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Kong Studio Exhibits Class and Culture with Secrets of the Museum Shorts for The Open University

London, UK
Kong Studio collaborates with The Open University’s Broadcast & Partnership team to produce additional content for the BBC’s Secrets of the Museum series

The Open University's Secrets of the Museum looks at artefacts held within the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The two animated shorts coincide with the new series of the popular OU / BBC co-production, first shown in 2020. In the TV show, experts and conservators were filmed at work in this treasure trove of the nation’s favourite objects, breathing new life into fragile marvels, and uncovering hidden stories.

The Open University’s association with the BBC has been going on for over 50 years. The foundation of this relationship is the concept of free access to learning for all. However, gone are the days of bearded professors in brown jackets discussing quantum mechanics in the wee hours of the morning. These days The Open University’s co-productions span linear and on-demand television, radio, podcast and digital. The OU uses its academic expertise and in-depth research to bring learning to life through some of the BBC’s most iconic series.

Alongside the TV series, The Open University creates additional content that supports further learning. For Secrets of the Museum each film takes the viewer through why the object was made and its significance in the history of the world.  In this instance, the eclectic objects chosen are Tipu’s Tiger – a mechanical animal complete with a working musical organ - and Balenciaga’s Le Mouton Noir evening coat.

With academic resources in short supply, the Broadcast and Partnership team at The Open University needed to find a way to produce the additional content in a streamlined fashion. Using research that they already had under their belt, they called on Kong Studio. Having recently used animation in a series of explainer videos with BBC Ideas, the Broadcast and Partnership team could see that Kong Studio were the answer to their conundrum. They handed over the script and key facts to the animator and allowed him free reign to craft the video and make it both visually appealing and informative.

Andrew Hudson, senior broadcast and partnership manager at The Open University said: “We first came across Kong Studio while working with BBC Ideas last year. Kong did an amazing job on those animations and with a glowing recommendation from the BBC Ideas team, it was clear that we should ask the Kong team to produce some of our own additional content.

Producer Emma was transparent about pricing and requested more details on the brief. This is always a good sign we are developing an excellent working relationship.

Animator Daniel Prothero interpreted the script well and came back with strong and cohesive visuals that we loved. We gave guidance where needed but overall working with Kong Studio and Daniel was very much a collaborative process. You have to trust in the expertise of the people you have commissioned and Kong Studio certainly proved this.“

Both animations were designed and animated by Daniel Prothero. Daniel drew inspiration from the objects’ history to illustrate the story that led to their creation. This included visual similarities between 18th century India and 20th century Spain in the architecture of Tipu Sultan’s palaces and the Moorish arches of southern Spain. These architectural features, along with plants native to each country, served as the building blocks for the animations. Daniel juxtaposed photographic images of the two artefacts with animated scenery to create a striking final product. This mixed media approach meant that time could be spent designing the various characters that feature in each animation.

Animator Daniel Prothero on the inspiration behind his designs: “One of the biggest challenges was creating a large cast of characters- from a matador to colonial soldiers, engineers to a flamenco dancer. I took inspiration from photographs and paintings created during the two eras. Character animation can be a very time-consuming process, so we kept the movements subtle and reused elements where possible. I most enjoyed the freedom the client allowed us. We were trusted to develop an original visual style and palette and were encouraged every step of the way - inspiring us to push harder.”

The colourful animations incorporate the smooth vocals of Louise Golbey. Her clear and melodic voice lends itself to the retelling of these two exceptional objects.

Voice over artist Louise Golbey on the script: “It has been an honour voicing the animations for The Open University. The scripts were informative, engaging and well written – squeezing in all the information on each subject matter neatly and concisely into a short video. I personally loved learning about the two subjects whilst on this project. 

I have worked with Kong on a few occasions now and think what they do is fantastic. They are a pleasure to work with.”

‘Tipu’s Tiger’ and ‘Balenciaga’s Le Mouton Noir’ will be available to watch now on The Open University’s Broadcast and Partnership page.