Lucas the jumping spider is out exploring the world, booping everything new he comes across with his tiny, fuzzy feet. His favourite words are “I wonder”, and he’s filled with curiosity and love because his heart is as big as his heart-shaped butt!
We spoke to Lucas’s creator, animator Joshua Slice, and the producer of the Lucas The Spider TV series, Tom McGillis, about taking this 4-year-old superstar from having a wildly popular YouTube channel on the world-wide web (a perfect home for a spider), to having his own TV series, a new group of friends, and a big, beautiful house to explore.
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Explore Lucas’s world
Lucas was originally on YouTube alone. How did his little buddy Findley the fly come into the picture?
Joshua: Before the TV show had been figured out, we were asking the questions like, “How do we evolve this? Is there a companion character that would be a perfect addition?” We thought a little fly would be great, so we brought them into the fold on YouTube. And then once the TV show was greenlit, we got to work on some of the other characters.
Tom: It was pretty mind blowing, to hear Joshua suggest a fly to be best friends with a spider. He's willing to go somewhere extremely scary but keep it in a very loving and warm play space.
Joshua: I think having 2 natural prey and predators be friends challenges the whole notion of what people would expect.
Lucas is an incredibly cute spider – jumping spiders have a natural advantage there – what were your issues trying to make a Findley cute?
Joshua: “It took some effort to explore! If you made a fly realistic to how they are it wouldn't be cute at all, so there's some creative adaptations. 1 thing I really thought was cool was how we handled the eyes. Flies have big compound eyes with lots of little micro-lenses, and we created this effect that mirrors that, but at the same time has a movement kind of like a human eye. It wasn't like we put cartoon eyes on the fly, and we didn't make it completely realistic; we found a cool hybrid. Lucas is the cute 1, the star, so we weren't so worried about creating a character that was cuter. We thought that a companion can have his or her own traits that are special.”
What were some of your real-world sources in creating Lucas?
Joshua: “It all started with an image I saw of a little jumping spider in a leaf in National Geographic. From then I looked at a ton of images first, to get the look. And then when it came to animation, I looked all over the web for source materials on jumping spiders. The interesting challenge is, in real life they have a very staccato, quick movement. I thought if I did that 100%, it might not be appealing, and as an animator I’ve worked at Disney, and I have trained that sense of appeal. So, I tried to find a blend in between what's real, and what's appealing, while also maintaining the rules of physics…”
Tom: “And can we just not forget his ginormous butt? And how hilarious and endearing it is? It's a genius design.”
Joshua: “That becomes super important whenever you're posing him, to try to position the bottom in a way that the butt has that silhouette effect. You'd be surprised how often the actual 3D rig has been cheated!”
How was Simon Webster cast to voice Lucas (who was originally voiced by and named after Joshua’s own nephew)?
Tom: “In a word, exhaustively! It was quite a fight. Lucas and Joshua created magic with that voice because the love between uncle and nephew really shone right through in the shorts. You could hear their collaboration in every word that he uttered. We were thinking we might go to untrained actors to get that naturalistic feel that Lucas had, but that was impossible because of the pandemic. We wouldn't be able to work in the same room with this young person. Even the parents couldn't be with him in any meaningful way, with a coach nearby. And it was a big job to recreate that in a much longer, seven-minute episode format. Simon is a very young actor, and he really brought this wonderful balance of talent, training and heart. He had to record it in his closet in his bedroom during the pandemic, so there was a level of professionalism that carried us through.”
Talk to us a little about the house Lucas is in. On YouTube, we just saw him on bits of furniture…
Joshua: “I really wanted to stay true to the sense of scale and really ask the question, “What does the world look like when you're only that small?” When we had the idea to make him a musical spider, I would ask, “What's an instrument that he could realistically play?” At 1 point, I thought about piano, but he might not be heavy enough to hit the keys. That's where the kalimba came about, he could realistically pluck the notes. It's just constantly asking what the things are that you would interact with if you were less than an inch tall. It's a whole world of possibilities when you start looking around the house.”
Tom: “Scale was always part of our discussions at script and pitches. He's discovering things. And he's discovering them from an angle that our young audience wouldn't have seen before. So that the scale never stopped informing each and every story.”
Is there a real house that any of this is based on or shot in?
Joshua: “We were able to find a house in Toronto, and it's outfitted with props. They even built an attic within the room that had a window so they're able to record all these different angles. But as this was being built, the pandemic started.”
Tom: “Ironically, we had to find a very large house in Toronto (to shoot the series in), just to make room for our crew, who were socially distancing. You can only have so many people in a specific room. But we actually wanted it to look small and cosy, so it was, on so many levels, very confusing to find. But we've created a bright, sunny, happy, house that reflects the humans, who are never, ever visible. And you don't hear them. Not in Season 1, anyway. There are hints about the family everywhere. We know that they are musically inclined. And something that Joshua really likes is that they are also artistic with silly and jokey things around the house. The house was a big part of the leap (from YouTube) to the series.”
Joshua: “There's something magical about hinting that humans exist, but never revealing them. There's so much fun to be had about trying to describe them indirectly. And maybe having little easter egg jokes here and there.”
Now hop into Lucas’s world and see what you can see with your kids!
Watch Lucas The Spider Season 1 Mondays-Fridays at 07:15 on Boomerang (DStv Channel 302) and on Catch Up.
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