Humphrey B. Bear.
More than 50 years after he first graced screens, the iconic children’s television character Humphrey B. Bear is set to be brought back to life by OzPIX Entertainment in partnership with Deakin Motion.Lab’s newly-launched commercial services entity, Fika Entertainment.
Here’s Humphrey will be a mixed media production featuring a hybrid of live-action characters and various virtual moving sets, produced using Fika’s virtual production techniques. The creative team includes executive producer Julie Greene, former EP and executive commercial director of Hi-5, and early learning entertainment specialists Dr. Catherin Martin and Helen Martin.
Greene and Fika CEO Kris Maric will both attend MIPCOM and MIPJunior in October to talk to local and international broadcasters about the series.
Humphrey B. Bear first screened on the Adelaide Nine Network in 1965 and formed part of Nine’s morning television viewing schedule until 2003. The culturally-recognised show also attained a global audience via the US with broadcaster PBS in America and was made into both Spanish and Chinese versions.
The Queensland-based OzPIX has managed the Humphrey brand since facilitating the acquisition of its assets in 2016 from Imagination Ventures.
For Here’s Humphrey, the OzPix team were scoping for international and local technology partners and found that Fika were the best fit, helping with the overall re-positioning of the brand for a digital and global audience.
“Fika have been progressive and agile and wonderful to work with as a key production partner,” Greene told IF.
Deakin Motion.Lab, a research facility within Melbourne’s Deakin University, has been an innovator in motion capture-based technology and has worked on several commercial projects in recent years, including the CGI-animated ABC Education children’s series Minibeast Heroes.
Research fellow and project leader Dr Jordan Vincent told IF that the strong demand for Australian-developed technology and facilities made this the time right to spin off into a commercial virtual production studio. Fika will split its operations between Deakin’s Burwood campus and a proposed new studio facility in Queensland, leveraging both locations to establish itself in Australia and access the international market.
The original Deakin Motion.Lab team will drive the development of Fika, including Vincent, Peter Divers and Dee Czarnecki, who will be taking leadership roles within the new company. They are joined by Maric as CEO along with producers Elle Croxford and Greene.
Fika will also develop its own content and is currently also in collaboration with Greene on 3D animation, Adventures with Auntie Ada, which focuses on STEM for the 6-10 year age market segment.
Maric described the evolution of Deakin’s software as “revolutionary storytelling technology.” It was forged out of the gaming industry in Melbourne; the team at Deakin were tasked originally to build capacity for the development of gaming platforms. The group of innovators and academics explored all areas of virtual production and used motion capture as the base technology to build from.
“We wanted to create a cartoon in a day as opposed to in a year. We explored ways of leveraging the growing processing power of computers and game engines and we have got a closer to that goal,” Vincent said.
“This platform has more than a decade of R&D behind it and we see the strong industry need to make it more available on a commercial basis and take it out of the university and into the commercial market.”
The “significant” R&D investment behind the technology has supported a team of six-12 people working on its development at a purpose built Melbourne facility since 2015.
Vincent said that one of the strengths of Fika’s technology has the capability to halve production costs and production timelines.
“We are now offering innovation and solutions for the VFX and animation marketplace. We want to enable more work in our industry for post-production and design. Our aim is to build capacity in this country for the work as part of a drive to enable more content to be made in Australia and invigorate the way that we can attract international work and provide innovation in the process,” Vincent said.
Fika is committed to growing the Australian VFX and post-production market as part of a bid to not only keep post-production within our shores but ensure that Australia is a viable and competitive market to attract international post work from global productions.
“For us we are looking at a different way of working and we are excited to be working with as many partners as we can from designers, creators to post-production studios in order to enable our industry to grow and be internationally competitive,” Vincent added.