Meta4orce Exclusive Part Three: Animation and Interactive team interviews


In the third and final part of my exclusive series of interviews with the team behind the new BBC interactive sci-fi series Meta4orce, I speak to the Animation and Interactive team.

Jonathan Melville: Can you tell me a bit about your backgrounds?

John Denton (Creative Director): I’ve been working in the digital design field throughout my career, and the last 7 years of that has been here at Bloc.

Ron Ganbar (Animation Supervisor): I’ve been working in post production since 1996, on everything from commercials to feature films. Over the last couple of years I’ve worked on some high-end feature films such as Sunshine and Elizabeth – the Golden Age and also on animation shorts.

What has it been like working on the series? Is there a buzz surrounding it?

Ron Ganbar (Animation Supervisor): It’s been a lot of hard work! I knew that Alex Norris (who I worked with many times before) was starting to work on this exciting BBC Two series and I was booked to head up the animation team.

It was a daunting task as the time frame and budget we had were both tight, but we found a way of tackling the script and since then it was challenge after challenge, but I’m extremely happy with the results. Alex kept pushing us and we kept delivering as much as we could.

John Denton (Creative Director): Meta4orce has been a very different experience for us here at Bloc. We have had to work very closely with both the writer and the director in order to make sure the interactive experience is intrinsically interwoven with the story.

In terms of buzz – absolutely! We were all super-chuffed to get this job. I almost think if we’d known too much about what we were actually planning to achieve we might have all bricked it from the start as it turned to be a gargantuan task. Sometimes it really is better to just not know!

Continue reading

Meta4orce Exclusive Part Two: Rick Palmer and Alex Norris interviews


The second part of my three-part series of interviews looking at the creation of new BBC animated drama Meta4orce continues as Executive Producer Rick Palmer and Director, Producer and Editor Alex Norris take time out to discuss the programme and their hopes its future.

Jonathan Melville: Can you tell me a bit about your background?

Rick Palmer (Executive Producer): My background is in online. In the late 90’s I set up and ran the largest independent film site in the UK,, which I sold to Future Publishing PLC in late 1999. Subsequent to that I founded BLOC Media as a digital agency working for clients in the entertainment industry and more recently the company has started to develop cross-platform formats such as Meta4orce.

How did the idea for Meta4orce come about?

Rick Palmer: The BBC approached us with the idea to create a new Teen Detective Drama for BBC Switch, but the actual format, story and world were left to us to develop.

We really wanted to bring some comic book sensibility to the story and John, our Creative Director and Assistant Producer on the show, was pretty adamant the story be set in the future so that we could have some fun with technology and the world around them.

We then approached one of our all time favourite comic book writers about the series and were over the moon when he agreed to get involved.

How similar is it producing an interactive series to a traditional TV series?

Rick Palmer: I’ve no experience producing traditional TV so wouldn’t presume to answer this, however from many years of experience developing highly successful online formats for companies including CBBC and PlayStation, I would suggest that the addition of a fully interactive version of the show adds significantly to the overall work involved.

What has it been like working on the series? Is there a buzz surrounding it?

Rick Palmer: Meta4orce has been a fantastic series to work on and a significant commission for BLOC Media. Getting the chance to work with such a highly respected comic book writer, as well as an amazing animation and interactive team has made the series a joy to work on.

And the feedback from TV and web viewers and the client has made the project really worthwhile.

Continue reading

Meta4orce Exclusive Part One: Peter Milligan interview


Following my recent review of the new BBC animated detective series Meta4orce, the series production team have kindly answered some questions about the genesis and future of the series.

I’ll be publishing these in three parts, kicking-off with series writer Peter Milligan. Starting his comic career in the 80s with 2000AD, he has since gone on to work on a number of high-profile projects including The X-Men.

Jonathan Melville: How did the idea for Meta4orce come about? Did you come up with the story before deciding on the animated format?

Peter Milligan: I come from a comic book background, and wanted to draw on some of that peculiar comic book sensibility – bodies that are altered, identities changed, regular people becoming extraordinary – and ally it to a futuristic detective story.

I knew from the outset that this was going to be an animated format, but it could be that some germs of the idea had been floating around, with a view to them being used in a comic.

Was their ever any discussion of the series being live-action?

As the idea developed, and we all became excited by what we saw as the idea’s potential, there was talk about live action.

Were you given free range with the script?

Up to a point. Within the parameters of a story that the BBC agreed to, and the constraints on a story aimed at teens and to be shown in the afternoon on BBC Two, there was quite a bit of freedom for character development and plot twists.

How different is writing for animation compared to comics and films?

Not as different as you might imagine. The characters have to be three dimensional and seem to have a life outside of the story. The plot has to make sense, and hopefully surprise, and say something about your characters.

Continue reading

Feel the Meta4orce

While pottering about the flat this morning I switched on the TV to BBC2, midway through an episode of an animated sci-fi detective programme called Meta4orce. I’m very glad I did.

Screening as part of the BBC Switch strand, which seems to be the latest attempt at “Yoof TV” (anyone remember Def II many moons ago?), this caught my attention with it stark subject matter and impressive animation.

Set in the London of 2034, a now flooded city where the survivors of a natural disaster are living with increased crime, a small group of genetically engineered detectives are on their first case. My initial thought was Torchwood meets X-Men – take a look at the trailer to see what I’m talking about:

While aimed at a younger audience, Meta4orce certainly doesn’t talk down to them, with Soma, the blood reading member of the team a slightly gory concept for one o’clock on a Saturday afternoon.

The rest of the team are pretty well-rounded for the liitle time they get on screen, while the plot unfolds at a pace that’s fast but still comprehensible. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise considering the series is written by comics veteran Peter Milligan who knows a thing or two about telling stories in a compact format.

This is a smart little programme that packs a lot into its 10-minute run time. It’s a real shame that this show gets tucked away on BBC2 in the morning while it’s big cousin Torchwood is getting all the hype – it’s also a shame Captain Jack and his team weren’t relocated into a future Britain when the show started, as this might have been just what the Doctor ordered. Maybe Meta4orce is what we would have got…

If you missed the first two episodes (there are two more to come), take a trip to the Meta4orce website, to watch them again with a couple of interactive games thrown into the mix.

I’m looking forward to heading back to 2034 next week to see where the investigation leads and hope we get to see more from this world.

I’d advise you to do the same.