To celebrate the release of our brand-new Over in the Meadow book with audio and video animation, we thought this would be a good moment to pay a visit the Barefoot editorial world and find out from the content development team just how books come to animated life. Bribed with Bourbon biscuits (try it—they’ll do anything) they caved in and gave up their top 5 tips for creating a singalong animation:

#1. Work with some highly original, fun and helpful animators
Here are the guys at Karrot who were given the task of animating the entire Barefoot singalong range. Big up to Jamie, Tim, Chris and all the Karrot animators for answering our questions when we’re baffled by technology (see No. 2); making our perfectionist proofing corrections (see No. 4); and creating so many inspired, unique and high-quality animations, which have been watched nearly one million times and enjoyed over and over again by children aged 1 to 100.

#2: Tech up
It’s fair to say the Barefoot editorial and production teams have been on a steep learning curve over the last year as we set out to create our library of animated singalong songs. At heart we are words and pictures people, and it’s a challenge to depart from the purity of books and enter (and attempt to decipher) the murky and fast-evolving world of digital animation. Ask us what an overnight render is, what resolution of mp4 will play fluidly on all vintages of PCs and Macs, how to approach a 182MB HD file…we’ll ask Karrot and get back to you!*

#3: Look at artwork in a completely different way
Across our range of books we have artwork in many different media – paint, fabric, collage, pastels… Karrot’s first job when they receive the digital scans for a project is to get the characters and objects to move independently of their background so they can walk, jump, or dance across the scene. Artwork created in separate layers makes their job that much easier and allows for greater creativity.

Jill McDonald created the beautiful Over in the Meadow illustrations by painting her background scenes and animals as separate collage pieces, scanning each one and compiling the final compositions in Photoshop. This gave a unique look to the finished animation. Learning from this experience, when we commissioned our latest singalong book, we specifically asked for the art to be painted in layers to facilitate creating the animation.

#4: Imagine the lives the characters lead outside the book
When an illustrator creates characters, she or he makes an imaginative leap to interpret the text and decide how a character looks, behaves and interacts with others in a variety of scenes. Yet readers are free to imagine what goes on in the rest of their favourite characters’ lives.

An animator takes a further imaginative leap and animates a character throughout every moment of a story.** Karrot have taken the popular singalong boys, girls and animals beyond the original pages of a book and have brought them to life in sweet, moving and gently comic ways.

In Over in the Meadow we had no idea the six baby mice would appear by wriggling through the grass to join their mother, squeaking in time with the violin in the soundtrack; that the eight bees would vibrate as they buzzed; or that Jill’s troupe of ten multicoloured spiders would be spinning in circles in a synchronised balletic dance around their web.  Take a look and see for yourself how the animals come to life!

#5: Work on your musical stamina
Watching a Barefoot animation for the first time to see how the book has been adapted is an exciting experience. Many of Karrot’s animations have sent Jessica Saint Jean, our US editorial assistant, into a fit of giggles and brought most the office over to join in the fun.

However, watching a Barefoot animation more than 10 times is now outlawed in the Barefoot Health and Safety manual.*** The singalong songs are all fantastic but by the time you’ve proofed five different versions of the same animation, you fear slightly for your sanity. Big thanks to Jessica, Beth and Kate on our editorial team for entering the proofing zone and emerging on the other side, mostly unscathed.

So now we have a shiny new animation, what next?
If we’re ever unsure about what our core audience will make of a new book, audio or animation, we run it past the experts. Tessa Parkin, aged two, enjoyed baaing and counting the baby sheep, while helping her Mummy proof Over in the Meadow, while Felix MacDonald, aged one, came to visit his Mummy in the UK office and enjoyed a good old Animal Boogie.

Sometimes it’s good to be reminded who we are really working for.

If you’re looking for more animated singalongs, check out more of our videos here and we will be releasing more books in August with singalong audio and video animations. Let us know what you think, or send a suggestion of a song you think could make a great video animation.

* To be fair we have a far greater understanding of technical issues than we did this time last year!

**Although we hope the animations still provide a lot of potential to inspire imagination

***Clause 14.3. Don’t ask about the incident that made this a necessary addition

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