A GRAIN OF RICE PRODUCTIONS 3 The Case of the Dead Torch

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Director
    Michelle Ang
  • Pou Rautaki / Strategic Lead
    Deane O'Connor
  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Directors
    Robert Wallace, Luke Toth
  • Kaitautoko / Contributors
    Kat Kasajima, Amy Barber

As part of the show's premise, each episode features audio of a group of Kiwi kids who are presented with a riddle to solve. This opens the door for the kids to harness their creative thinking and problem solving skills. They talk amongst themselves and speculate on wild theories with vivid imagination. As their attention shifts from idea to idea, each subject whirls by until the riddle is solved and the journey ends.

This episode featured a riddle centred around trying to solve where the characters are, so the environment they were in needed to be kept a mystery. The space was a dark cave, so the look had to reflect these requirements in a clear and creative way.

After some research, a style called sgraffito matched perfectly. It is a technique where the surface is coloured with oil pastel, and Indian ink is applied over the top, then the ink is scratched away to reveal the colour underneath. Thankfully this technique can be replicated digitally. It allows the subjects to exist on screen without needing to reveal their environment, and it helps them visually pop when they're contrasted against the black space. The colour palette needed to reflect the damp, spooky place, so it became a blend of murky green shades and cool purples and blues. Only light sources created warm colours.

The main two characters went through a design process to make sure they were visually different enough that the audience could easily identify them from each other. By refining the designs to simple shapes and lines, they were easily replicated in various poses and actions.

To capture the whirlwind of ideas the kids had while guessing the answers, the subjects needed to feel as if they're in one long train of thought. By having the scenes blend together through interesting transitions, it allowed the pacing to flow seamlessly, and ideally held the attention of the younger viewers.

This episode was an opportunity to explore a fun style that rarely gets used in animation, and apply it to characters that express a range of emotions in a short but chaotic narrative.