tv series / 13 x 6 minutes
for neue super & rtl+ / 2020 - 2023
Pumuckl is a classic fictional character who was created by German author Ellis Kaut in the early 1960s. This cheeky, mischievous little person with bright red hair has delighted children for decades, appearing in a variety of children’s books, radio plays and films. His adventures, or sometimes, mis-adventures, are rooted in his desire to understand the world around him. The fact that almost everyone can’t see him often results in chaos, as he tries to resolve problems for the people he cares for in his own special way. He is popular among children as they recognise the struggles he encounters, especially as a small and often unseen person, but they are also entertained by his extraordinary reactions to the often mundane events that occur in his orbit. He is most well-known from his appearance in the
1980’s children’s television series, Meister Eder und sein Pumuckl, a series that still holds a special place in the hearts of many adults today.
In 2020, NEUESUPER, a live-action production company based in Munich, reached out to us and asked if we wanted to participate in their revival of the classic 1980’s series, Meister Eder und sein Pumuckl. Being fans of Pumuckl since childhood, Studio Soi’s animation director Michael Sieber and technical director Mathias Schreck leapt at the opportunity.
Our work on this new iteration of the Pumuckl character can be grouped into four different phases: the pitch - the development and consultancy - the production - and finally, the marketing and exposure of Pumuckl.
Carsten Bunte, Zoé de Groote, Corinna Ewers, Luca Fasson, Thibaud Guillon, Fateme ‘Sizi’ Hatef, Michael Hockey, Dennis Josten, Christian Kaufmann, Aristote Kenzo-Domingueze, Samantha Leung, Tamara Lutiger, Torben Meier, Klaus Morschheuser, Michelle Oettinger, Tobias Pinegger, Stella Raith, Sara Richter, Daniel Rodríguez del Rey, Inés Rodríguez Quinn, Mathias Schreck, Nadine Schwenk, Michael Sieber, Laura Staab, Christopher Stodt, Vanessa Stotz, Martin Minsel, Johannes Weiland, Julie Würtz Hundevad, Damaris Zielke
In order to create a solid pitch, we tried to take on the perspective of both producer and director and in turn, we challenged ourselves to describe the core of Pumuckl’s and Meister Eder’s story
Pumuckl is a Klabautermann, a special kind of seafaring gnome. A Klabautermann lives in the holds of a ship and can sometimes be seen by humans. The Klabautermann’s spirit lies in the wood that was used to build the ship, wood that was harvested from a tree that grew out of a child’s grave. This was how Pumuckl was introduced by the narrator back in the original radio play broadcast in 1962. The narrator specifically highlighted the fact that, according to the encyclopedia, this special kind of gnome, this Klabautermann, is very rarely seen. But the encyclopedia doesn’t tell us who actually has
seen this creature. And so the narrator claims that it is his job to introduce the listeners to a person who knows a Klabautermann, a person who can see him when he is alone.
When we listened to this introduction from 1962, we were intrigued because the narrator was making a claim about the benefits of fictional storytelling,
that a truth cannot be found in encyclopedias.
It’s the narrator’s conscious decision to choose an old, lonesome carpenter, a person who does not live in the here and now. This old man is sometimes trapped in his memories and his past. He talks to himself, gets lost in his thoughts and forgets to close a can of glue. This is the kind of person who can ‘catch’ a Klabautermann and who can then interact with the little wild child he oncewas when he lived in the moment, when he created chaos and had many questions about life.
As filmmakers it became obvious to us that we should not stray away from the original design of Pumuckl. It wasn’t our task to animate a living creature, but rather to create a metonymy: the embodiment of Meister Eder’s childhood memories. So we pitched our approach to NEUESUPER, that the project should be produced in such a way that everything we see is always believable but also unreal and magical. The filmmakers should tell their story in the spirit of a ventriloquist who brings a lifeless puppet on stage and then winks knowingly to the audience before the puppet comes alive.
development & consultancy
During the development phase, we, along with NEUESUPER, had to convince the other financial partners involved in the project that the classic, hand-drawn aesthetic would be a more advantageous approach as opposed to a more modern 3D version of Pumuckl. Some financiers had concerns that a traditional Pumuckl might look too old-fashioned.
Of course, drawing Pumuckl by hand, frame by frame, like the Hungarian animation studio Pannonia did for the original series, would be far too expensive for our new version. So instead, Animation Director Michael Sieber started to develop a digital 3D rig that would give us the option to show Pumuckl as though he were hand-drawn. This method also allowed us to integrate Pumuckl better into shots with moving cameras and it also enabled the animation team to deliver many seconds of animation per week. But the biggest financial benefit to this technique was in the integration of Pumuckl into the live-action world. We did
not have to concern ourselves with the many time-con suming details that are normally associated with character integration, such asreflections, shadows, motion-blur and simulations. Our goal was not to make him realistic, but to make him believable and our technique gave us more time to focus on Pumuckl’s expressive performance.
In the final phase of development, we consulted with NEUESUPER to find the right organisational structure for the production. We developed a system to give the director, Marcus H. Rosenmüller, the director of photography, Stefan Biebl, and the producer, Korbinian Dufter, categories of shots to control effort and
costs. Our aim was to give full creative and financial control to the heads of the project during the production. We wanted to give our client the option to use Studio Soi as a tool.
To make the production possible, we applied for funding and received Line-Producer-Funding from MFG in 2022.
All the decisions are finally made on the day of shooting. After that, all the other departments can only react to the decisions that were made on set. Our focus as an animation studio was to give the live-action team as much control as possible so that they could work with precision
When we looked at the project from the perspective of filmmakers, we saw that two aspects needed more attention: Eder’s workshop and the connection between Eder himself and Pumuckl.
As a set, Meister Eder’s workshop needed a lot of attention. Aside from the feelings of nostalgia that would be felt by the older audience members, the workshop was also the place where the old Meister Eder and his younger self met. Pumuckl’s spirit lay in the wood, the wood that surrounded Meister Eder
and to which dedicated his whole life to crafting and shaping. His workshop wasn’t a state of the art facility. It felt more like a reflection of Meister Eder’s own brain: a bit cluttered and messy, full of old projects and littered with tools that might be useful if help is needed.
The connection between Eder and Pumuckl, both physical and spiritual, was also of great importance. Modern digital tools assisted us in bringing Pumuckl and Eder together in a physical sense with much more ease than what could have been achieved in the 1980s. The use of camera tracking data and on-set markers helped us to connect the digital puppet to the on-screen actor. But the most difficult task was connecting the eyelines between Eder and Pumuckl. This is where the soul of the relationship between the two of them rested. And there were no digital tools that could help in this regard. Instead, we relied on a physical stand in for Pumuckl that was used during filming to provide Eder with an acting partner. And at the studio, the animators would use their own artistry to draw an invisible line between the pupils of Eder and Pumuckl. This
was a tricky objective, as the difference of just a few pixels could break the connection between the two characters. When it came time for us to insert Pumuckl into the live-action footage, we consistently looked to the original series for inspiration. For the storyboards we studied Pumuckl’s behaviour, for the animation we studied his movement and for the compositing, we studied how he used to interact with the real world. We also embraced the flaws and limitations of the 1980’s production, such as using smear-frames in lieu of simulated motion blur, all in service of achieving a hand-crafted and tactile feel. Our hope is that the resulting 13 episodes of NeueGeschichten vom Pumuckl can help make children feel connected to the titular character whilst also being a continuation of the analog childhood that was experienced by the adults in the audience.
marketing & exposure
Fans of Pumuckl caught their first glimpse of the new series at the Filmfest in Munich in June, 2023. Their reaction was overwhelmingly positive and the episodes that were screened received the Audience Award for Films for Children.
On the 26th of October 2023, three episodes from the series were combined into a theatrical film and released into cinemas. At the end of the year, this film had sold more than 320,000 tickets at the box office.
On December 11th, all 13 episodes of Neuen Geschichten vom Pumuckl were released in Germany on RTL+, a subscriber-based streaming platform.