Rastamouse speaks to kids in any language

Greg Boardman, producer, Three Stones Media, talks about getting its hit show ready for international markets.

Even though an international presale wasn’t part of the original funding plan, we were constantly aware of the needs of distribution pretty much from the start with our show Rastamouse.

That said, whilst listening carefully to the wonderfully supportive CBeebies and distributor DHX Media (back when we started they were Decode) I think we all believed that first and foremost we had to stay true to the vision of the creators, Michael de Souza and Genevieve Webster.

Nothing has ever been forced, faked or contrived to squeeze it into the show and everything has pretty much developed organically. I think this factor has contributed to the true strength of the storytelling and the unique feel of the show.

The notion of ‘Making A Bad Ting Good’ is truly universal and the heart and soul that’s intrinsic to the stories that will transcend all boundaries. That said, there have been hurdles and I am sure there will be many more on the way, but we’ve always been confident that the stories and the wonderful characters will find their audience both at home and overseas.

There were doubters who claimed we would never get beyond the UK, and even some who claimed you couldn’t have a licensing programme that only featured mice, but with a lot of patience and conviction the show is already making an impact in territories that were considered difficult for a reggae-playing mouse with a red woolly hat.

Rastamouse‘s blend of laidback Caribbean vibe and urban contemporary cool is ingrained in the DNA of the show, so whilst we expect some territories to recreate a Caribbean dialect withintheir own translations it is certainly not an essential ingredient

Greg Boardman

It’s rarely taken more than a short conversation to provide reassurance that the magic of the show doesn’t lie in the perfect recreation of a certain dialect, the most important thing is finding a youthful energy and a style of delivery that celebrates rhythm and rhyme and a vital sense of effortless cool to engage the ‘likkle ones’. After all, Da Easy Crew are fantastic role models in any language.

Michael speaks fluent Italian and producer Eugenio is a native Spanish speaker so we’re pretty well equipped for comprehending translations in certain territories, but in general we have to let the different broadcasters and DHX get on with their job knowing that the strength of the material is already beyond doubt and that the key ingredients will rise to the fore.

Polish friends of Michael’s have heard some of the MiniMini+ episodes and we’re pleased to report that the energy and life of the original dialogue do come across very well in Rastamysc. We loved the Hebrew tests for Israel’s HOP! Channel from the word go; the voice artists totally grasped the tone of the centralcharacters.

The discussions about France have been ongoing for a long while. Early audio tests produced a very generic sound lacking character not helped by some very ‘grown-up’ sounding translations. At that point we certainly had a moment of doubt but when DHX brought Canal+ on board we started to get very excited. They seemed to comprehend the lyricism of the dialogue, the distinctive vocal qualities of the characters and worked exceptionally hard to find a translation of the Makin’ A Bad Ting Good thatsounded like something Rastasouris might say. Literal translations had sounded rather mechanical!

So in many ways the language and stories of the actual episodes are looking after themselves. It’s making sure that the show’s values and style are replicated correctly in supporting, promotional and marketing materials that tends to be more of a chore.

As different parties and partners join us on the Rastamouse journey we often observe a sense of excitement that produces materials that don’t easily sit with our sensibilities and style. Away from the actual production of the episodes it is probably the area that we spend most time making sure the distinctive visual assets and the visual style of the show – something that has been carefully developed from Genevieve’s original illustrations – translates into print, digital and licensing space.

Given the level of reaction to Rastamouse arriving on UK television screens, it’s easy to forget that it’s early days for us so as Da Easy Crew take their irie vibes around the globe it’s important that we keep taking little steps and make sure we do our utmost to give the audience, no matterwhere they are, the best storytelling possible.