, and also to explore their own talents and limits. They’re not perfect, and that’s OK. The Mushables make mistakes, but they are (quite literally) great at bouncing back!
I think kids, and their parents, will also enjoy spending time with a community that includes all generations and personalities. From the super-cute and funny Mushlets who are always up to mischief, the Mushlers who are still finding out who they are, the Mushups who might remind viewers of their own parents, and the Mushelders who are not always wise, Mushables come in all shapes and colors, and we can all find a Mushable to relate to!
Get to know cute and cuddly Mush-Mush and his best friends Lilit and Chep! In this brand new series, young viewers get to follow the forest adventures of the Mushable community as they explore, grow and discover just how fun life can be! New episodes premiere on weekends at 3.30pm on Boomerang (Astro Ch 619 / UnifiTV Ch 555).