Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Shimmer And Shine" Creator Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz Reveals What Goes Into Creating A Hit TV Show

It comes as no easy task when developing your own series, let alone an animated series.

Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz (centre) and motion puppets (Shimmer and Shine) at the Cape Town International Animation Festival. Picture: ENRICO JACOBS

From start of production right through to airing, it can take up to nine months to complete a 22 minute episode order.

Channel24 recently caught up with the creator of Nickelodeon's hit animated preschool series Shimmer and Shine, Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz, at the Cape Town International Animation Festival to find out more about her journey from a post-production intern to show creator.

You started at Nickelodeon’s animation studio as a post-production intern. Did you ever imagine you would end up creating your own animated series with them?

I didn’t necessarily think I was going to create my own animation when I started, but I was always very driven, like I wanted to get into more of the executive side.

So, I never knew that I would have my own show until I started, kind of, mentally working towards it in about 2006, and then in 2009 I started pitching show ideas and I was pitching for about five years before Shimmer and Shine happened.

I say that all the time! #shimmerandshine #nickjr

A post shared by Farnaz (@farnazcharmatz) on

What was your creative inspiration when developing Shimmer and Shine?

Originally in 2010, Shimmer and Shine was a completely different series. Only Shimmer existed and her name was Mia and she granted wishes for Zach and it was a show about literacy. Back then it was my husband and I developing together and we went with genies because magic is fun and literacy can be a difficult subject so we wanted to find a way to literacy. Years later, pitches and pitches later we ended up getting rid of all of that and I ended up with Mia, now Shimmer, and from there we started building it up.

Tell us more about the creative process from when your idea was approved up until the first episode aired?

My path has never been a normal path, it has always been odd. So, by December of 2012 I turned in my pitch and they called me and said, ‘Okay start thinking about the next steps’, And I thought I was going to have a couple months off. But by April 2013, they said, ‘Okay we’re picking you for pilot’. So, then we had to find writers and storyboard artists and basically take this whole thing into production and normally the process is that you make a pilot, you get it animated, you get it back, you test the heck out of it and then based on that they will either pick the show up for series or not.

We got picked up for series before we had even shipped the pilot, so we were still in the works of figuring everything out and they gave us a writing pickup. So, by August 2013 we had a writing pickup, by November 2013 we had a full production pickup and I think in January 2014 we shipped the pilot. It happened so fast!

What do you want kids, and even adult viewers, to take away from watching Shimmer and Shine?

There are a few things: One is, if you watch the show, the girls are very kind they never criticise or put each other down, they’re even kind to our ‘bad guy’. And our ‘bad guy’ isn’t even that bad, she just is very, we’ll say, determined.

Everyone is very kind to one another, they work together and there is no obstacle is too big when they think through the situation together and they can overcome anything when they just think about it a different way and that is something I would like for both adults and kids to see.
And I also hope that it inspires creativity and imagination and that they just have fun with it.

What has your favourite part been about the whole creative process of Shimmer and Shine?

My most favourite, favourite thing is a secret thing I do. I go on Instagram and I search the hashtag and I see parents posting videos and photos of their kids loving the show and that is my favourite thing. Getting to see it reconnect and how kids are enjoying it.


Watch Shimmer and Shine everyday on Nickelodeon and Nick Jr.!

Also, from IOL:

Shimmer and Shine aims to inspire with imagination

Gone are the days when cartoon creators were almost synonymous with phantoms, existing only in a ghostly image of a man somewhere in the studio leading the pack.

The pack of Shimmer and Shine, Nickelodeon’s animated preschool series, was created and co-produced by Iranian-American Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz.

She has been in post production of a series of kiddies shows such as Dora the Explorer and Go Diego, among others.

The series plot in Season 1 was about a young girl named Leah who was granted three wishes by a genie. Leah’s wishes have a ripple effect and every day she has to fix them. The show has aired for three uninterrupted seasons.

Farnaz is in the country from Los Angeles for The Cape Town International Animation Festival, where she is among the guests headlining the event. It started on March 3 and ended on Sunday March 5.

She is very hands-on. “I’m critical of everything, including myself. That’s what drives us to try and always do better,” she says.

“I think it’s kind of good to always be critical of things but then also take pride in what you do at the end of the day. I’m always thinking like, okay, the change from Season 1 to Season 2, was awesome, it was awesome to get to go to Zahramay Falls. Now what? Like how do I keep the audience interested and wanting to see more.’’

Growing up, Farnaz had a wild imagination, and she credits that as something that led her down this path. “I have always been very creative and imaginative. I remember when I was little, I would walk home from school and I would just make up songs for myself all day long, and I would sing across town,’’ she recalls.

As a young girl, she was always trying to create things out of different materials she could get her hands on. “I made like a bouquet out of a construction paper, and I sprayed the whole thing with perfume for my friend. So my brain has always just worked that way. If I weren’t creative, I don’t know what else I would be doing.”

Before she created the show, she did a lot of research, going around schools in her area to gauge the level of interest in cartoons from children.

“I found it really insightful. It was kind of interesting to see how much kids change from one year to the next in terms of what they like, what makes them laugh, what is acceptable and what’s not. Watching kids connecting with the show and whatever the format is, is such a good feeling because it just reminds you that you are doing it for them. And if they love it, then you are doing a good job.”

She hopes that Shimmer and Shine can teach children resilience and a spirit of working together and supporting one another to overcome obstacles, and to be kind to one another.

“If you notice in the show when the wishes go wrong, nobody is ever critical of each other. When our bad guy does something not quite nice they are never mean to her.

“Everybody always continues to work together and be kind, and really that’s what kids take away from Shimmer and Shine, how to be kind and work together,’’ adds Farnaz.

The number one fans of the show are her seven-year-old son and five-year-old daughter.

“Princess Samira is named after my daughter Samira, and Shia the lightning genie is named after my son. My husband thought it was really cool, that they have genies named after them. I said imagine one day, all these kids in the world growing up with this show will one day meet my daughter when she is a grown woman out in the workforce, and somebody goes, ‘Your name is Samira? I used to watch a show that had a princess named Samira, and she will be like, ‘Yes, that’s me.’ Like, who gets to do that? That’s really cool.”

Shimmer and Shine is on DSTV (Nickjnr) 307, weekdays at 07:30 and 15:30


Also, via Bizcommunity:

#BrandManagerMonth: Getting animated about the TV animation industry

Animator Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz attended the Cape Town International Animation Festival this past weekend. She shares what it's like working at the Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Burbank, California and offers advice to aspiring animators hoping to draw their own creative future.

“With magic and friendship, and adventures for all, there's so much to discover in Zahramay Falls! Take off on magical adventures with Shimmer and Shine!” That’s the introduction to Shimmer and Shine, which follows the adventures of two genies-in-training, but you can also watch the short intro embedded [above.]

The show’s creator Esnaashari-Charmatz is that rare creature who has worked at one company and found her niche there over the past decade. Having completed an internship with Nickelodeon (called a Nicktern [...]), while completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Entertainment Art at the California State University, she wanted to work with the network that gave her that start, and so learned all she could about animation and preschool at the Nickelodeon Animation Studio.

Talking us through the highlights of her ten-year career so far, she shares that she started off as a production assistant on My Life as a Teenage Robot, then was hired as the post-coordinator on Go, Diego, Go! After that she became the post-production supervisor on Dora the Explorer, Ni Hao Kai-lan and various other projects at Nick. It’s then that she started pitching to Nick Jr, and she shares that she pitched various projects for five years before landing on Shimmer and Shine.

In each of those positions she learned valuable lessons that helped better prepare her for what she’s doing on Shimmer and Shine today.

The biggest challenge for her is continuing to learn and grow each day and pushing herself further than the day before, no matter what the position. Now known for her knowledge and understanding of how to "fix it in post," she has what she calls a “built-in preschool audience” of two children at home.

She adds: “The only person who can ever stand in your way is you. Work hard, be humble, learn every day, and set goals for yourself. Be able to self-assess and be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, because only then will you truly grow.”

Esnaashari-Charmatz concludes that the Cape Town International Animation Festival was an excellent opportunity to meet with some of those up-and-coming artists of SA's industry, so make sure you’re there next year! Follow the Festival on Twitter or Instagram for the latest updates.


More Nick: Episode 34: Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz | Nickelodeon Animation Podcast!
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