Friday, December 19, 2008

Princess Marigold Episode 1

Something rather different that I hope you'll all enjoy.

Back in March 2006, when I was working for Look and Learn, I put forward the idea of creating some audio material based on some of the stories that were owned by the company. The thinking was that it would be a unique and fun thing to have on the website. To promote the idea, I put together a little demo based on a story that appeared in the early issues of Treasure. Princess Marigold was the star of a long-running series of fairy tales set in Marigold Land and it had the lightness and humour that I thought would make it an attractive audio story for young children.

The demo was pretty awful: I recorded it on an old tape recorder with a built-in microphone, sat in our living room with a towel over my head to try and deaden the sound.

Now erase that image from your head and please stop laughing.

Each episode was recorded in a single 'take' of about seven minutes, complete with pauses where I'd fluffed a line, which I then edited down into a five or so minute episode. I then temp-tracked the first episode using some music by The Enid and a recording of a crack of thunder. The whole thing took a couple of hours and I was incredibly happy with it, even if it was crap.

The demo earned us the go-ahead from Laurence to put together a proper version which, for a variety of reasons, we didn't get going on until August. A group of proper actors convened around the house of Sam Toms, a pal who happens to be a very good audio engineer (he's done various corporate videos, the soundtrack to the video game Etherlords II and a lot of other stuff). Sam put together a small team to play the parts: Fay Hughes was to our heroine, with Patrick Toms and John Curtis playing various roles. Patrick also acted as narrator.

I'd imagined it would be done like an old-time radio broadcast, with people stepping up to the microphone as needed—shows you how much I know. Each person was recorded separately. Each line was recorded separately. There was me thinking the whole thing could be knocked out in a couple of hours but the recording took us into the wee hours of the morning, with sometimes two, three or four takes for every line. There were frustrating cries of "Hold it" half-way through a take on many occasions because (since we were recording in a bedroom, not a professional studio) traffic or the next-door neighbour flushing the loo was being picked up by the mic.

One rough cut later, we ended up back in my living room a few weeks later re-recording some of the parts where the original recordings weren't quite up to scratch. Also licensed some music which we could use on the finished recording.

The finished product ran to five roughly five-minute episodes and then... well, nothing happened with it. Look and Learn was in the throes of putting together the series of reprints that were to launch in January 2007 and a variety of projects went on the back-burner.

Here, for your delectation and (hopefully) delight, is the first episode of "Princess Marigold and the Magic Spell". My original idea (again, throwing out ideas beyond my abilities) the audio was meant to be accompanied by some flash animation using the original artwork. Well, that kind of thing is still beyond my abilities, towel or no towel, so you'll just have to put up with a couple of illustrations.

Don't forget, this is a fairy tale for youngsters, so hopefully you'll let your kids listen in. It would be lovely to get some feedback. Part two appears tomorrow.

"Princess Marigold and the Magic Spell" Episode 1 (running time: 6m 29s):

(* Princess Marigold and the Magic Spell © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)

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