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Frances

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Frances
First aired June 20, 2008
Last aired August 29, 2008
Network PBS Kids Sprout
Seasons 1
Episodes 6
(more information)

Frances is a children's series produced by the Jim Henson Company that brings the storybook character of Frances, a young badger from the book series by Russell Hoban, to life with the use of digital puppetry. The series premiered on June 20, 2008 on PBS Kids Sprout, as part of the channel's "Summer Fun Fridays" programming block. Six 15-minute episodes were produced.

Three episodes of the series were released on DVD, with the release of Bedtime for Frances in March 2009.[1]

Summary

Each 15-minute episode features a gentle life lesson designed to address the emotional needs of young children. Frances is a celebration of the preschool spirit - with all its dramatic highs and lows. Like many young children, Frances is fun-loving, determined and highly imaginative, expressing herself through original poems and songs. Joining Frances in her daily adventures are her little sister, Gloria, her mom and dad, and her best friend Albert.

Development

Frances - maquettes

Character maquettes

The series, adapted from the storybook series by Russell Hoban, was developed and produced by Alex Rockwell and Halle Stanford. Alex Rockwell, co-writer and producer on the series, commented on the development in a 2008 interview, stating:

Quite a few years ago – I think seven or eight years ago – we decided to develop Frances. Obviously it's based on the books and those books are truly brilliant. And the reason I think I was attracted to them for many years is that they so beautifully represent a very authentic kid. Frances is a really real child. She has temper-tantrums, she is stubborn, she is highly high-spirited, and highly imaginative. When you're reading those books, you see that it's such an honest portrayal of that kind of a kid. And we were attracted to that, and really wanted to bring that to television. And the other beauty of the books that we wanted to preserve is that her parents are extremely good parents. They are very patient with her, and they have this way of not crushing her spirit... And that is modeled very well in the books. And we really wanted to create a series that captured those two things.
It was difficult to sell the show originally, because broadcasters were afraid of Frances not being an ideal kid. They would always say, 'we don’t want to model that behavior, or show a kid that's upset or doesn't want to give her sister her birthday present.' We had difficulty selling the show.[2]


The character designs were created by Peter Brooke, based on the stoybooks' original illustrations. Judy Rothman and Alex Rockwell wrote the lyrics for the show's numerous songs, which used melodys from well-known classical compositions. Rockwell explained the concept behind the show's mucial direction in an installment of the Jim Henson Company Podcast, stating:

We decided to use melodies from famous classical songs. The thinking was if you can just play those melodies for kids at an early age, when they're older and they hear it again, instead of being 'oh, what's that?', they'll be "oh, I know that, I know that song." And it's a way of subtly submitting classical music to their musical lexicon when they're young. So we took classical themes and wrote lyrics on top of those. Judy Rothman and I wrote the lyrics for that. So hopefully, the lyrics are fun, but the music has some real legitimate weight to it.[2]


Production

Frances - hdps demo

Julianne Buescher performs Gloria in a live demonstation of the HDPS.

Although the HDPS technology had been used by the company on previous projects, "Frances" marked the first full scale production using all digital puppetry. Brian Henson, director of Frances, discussed the process in a radio interview, stating:

We’re having, I've got to say, so much fun; because we can improvise... What’s great about puppets are that they are spontaneous, and what we’re trying to do in our 3-D animation, is to really be spontaneous. So we’re really working the material in front of the camera. And we have big projectors, so they can see what [the computer] sees. We’re doing performed animation, and it’s a lot of fun. [3]


Post production was undertaken at the London Creature Shop under the VFX Supervision of Stephen Coren and Animation Director, Mak Wilson. This entailed motion capture clean-up, additional animation and lighting, texturing and rendering.

Cast

Frances - family

See also

References

  1. The Muppet Newsflash: "Frances" Comes to DVD With Bonus Book January 13, 2009
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Jim Henson Company Podcast Episode 38 - Frances: Interview with Alex Rockwell. August 20, 2008.
  3. Brian Henson Interview - September 2005, WKRB West in Salt Lake City, radio interview

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