Let’s explore Elliott From Earth

Kids 11 March 2021

Tony Hull, one of Elliott From Earth’s creator-directors, beams us aboard the Centrium to show us how the series was made.

The brand-new kids animated comedy series, Elliott From Earth, which launches on Cartoon Network (DStv channel 301) on Saturday, 13 March, is one of those series that captures the imagination and takes it on some crazy adventures.

It’s set aboard the space station, the Centrium, which is home to alien life forms of all kinds from around the galaxy, including Earth. Human boy Elliott and his mom, Frankie, a geologist who specialises in meteorites, are whisked off to the Centrium in episode 1 after they accidentally activate a “space rock” and decide to accept the ticket to discovery that it offers.

There’s one other Earthling aboard the Centrium – Mo, a sweet little stegosaurus, which thrills dino-loving Elliott to bits. The rest of the inhabitants of the Centrium are bizarre (to us humans) life forms that inhabit specially formed biospheres capable of supporting their particular needs. Along with the series’ giddy humour and fun storylines, this exploration of life forms and environments makes it easy for parents and kids to watch, and talk about, together. It’s a call to creativity so keep pencils and paper handy for making up your own aliens.

Elliott From Earth is based on an idea by Guillaume Cassuto. It was created by Guillaume, Mic Graves and Tony Hull, and is directed by Mic and Tony. It comes from the team behind The Amazing World of Gumball (also airing on Cartoon Network in South Africa and, fun fact, in episode 1 we see Elliott knock over a gumball machine).

We spoke to Tony about creating the series and some of the thoughts that went into it.

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Elliot From Earth (2)

All aboard with Tony Hull

What was your starting point for Elliott From Earth?

We started Elliott when Mic and I were still working on Gumball a couple of years ago. A lot of the Gumball team was trying to work out what the next show might look like. And we'd not really done a sci-fi show before. I grew up watching shows like Quantum Leap and things like that, it's a really fun genre to work in. So we started the idea three or four years ago and started making the first series in 2019. It should have gone a lot quicker but obviously, we hit lockdown and it got a little more complicated to make.

What do you, Tony, take care of in this show?

Mic and I come up with the ideas for each episode. We write the stories, the scripts – what all the characters are going to say –  then we get a storyboard, which is kind of like a comic book, and our storyboard team draws out each episode.

Then we put that together and Mic and I do all the voices temporarily just to see if the show is funny and the story makes sense. Once we're happy with that, it goes to the rest of our team who design all the characters properly and make the environments and the backgrounds. Mic and I are there from start to finish to make sure that everyone knows the worlds we're trying to make and the characters and everything. Then it comes back to us all animated. It takes long, it takes about a year to make one episode. Then we look at it and work with the sound guys to make all the sounds in the show and the music. We try to hold things together because there are so many amazing people working on it.

Tell us a bit about the inspiration for the Centrium

Going to all these different worlds, we thought it would be really interesting if these worlds were kind of in one place as well. The Centrium is like going to a big city where you get to meet different types of people and cultures and try all different foods. It's really having this amazing, multicultural place. And going to space, you get all these different, amazing environments. There's a rainforest that glows in the dark, there's another biosphere with these octopus creatures that make this pure water. It's really there to explore our imaginations as much as anything.

What inspired the exterior design of the Centrium?

There's an old movie Mic really likes called Silent Running, which had all these… we call them biospheres in the show, these pods. We imagined if we wanted to go to all these other places and see them from the outside. Hopefully, it's something that kids can draw as well and put their own environments in that they'd like to see. It has a weird kind of cellular thing to it like things you might see in biology. There are all sorts of strange influences that come up.

In this environment, humans are aliens as well. What did you notice about us when writing that?

Everything we do is just as strange as what you'd expect aliens to be like. It's a journey for Elliott and Frankie to meet the aliens, but the aliens are just as interested in them. It's an equal interaction every time they meet new people. Everyone's there getting on with their lives. Elliot and Frankie are asked, “Why do you only have two eyes?” or “Why is your hair there?” or “Why do you sneeze?” and even they're not quite sure because they've been so used to it and no one has ever questioned them on it.

We had quite a lot of fun going, "Why do people do that?" It's nice to examine what you do yourself. I think we've got something about “Why do you wipe your own nose on your own arm?” This is a strange thing people do. It's one of those things people do all the time, but they're not really aware of. We like to point those things out.

Talk us through creating Frankie as a character

Frankie was Mic's idea. We were interested in exploring a different relationship between a child and a parent that we weren't aware of seeing too much of on-screen. Frankie is an amazing single parent. She's a brilliant scientist and just as much a driver of the story as Elliott because it's her rock that she finds and investigates and asking questions about. And it's that rock that takes them across space. It's her curiosity about the world. She never stops Elliott from suggesting things as you see with other mom characters. We've shown the series to some kids already and they've really, really enjoyed that, that Frankie is cool. She’s someone they'd want to go on the adventure with as well. You don’t stop having fun just because you're an adult.

How do her and Elliott's perspectives on this world differ?

Frankie comes at things a little more cautiously. As an adult, you're a little more cautious about things. She thinks before she acts, Elliott and Mo sometimes act before they think. But it works out because there's no right way of doing these things. It's a learning process for all three of them. They get into fun situations, they get into tricky situations all the time.

Were you able to bring your childhood fantasies about meeting aliens and going into space into the show?

We've all wanted to meet aliens and wondered what they look like. I used to draw really bad aliens as a kid. We've also been lucky to go to different countries around the world and see new and amazing species on our own planet. Just finding out how different things work is central to the show. We've applied it to the aliens, who can talk back. But it's almost like what would lions think of us if they could talk?

5 out-of-this-world places to see aboard the Centrium…

  • Biosphere 11-38, which is this huge forest full of amazing plants that glow in the dark.
  • There's an ice palace run by a little old lady and it’s filled with sculptures of aliens.
  • There's Elliott's Teacher Mr K (Lord Kallous the Merciless). He goes to his house, which is kind of like a big Star Wars villain’s lair.
  • We go to a huge room that has a giant head in it made up of hundreds of smaller aliens that can give you the answer to anything you want.
  • And we go to Mars. So… plenty of places to go and things to see.
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