Tag Archives: cosmo

By now, you will have all seen Commander Chris Hadfield’s version of Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded and filmed on the International Space Station. It is truly amazing. More than two hundred miles above the Earth, a man floated in a tin can, played his guitar and sent a song down here to those of us still on the planet.

My mind is still blown, not just by the amazing imagery, but the whole idea of this happening and what it means.

Go on, watch it again…

This world is changing so much. Things we take as normal could be gone in a couple of generations and things we can’t even imagine could be part of everyday life. Don’t believe me? Okay, yes, I too am disappointed we don’t yet have flying cars and robot butlers. But just consider the effect of 3D printers. Right now, for several grand, you can get a device that prints objects. Actual objects. Sure, they’re expensive and are limited in what they can do but what about in ten years? What if they’re in all our homes and capable of making much more than a pretty plastic model? Already the implications are becoming apparent with plans for 3D-printed guns hitting the Internet. More positively, we can print our own tools. Our own toys. Our own parts for almost anything.

What will that mean for industry? What value will manufacturing have? And if manufacturing has no value and plans are shared freely, what value has creation? Innovation? How will our economic models that served us well during industrial times stand up to change of that magnitude?

I don’t have all the answers. I am just using that one single device to illustrate the potential for society-altering change. Those of my age, of course, have seen such huge changes already. We are the generation who knows what it is like to live before the Internet and after it. I watch Mad Men and notice the lack of computers on the desks and I have to remind myself how we possibly got any work done without computers.

It is all changing.

So in a world where all is changing, what do we teach our children? What do I teach my girls? How about these ‘ creativity, adaptability, problem solving. All good. Empathy, the will to do good. Great, I can see already we’re going to need each other as our planet changes. A love of learning, a search for knowledge, understanding, focus. Absolutely. Change can be influenced, steered, and a greater understanding of our world, our universe and just who we are can help us direct that change towards the positive, helping to make our lives better. Inspiration and aspiration, the belief that we can do amazing things and are capable of things thought previously impossible regardless of gender, race or social standing. Yes, yes, yes.

Commander Hadfield played a guitar in space and I think he has awed a whole generation. He entertained us. But he has done so much more ‘ he has inspired us. The International Space Station is just the beginning of an amazing journey.

We can all play our part. I won’t get to space any time soon but I can inspire children to learn, to enjoy the wonders of our planetary neighbours. That’s why I created Planet Cosmo. It is entertainment first and foremost. Kids have to love the show, they have to laugh and smile and have to want to watch it. And they do. I have lovely mails from parents on how much their children enjoy it but those mails tell me the effect goes beyond the entertainment. My little show inspires – a love of learning, a new interest in space. I’m no Chris Hadfield but the reaction to the show tells me that our team at Geronimo Productions performed our space mission well. Our hard work paid off. And I have been so fortunate to work with such a dedicated team.

As I prepare to leave Geronimo at the end of this month, something that will be one of the biggest changes in my own life, I reflect back on what we have achieved and I can smile. But I’m also looking to the future, at what awesome gifts we can give the next generation to entertain them and inspire them, to enrich their lives both as children and adults.

It’s an adventure. Almost like packing my guitar and blasting off into space.

Well, not quite. But exciting nonetheless.

Thank you Commander Hadfield for entertaining us and inspiring us. And reminding me of two of the most important goals when creating content for children.

There are huge challenges writing scripts for young children and I think many of them come from the simple reality of what we are doing – working with just words. Words can very quickly become abstract, lose meaning. As I went through in an earlier post, descriptions can fall away until you have just talking heads in a void and they all sound like the writer.

I think a good test of character is whether you would know who is speaking if the names were removed. Do the characters think and act differently? Do they speak differently?

They should.

We engage different parts of our brain when dealing with spoken word than we do when reading and writing. So just because something looks okay on the page doesn’t mean it’s going to sound okay when recorded. I write my stories out loud, saying each sentence over and over in different ways until it sounds right. I have done that since the very first Fluffy Gardens story and do it to this day. I’m not the only one. Ken Levine and David Isaacs (of Cheers/M.A.S.H. fame) dictate their scripts, working them out verbally as someone else types them out.

But saying them out loud in your voice may not be enough.

Writing in character voices is key to making those characters sound different, to get their personalities to come through in the dialogue. Because their voices will greatly affect the choice of words you settle on. If you’re just writing in your voice, you will pick words you will use. If you try words you would never use, they’ll sound awkward and weird. Put on a the voice as you write and you’ll very quickly find yourself putting sentences together differently.

For example, I recently rewatched an episode of Planet Cosmo and found myself laughing at Lifter’s choice of words – “Are you sure, sweetie? I can rustle up quite a breeze!” I thought, oh that’s good, I would never use the phrase “rustle up”. Then I had to remind myself that I wrote those words. But in a way, I guess Lifter said them. I just listened and wrote them down.

So it’s really important to write in character voices.

But I would take this a stage further and say that those of us reading scripts (script editors, producers, directors etc.) should try to read in character voices. You might not yet know exactly how they should sound but give it a go based on what you know of the characters. It will make those lines read very differently. For example, Cranky in Punky (written by the wonderful Andrew Brenner) has lines that can look very harsh and not age-appropriate on the page. But Cranky’s voice (Paul Tylak) gives her a comic quality that completely disarms the lines and makes them work beautifully. They become very funny. Similarly when I wrote Dad in Planet Cosmo, some of his lines looked rude, selfish and sometimes even mean. But say them in Dad’s voice and they become light and funny, losing their weight. How those words sound out loud in a character voice is what counts – that’s what children will hear.

It is always a challenge to make characters work and a greater challenge to make them work well. Working with the character voices is a way of helping their inner personalities and differences come out, and a great way of getting those words on (and off) the page.