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Childnet International is a non-profit organisation. Their mission is to work in partnership with others around the world to help make the Internet a great and safe place for children. Their projects are often funded by government agencies such as BECTA.

An award winning animated educational resource for schools

We were commissioned to produce a teaching resource in an animation and video format, highlighting the more dangerous aspects of the digital world based on the existing five SMART rules created by Childnet. The media required needed to be distributed by an online channel and also by DVD. The learnings were to be conveyed in an interesting format that would encourage active engagement from the young audience.

Firedog set about creating a wonderful and imaginative environment for a group of protagonist friends and their adventures. Loosely based on a ‘steam-punk’ pirate theme, Kara, Winston and their robotic monkey sidekick, Cookie, travel the high seas in search of treasure. We used the metaphor of sea adventure as a parallel to the experience of browsing the internet. Seas become the web, islands become sites and apps and games become treasure.

Characterisation : After creating the concept of a pirate adventure, we set about drawing up the plot heroes and villains.
The crew : We developed numerous characters each with their own story to tell. From Cookie the robotic monkey to Digzumbones the nefarious villain.

The crew set sail on their very own advanced ship, the Intersea Explorer, using all their modern day gadgets at their disposal, such as the iNav, the Sea-Station games console and their handy intership mobiles. The story is broken into five chapters based on Childnet’s SMART rules (Safe, Meeting, Accepting, Reliable and Tell) which educates the audience on how best to use the internet. The five animations (totaling around twenty minutes) are also supported by a separate teachers resource; An interactive CD Rom to assist teachers in presenting the animation. Included in the deliverables were supporting print materials such as branding, cover design and an accompanying 16 page booklet all presented in a comprehensive DVD pack.

The animation won the Gold medal at the 2009 Medea awards hosted in Berlin

Firedog was responsible for the entire remit beginning with full scriptwriting, storyboarding and concept development. The world was created and characters skinned, rigged and built in a 3D environment and animated according to the chosen shot selection. A number of passes were outputted and composited separately in layers, giving us control over all the separate elements in shot. The result is a natural looking ‘toon’ style which softens the hard  nature normally associated with software. From there, a studio recorded  voice-over was dropped into place alongside a composed music and sound  track, all to add extra weight and presence to the feature.

Both films are hosted on the Childnet website and the DVD pack was supplied to 25,000 primary schools across the UK. The project was supported and funded by BECTA, TDA, UCCIS and is endorsed by Professor Tanya Byron. The animation went on to win the Gold medal at the 2009 Medea awards hosted in Berlin.

WORDS: firedog