Bristol independent animation production studio A Productions and BBC Children’s In-House Productions have together scooped a national TV industry award for an iconic series, produced for CBeebies, that has broken new ground in pre-school programming.

JoJo and Gran Gran: It’s Time to Go to the Hairdresser’s won the Best Pre-School Programme category at the Broadcast Awards, which celebrate the very best in British TV programming. The programme, which is the first UK pre-school animation to centre around a black British family, is based on the characters created by Laura Henry.

We caught up with Katherine McQueen, joint Managing Director, of A Productions, to find out more on why representation in animation is so crucial. She tells us, “Animation is a great way of exploring stories and themes for very young children and by representing a British black family we aim to normalise diversity and representation.

“Content consumed by children has a huge influence on how they perceive the world. It is so important to create stories that are both recognisable and familiar but told through different perspectives and for children to see characters that look and sound like them and their families.”

This episode follows JoJo on her first trip to the hairdresser with Gran Gran. Katherine explains, “Not only does Gran Gran have her hair done, but JoJo gets a treat too! We enjoy all the different possibilities there are for Afro hair styles and get a glimpse of Jared’s longer hair when he was younger.

“The viewer follows the process taken for cutting Gran Gran’s hair and JoJo’s twists. Extensive research was undertaken to represent this accurately in the episode. The hard work the team put in here beautifully encapsulates everything we hoped to achieve on the series: an authentically told everyday story.” 

An award-winning animation studio

The Broadcast Awards recognise the UK’s most ground-breaking content, creators and channels. The winners were announced at a virtual awards show hosted by TV presenter Claudia Winkleman.

Katherine says, “This fantastic recognition is testament to the entire team who have thrown their hearts and souls into this important show. For us, it was crucial that JoJo and Gran Gran had an authentic voice and truly told the stories and experiences of the communities and characters it portrayed. We hope this series will help to pave the way for better representation in pre-school programming and beyond in the future.”

A Productions is an internationally recognised, creative-led, multi-discipline animation production studio with a strong track record for producing award-winning children’s content for broadcast.

The studio’s 150-strong team is based in Bristol, a city renowned as a hotbed of production for TV and film, and it specialises in traditional and digital 2D stop frame, CGI, AFX, Flash and live action, both in studio and on location. A Productions undertook extensive research and interviews in Bristol, creating a panel made up of a range of voices from local communities that worked closely with the creative team on JoJo and Gran Gran.

Katherine tells us more on being a production studio based in Bristol: “We are so lucky in Bristol to have such a rich pool of talent, and, with several animation studios based here, we are able to retain talent too. Bristol offers such a great city for families that animators and the wider crew settle here longer term, feeding this thriving industry.

“With award-winning post houses to support animation and a wealth of live action and green screen now shot here, we are able to do full productions out of Bristol. We have all the infrastructure of the Capital but with all the wonderful advantages of the Bristol lifestyle.”

Main Image Credit and Copyright: BBC Children’s Productions Ltd 2020.

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.