where the character driven industries meet

Melody Street is a music-based transmedia brand aimed at introducing children to the wonderful world of music, through interactive content across multiple platforms. The brand's flagship product - the  Melody Street TV series, is a hybrid musical-variety show hosted by ten-year-old musical prodigy, Ethan Bortnick and his five best friends, an animated band of musical instruments - Val Violin, Febe Flute, Timmy Trumpet, Heidi Horn and Sammy Snare.  This series seamlessly blends 3D animation and live-action to create a unique world where anything can happen both on-and off-stage.  Ethan and his musical friends entertain the kids with humor, songs, skits, interactive games, backstage dramas, musical guests and more humor, while exposing children to the beauty, joy and fun that stems from music.

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Melody Street was created by writer/director Guy Frenkel and award winning composers Gilad Benamram and Gil Feldman, driven by the belief that music has the power to positively benefit the lives of young children. Melody Street takes place in a magical world, where animated musical instruments talk, sing and dance with live-action host Ethan and other live guests. "Basically what we thought was very compelling, innovative and new is that for the first time, kids can bond with a musical instrument the same way they play with Thomas the Train and spend hours around toy trains and train sets" says Guy Frenkel. "We thought it would be wonderful if our kids could spend that kind of time and form that kind of emotional bond not with a train, but with a musical instrument. Maybe it's Val Violin, maybe it's Sammy Snare, or Timmy Trumpet - whichever instrument is chosen, we thought it would be a lot more beneficial for kids, as well as intriguing and new. It is kind of a novelty." 

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"The benefits that kids get from being involved with music are many", adds Gilad Benamram, "it stimulates their minds, helps with learning and comprehension, the study of new languages and supports the development of mathematical skills and social skills - it's just across the board good. It's the humanization of our musical instruments, each with its specific kid-like characteristic traits, that helps the kids relate. The beauty of this brand is that the lines are easily blurred between the toy characters, with which the kids interact, and later on having that same kid pick up a real instrument, and start playing music - and that's pretty cool". 

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As transmedia story-tellers, the creative team at Melody Street relies on both advanced computer software and old fashion hand drawings to visually feature its characters in different ways through the different media formats. The TV series features a hybrid approach where 3D CGI animation, 2D animation and live-action, are all combined to create this very natural and real, yet magical world, while giving the show a high-end visual style, normally seen only in feature films. Melody Street's interactive online website, on the other hand, features that same world in 2D flash animation, in which even the host is animated, thus achieving a familiar feel to the online flash games and activities. A third visual style altogether is featured in 'The House On Melody Street' Book, as well as in its interactive eBook version. That medium features hand drawings in a traditional 'fairytale' style, bringing back that good old feeling of what children's books used to be like, years ago. Such an approach of diversifying visual feels across different media formats, creates a unified world in which each medium exists in its own right, perfectly complimenting the other formats that are independently featuring the same magical universe.

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The Melody Street TV series is in early pre-production stages, and in the meantime there are plenty of ways to interact with and enjoy the Melody Street characters online and on mobile tablets, through the Melody Street Website, the Melody Street YouTube Channel, and the House On Melody Street interactive iPad eBook app. Additional information about Melody Street can be found here.

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Character Topic

The sound of characters

Characters are not just there to be seen, they often come with voices, sounds and music. But how much of this vital dimension do character designers actually take into consideration? This question recently led to an interesting discussion in our Linkedin group "Characters".

According to one group member, who is a character IP developer, sound is crucial to his character creation process. Once he has come up with an idea, he selects music, and listens to it over and over again, during much of the writing phase. This artist went on to say that introducing music to the development process was like coloring a line drawing. He relies on both sound, and music, to set the tone for his projects.

A character designer called such accoustic characteristics, "Sound Silhouettes". He said that with certain characters, such as "Buggs Bunny", "Elmer Fudd", and "Daffy Duck" all one needed was, "One listen and you know who it is", due to their distinctive sounds and voices.

According to a Dutch group member, the look and voice of a character should indeed be developed together, but all other sounds were environmental and related to things like character's moods, for example.

This point was picked up by a composer who wrote the score for a high profile show for Cartoon Network. Sharing some of his professional expertise with the group, he said that scores are written for the first, second, and third person. When it comes to character-specific music, the perspective changes, depending on whether the score underlines what a character thinks of themselves, or a situation in which the joke is on them, for example. In that case, the perspective shifts to the third person.

In response to an earlier point, he added that artists who listened to specific music, during the character development phase, were getting themselves "into the zone", by focusing in on the musical tone color.

This discussion has raised a number of such interesting points, so far. But what are your thoughts on character-related sound, music, and voices? Why not join us and add to the debate here.
 

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When another group member replied by saying, that as a traditional IP developer he usually starts with the visuals, despite being heavily into music, the previous contributor stated that removing music from the creation process felt like drawing with his bad hand.

He also said that he tries to approach character design from an emotional stand point, and that music helped him figure out how he feels about a character.

A number of people then remarked that it was important to determine what kind of music a character likes, as part of its back story. They also thought that the same was true for the way characters sound, in general.

Characters Engage Showcase

Shahab Shamshirsaz

Even as a little boy Shahab had a passion for creating characters. He would spend many hours a day filling his notebooks with little creatures, and even his school books didn't escape this childhood obsession. Back then, his favorite character subjects were insects and witches.

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He drew incessantly, inventing character after character, and when he got a little older he started adding little worlds to put his quirky creatures in. During high school Shahab started drawing caricatures for a few humor magazines, but quickly realized that that was not what he wanted to do in life.

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He then decided to enroll in the international comic school in Florence, after which he started to work as an illustrator for books, posters, greeting cards, and comics.

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Today Shahab lives in a small town in Tuscany where he usually works alone, imagining worlds that are very different from the real one. His fantastic, colorful realms are inhabited by strange creatures, and are full of weird and wonderful things to discover.

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Shahab still spends many hours a day drawing characters in his quirky, colorful style, but instead of defacing books, he now gets paid for illustrating them. Characters Engage says, “Never change Shahab, the publishing world would be a duller, grayer place without you”.

http://shahabillustration.blogspot.com/

http://shahab-arcobaleno.blogspot.com/

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info@charactersengage.com

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