Creating a Television Series - Part 7: Wrap-Up

Creating a television series is an ongoing column about the creation, development, and production of Justin Time, through Brandon’s experience as creator and art director of the show. For past articles and more info about Justin Time, click here.

First! Since I’m treating this wrap up as a landing page, here are the articles Ive done in this series:

Second! Justin Time is premiering on Sprout TV April 22, launching their Earth Week with a 2 hour marathon. You can read about it here. It is debuting later in July on NBC Kids, a new Saturday morning preschool block on the network, and in English Canada later this year. It’s currently airing around the world in various countries and languages. If you have preschool-aged kids of your own or know of any, I’d be grateful if you spread the word!

Third! Thank you. For reading all of this. I didn’t want this to be any sort of how-to on making a show - this was just about sharing how it all went down for me. We certainly didn’t do everything right, but that’s how it works. Some of you who work in animation, or television, or any field where you’re building projects of this size, might take something away from it. I hope, anyway.

And now, some more thanks. To the crew. To Frank and Mary. To Harold. To Alan and our writers. To Christine, Tracy and Jiro. To every department, the leads especially. To Dee, Gage, Jenna, Scott and our other voice talent. To our post facilities. To Family Channel. Seriously everyone, stay for the credits when the show ends. Everyone played an important role to make it what it is.

And that’s just season 1.

We’re currently in the middle of production on the second season. We’re starting to take the property into new places. We’ve made an app, we’re adding online content, and right now I’m creating some children’s books based on the show which should be released later this year. Lots of exciting stuff. Hopefully, a lot more to come, too.

If you decide to watch an episode once it airs (which would be amazing, thank you), please, let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading.

For past articles and more info about Justin Time, click here.

Justin Time © Guru Studio

Creating a Television Series - Part 6: Production

Creating a television series is an ongoing column about the creation, development, and production of Justin Time, through Brandon’s experience as creator and art director of the show. For past articles and more info about Justin Time, click here.

So it was time to do this.

We made a test, we came up with a pipeline and a look and we had to move forward. We could have used more time. Always, more time.

I wish I could faithfully describe the complete chaos, confusion, and anxiety swimming inside my head that winter. Every day - going into the studio, questions, problems, things we had never thought of, over and over again. But it was great. It was stressful and a bit mad, but the challenge was a wonderful thing. I look back and though I’m glad it’s behind me, I loved the experience, in a twisted sort of way. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and whatnot. How many other times in my life would I be given the opportunity to build something like this?

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Creating a Television Series - Part 05: The Green Light

Creating a television series is an ongoing column about the creation, development, and production of Justin Time, through Brandon’s experience as creator and art director of the show. For past articles and more info about Justin Time, click here.

In part 4 I talked about the bible. The goal was to make a great book that encompassed what this show was, show it to the world, and get the show sold.

It was a couple months after Kidscreen. I was told that the bible was received well. We had lots of good feedback - our hard work seemed to be worth it so far. But now we played a waiting game. There were discussions happening, but we could only guess if they’d take this to the next step. All I knew was that things looked good but, as always, “you never know.”

And then one day, a phone rings. Happy sounds. Laughter. Feet running down the hall. “They’re taking it! We got a green light!” Champagne was popped, hugs and congratulations were given, and that was that.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I mean I could, I slept like a baby, because I went out and celebrated. But my mind was racing. We did it. Now, unlike before, or before, now we really did have a show. It was really happening.

It was really happening.

How were we going to do this?

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Creating a Television Series - Part 04: The Bible

Creating a television series is an ongoing column about the creation, development, and production of Justin Time, through Brandon’s experience as creator and art director of the show. For past articles and more info about Justin Time, click here.

In part 3 I said we had to make a book. A mighty book. Full of everything you needed to know on what this show was, who it was for, and why it was awesome. This would be the show bible. And hopefully it would land us a deal.

Bible v1

By the time Mipcom arrived that year we had only been in official development for a few months. Guru had several projects in the works along with Justin Time, and they were heading to this market to shop them around. The show wasn’t ready for a bible yet, but it was worth putting one together anyway to get some feedback.

So we did. And it was pretty rough. A sample page:

When I look at it now it feels incredibly uncertain and lacking in confidence. I filled the pages with far too many images. We loaded any available white space with walls of text. I wouldn’t even let the background be still - I created world-traveler icons and plastered it like wallpaper behind everything. It was as if we were screaming to the world “Look at all the work we’ve done!”

But the feedback was helpful, regardless. We realized the new design direction was on the right track, and with some refinement we might just have the beginnings of a real look for this show. We also had some constructive talks about our characters and some new ideas to try for scripts.

The next big market was in the winter at Kidscreen. We had several months to prepare something special.

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Creating a Television Series - Part 03: Further Development

Creating a television series is an ongoing column about the creation, development, and production of Justin Time, through Brandon’s experience as creator and art director of the show. For past articles and more info about Justin Time, click here.

In part 2 I talked about the first steps in the scary uncertain world of development. We had entered a development deal with a broadcaster and we were starting to get a clearer idea of what this show was.

There was a note I discussed in the last part - how our show was changing from having a focus on education to something more fun and adventure-based. This was a big one and it would greatly influence our direction from here on out.

Justin

So let’s take a look at where Justin was as a character design:

I look way back at this early design and I still like it. It had a certain charm. But this cut-out style was not going to offer much for the higher energy action-oriented animation we now wanted. For a talk-heavy educational show, perhaps. But now Justin was going to run through jungles, climb mountains, pilot rocket ships, ride horses, and surf big waves (while wearing a life jacket, of course). I had to rethink the design.

This design was freer and more flexible. I felt I could really begin to play around with the shapes and start to develop a personality here. It was a little more traditional, and opened the door for interpretation later on how it was to be produced. Maybe it would be a flatter, 2d flash show, or maybe 3d. This design could be tailored to either, unlike the very flat previous approach. I was also trying to push certain things - the messy hair, the everyman clothes, the badass shoes - to a simpler and clearer place. This all started to give him a real personality. Things would start in these pictures that we’d take and put into stories and push and pull until it started working.

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Creating a television series - Part 2: Early Development

Creating a television series is an ongoing column about the creation, development, and production of Justin Time, through Brandon’s experience as creator and art director of the show. For past articles and more info about Justin Time, click here.

Growing Up

In part 1 I discussed where Justin Time started - the idea, the prep, the pitch. There was now a studio behind it, so it was time to get started.

From this point on, I would be working closely with Frank and Mary, the executive producers of the show. Frank’s studio was backing it, and his creative experience and taste would help in every way in making this thing great. Mary had been working in television development for years and knew the business well. I was a kid, 6 months out of college. Yep.

To recap - here’s where we were at, based on my pitch:

Mike in Time. A young boy who travels the world learning about history. His imaginary friend, the narrator, provides education while Mike charges ahead with curiosity.

Right off, there was some discussion:

  • Mike in Time, Mike in Time… doesn’t roll off the tongue. What about Justin? Justin Time? Better! 1
  • The focus on time travel was a little much. Little kids don’t even know what ‘last week’ means. Let’s not dwell on it.
  • And most importantly, the spacesuit and helmet had to go.

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Creating a Television Series - Part 1: The Pitch

Creating a television series is an ongoing column about the creation, development, and production of Justin Time, through Brandon’s experience as creator and art director of the show. For past articles and more info about Justin Time, click here.

Genesis

So it starts. Maybe as a napkin sketch while at dinner. Maybe as a random thought while in the shower. Maybe as a small thumbnail in your notebook that haunts you until you say “Ok!” But there will be an idea that sticks.

For me it was a sketch.

I drew a picture of a kid in a spacesuit with a big head, and below the image I scribbled, “Let’s explore!” It stuck.

I was in college (studying animation), preparing for my next and final year, where I was to make my own film. My film, it was decided, was going to feature a young kid named Mike who traveled to ancient Egypt and learned about its culture and history. He would jump into his spaceship, and with the guide of his imaginary friend (who existed only as a narrative voice) he would go on an exciting adventure through time.

It would be funny, and educational, but mostly funny. I had lots of ideas, lots of gags - and it started to blossom into something quite big.

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Creating a Television Series - Intro

So I’ve decided now that Justin Time has begun airing around the world, and soon to be in America this spring and in its home country of English Canada later this year, it’s about time to start talking about it.

It’s been an awesome journey. Four and a half years ago I had an idea on the tip of my brain about a little dude that traveled through time and learned about the world. Fast forward to now - we have a television series in production of its second full season, airing on tv around the planet.

What started as Mike in a spacesuit:

Eventually became Justin in a white tee and red chucks:

A whole lot else happened too of course…

And I’ll be sharing all of that with you, every few days moving forward. So stay tuned!

Justin Time © Guru Studio