How Ludo Studio’s global animated phenomenon Bluey found its feet in Brisbane
How is it possible that an animated story about a family of four blue heelers living in a leafy Queensland suburb could become an Australian - and now global - hit series?
It’s a simple premise, but it’s that simplicity that makes Bluey - the ABC’s most downloaded show and a 2019 International Emmy Award nominee - such an enticing, engaging and indeed hilarious series for kids.
And probably for a fair few parents, too.
The show’s executive producer Daley Pearson from Ludo Studio in Brisbane says it took a cast of strong supporters and one key event to bring Bluey and its cast of cute, clever characters to life.
“It wasn't really until the Asian Animation Summit happened in Brisbane that it gave us a bit of a goal to aim for,” he says. The team included Ludo’s co-founder and Bluey’s Producer, Charlie Aspinwall and Bluey creator, Joe Brumm.
The Asian Animation Summit is a hotbed of talent, networks, distributors and animation industry people meeting and pitching their ideas to the executives that can make or break a show. In 2016, Brisbane Economic Development Agency’s Business Events team won the bid for the Asian Animation Summit that was held at the Hotel Grand Chancellor.
It was there, with some help from the ABC and Screen Queensland, that enabled Bluey to pick up some serious fans.
“Very luckily we had a bit of a hero at ABC called Michael Carrington, who had just come from overseas at places like Cartoon Network and he was going to be Head of Children's Programming there and he immediately supported Bluey,” Pearson says.
“So basically what ABC did and what the Asian Animation Summit did was give us a bit of a package and a bit of a runway to have something ready to pitch to the world.”
And pitch to the world they did.
Alongside series creator and animator Joe Blumm, the six-minute Bluey pilot gained serious attention almost immediately.
“Its traction was really felt straight away,” Pearson says.
“From that we had BBC Studios come on board. A really cool lady called Henrietta Hertha Jones who did Hey Duggee and Sarah and Duck, really took a liking to Bluey. And if not picked it up there, it was pretty soon after.
“I think the Asian Animation Summit in Brisbane had a massive impact on making Bluey happen, full stop. But also making Bluey happen quicker than it otherwise would have.”
The summit was a vital piece in the puzzle for not just Bluey’s creators but also for Queensland’s film industry in general - and that’s something Screen Queensland chief executive officer Tracey Vieira says has enabled Brisbane’s storytellers to find both an audience and potential commercial partnerships.
“One of the reasons we were really interested in bringing the Asian Animation Summit to Brisbane was because it brings all of the international buyers,” she says.
“It gave a lot more of our local storytellers an opportunity, particularly those in the early or emerging career space, to actually interact with the people who are looking for content from the rest of the world right here in Brisbane.”
Vieira says the strength and talents of the people in Brisbane’s animation industry helped attract the summit to the city, and the payoff has been more growth and more projects entering the pipeline from across the world.
“Brisbane is going through a real boom, particularly in animation storytelling, and Ludo has really been one of the companies that has led that,” she says.
“We now also have Like a Photon, which is another Brisbane-based company that has also launched an animation studio and they do just really incredible work as well.
“What Ludo has really done is created a show that is very Australian in its flavour but connects with families everywhere in the world and some that they've been able to really give opportunity and actually grow the skill set of animators in Brisbane and we've now become a real hub for animation.”
And it’s clear, Vieira says, that Bluey’s popularity will roll on and continue to win the hearts and minds of the families who flock to every new episode.
“I've been in the screen industry for almost 20 years and this is the first show that I have ever been involved with that has mail from families all across the country coming to our office,” she says.
“We've had letters from families talking about whether they've got special needs kids and how it's had an impact on their family, through to speaking to an architect talking about how it's transformed his relationship with his kids. It's just amazing to hear these stories.”