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UMIGO – Wild Brain’s New Educational Videos

I wish I could have seen stuff like this when I was in school. Check out this sample of Wild Brain’s new series of animated videos, aimed at kids, which teach math basics. Called UMIGO (“yoU Make It GO”), they were directed by Dave “Pez” Hoffman (The Ricky Gervais Show), with an animation team that includes Jim Smith, Mike Bell, Carey Yost, Miles Thompson, Adam Rosette and Art Director Rae McCarson (Billy and Mandy) among others. A government grant is paying for production (“your tax dollars at work!“) so every aspect of this Flash animation production was done in-house at W!LDBRAIN in Sherman Oaks, CA. Eleven music videos and one eight-minute short were produced. The first three are online now, available on You Tube and iTunes. They’re lively, good looking and I suspect will be very effective in their goal to teach.

  • Very nicely done, visually. The animation was snappy and the design was original. A well done, there.

    Too bad the song is so tedious. It’s also hard to get all of the lyrics. I guess that’s where the incessant repetition helped, but it made me want to check out early. I wonder how younger ears will work with it.

  • Eman

    Love to see people put style and effort into children’s programming. For some reason they always seem to want to play it safe with overly soft designs and reserved movement. I guess not to excite them too much? I dunno.

  • Eman- I suspect that the frequent bad design in children’s “educational” work has a lot to do with being educational in the first place. Work whose main focus is not just entertainment or visual excitement often involves non-visually sophisticated people in the process who may either be reticent to make things “too cartoony”, too exciting, too red, too blue… or just generally suck the energy away from the creators by interfering in a thousand unhelpful little ways. Unfortunately, this will always work against the goal of educating because work which doesn’t draw attention to itself will fail to communicate when there aren’t any eyeballs looking at it.

    Congrats to Pez and the Wild Brain folks, these pieces DO NOT suffer the same issue! Very nicely designed indeed.

    • the Gee

      ”…often involves non-visually sophisticated people in the process who may either be reticent to make things “too cartoony”, too exciting, too red, too blue… or just generally suck the energy away from the creators by interfering in a thousand unhelpful little ways. “

      Amen. Call them producers if that is what they call themselves.

      It is frustrating.

      You get notes or comments like “I like it but it isn’t appropriate. It will confuse them.” Then there’s the “too cartoony” comments.

      It is very frustrating. So, I’m gonna back down now before I write a manifesto, an animation manifesto.

  • the Gee

    I agree with Eman and with you Jerry. I always want to think that educational animation and stuff geared towards young age groups can and should be like what Chuck Jones wrote back in the 60s about how TV commercial animation was where things were happening.

    Animation that attempts to teach has to be engaging on every level just because not everyone is the same. Some people (kids) need the song, others will need the colors, and, probably all of them will respond well to the characters and how the concepts are explained. Hopefully.

    And, for god sakes, stuff like this should be fun to experience. Hopefully this is that way for little kids. And, hopefully it was for those who worked on it. If people had fun working on it, in theory, it should show up in the work.

    The Stevie Wonder-esque song is kind of weird considering it is Stevie Wonder-esque but I’ll overlook that.

  • Julian

    Great! Now how do I get my hands on some of these “government grants” to make the cartoons I want to make?

    • Karl Hungus

      Its easy if the former CEO of your company raised a million dollars for Obama’s campaign. Then you magically beat out all the other competitors for a huge government grant.
      Oh, and that CEO is made into the ambassador of France like the CEO of WildBrain was. Cronyism reaps huge rewards. :)

      • the Gee

        I get your point in stating this but do keep in mind that this wouldn’t be the first time that someone who knew the right people, or was related to some, got a little help or instant credibility with their education ventures.

        • the Gee

          or their animation ventures.

          oy! the list!

  • I boarded this and did some of the design.

  • Joe

    Wild Brain = Modern Schoolhouse Rock!

    Great Job folks … keep it up!!!

  • I think I’ll stick with “Donald Duck in Math-Magic Land” to be honest.

    • “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. ”

      i love these characters, the crew, and my job! stay tuned…

  • Pez

    Thanks for all the comments on Umigo. Its’s great to see our work finally out there in the public eye after all this time working on it!

    Did you guys see the other 2 videos?

    boarded by Jim Smith


    boarded and BG paint by Dan Elson

    And as Miles said…

    Stay Tuned :)

  • Very groovy stuff. Feels like a new-age Sesame Street in terms of “funducational” animation. Groovy designs, too!


    nicely animated, not too busy, clean modern look but as a teacher/mom I’m not sure what the end result was: characters flying around a landscape was what my kids saw. Don’t quite pick up on the lesson of shapes, and the terms (hexagon) were lost in that hard to understand song. Simplicity of message please!

  • Karl Hungus

    Word is, the government grant that was awarded Wildbrain to create these short has now been rescinded. The above clip is all that has been produced on MILLIONS of dollars (!) and the department of education wants their money back. Much of it cannot be found.