The African continent is synonymous with its distinctive music and dance culture. Cartoon Network – the most watched kid’s entertainment channel in Africa – and Urban Brew Studios, renowned African content creators, have joined forces to create the new and original locally produced kids’ series Pop Up Party.
The series, which is the brainchild of Ariane Suveg, the programming and acquisitions manager for Turner Kids’ channels in Africa, was developed in a collaborative effort with Urban Brew Studios.
“The initial task was to find a common denominator among Africans, specifically among the youth. The one thing that all Africans do when they are happy, sad or angry is dance. Rhythm is in our souls, and with what these kids do, they remind people that sometimes it’s good to just let loose, pop up and dance and so, Pop Up Party was born,” says Urban Brew Studios’ spokesperson Markus Davies, who is the executive producer of the series.
The first season of Pop Up Party, which has been airing on Cartoon Network (DStv channel 301) since 23 July, comprises 10 short inserts which follow a young team of enthusiastic local dancers as they ‘pop up’ in unexpected locations and start to dance, creating an energetic atmosphere and a fun-filled Pop Up Party. The new series draws inspiration from the countless viral dance and flash mob videos that have risen in popularity and taken the internet by storm over the past couple of years.
In an attempt to find the perfect mix of dance pro enthusiasts, the show’s creators stumbled upon the Michelle Oppenshaw Dance Studio, which is run by Oppenshaw, a well-known dancer and choreographer. The talented and culturally diverse young dancers that feature on Pop Up Party were all cast from the studio. “We found a group of talented individuals who love to dance, who spend their free time in the dance studio, and invited them to participate in our Pop Up Party,” explains Davies.
Pierre Branco, VP and managing director of Turner Africa comments: “We chose a group of kids that are all the same age as our core target market and from the unique and diverse African cultures to appeal to our viewers. They bring various personalities and different elements to the show, but one thing is for certain, they all are incredibly talented!”
The show’s look and feel is distinctly bright, quirky and slightly edgy. Ariane Suveg, programming and acquisitions manager for all Turner Kids’ channels in Africa, says that the team behind Pop Up Party was deeply inspired by modern African street style and graffiti, “from the likes of Rasty, Tapz and Rekso Le Hond for example.”
“We drew our inspiration from pop art, shweshwe (a traditional printed, dyed cotton fabric) and of course, from traditional African arts and crafts, and the printed fur of some of Africa’s most iconic animals ie. the leopard. The bright, flashy colours and pop art inspired artwork, evokes a sense of excitement, energy and joy in the air – the perfect atmosphere for one heck of a party,” comments Suveg.
In terms of filming style, Pop Up Party employs a fast paced flair, to best capture and reflect the high energy of the crew. To further enhance the modern African undertones in look and feel, Cartoon Network teamed up with the choreographer and parent of each cast member, in order to create a bright, individual, African street-inspired style specific and authentic to each individual’s character and personality, while remaining true to the channel’s artistic style and aesthetic.
Pop Up Party is a ‘hidden camera concept’, filmed in an unscripted, unplanned environment. For this reason, the cameramen hid in strategic locations, concealed from the public and audience’s sight in order to best capture the energy, surprise, spontaneity and authenticity of the audience and crew on camera. “Some of the filming was captured ‘handheld’ style, also known as ‘shaky cam’, which is a technique we used to give the series a documentary/reality sort of look and feel. We really wanted to portray the unpreparedness and unrehearsed nature of the reality-style series, which is exactly what Pop Up Party and its crew is all about,” Suveg expands.
The show was filmed with light DSLR HD cameras (Canon 5D mark 2), which Suveg says was best suited due to the disruptive nature of the ‘flash mob’ aspect of the series. “Hand held cameras were extremely crucial to the filming of this series. Our cameramen were constantly on foot, and had to hide and move constantly, which made the Canon 5D the perfect camera to use throughout the making of this exciting, locally produced series.”
Pop Up Party was shot using 100% natural lighting (specific to each environment) so as to further support the hidden camera/surprise aspect of the show. “We really just wanted to capture the organic reaction of our targeted audiences in their natural habitat; therefore the footage needed to be 100% spontaneous, natural and authentic,” says Suveg. “Lighting and a full camera set up would have been too obvious, and we would not have achieved what we set out to accomplish.”
Season 1 of Pop Up Party was filmed in South Africa, and is currently being broadcast across the African continent, but for possible future seasons of the show, Cartoon Network says that it will investigate the possibility of filming in other African countries. This is the first time that Cartoon Network has teamed up with an African production company to produce something original and exclusive for its African audiences that’s “full of local flavour, while still being true to the Cartoon Network brand and style,” says Branco. “The final product is not only fun, but also surprising, and that is exactly what Cartoon Network’s Pop Up Party is all about.”