We’ve all grown up with the Buzzy Bee pull along toy since the early 1940’s.
But ask the latest generation of New Zealanders’ about Buzzy Bee and they’re just as likely to tell you about Driver Don, Trikey Tom, Mary Lou and a bunch more of Buzzy’s friends who play out their lives in the fictional world of Rolling Downs. It’s a wee village of “wheelers” and “walkers” that lies between Wheelington and Walkland.
Adults may also be surprised to know that these characters were inspired from similar cherished wooden toys produced in NZ by Buzzy Bee’s creator in the late 1940’s.
Their current guardians, Lion Rock Ventures brought the friends to life in an inaugural 13 episode fully animated series in 2009. And now Lion Rock has released a new 52 episode series that started screening on TV 2 this month. This time a real child actually calls Buzzy Bee (he’s host of the radio station in Rolling Downs) in each episode. Make sure you watch out for the Christmas Tale episode screening at 6.25am on Christmas Eve.
And for those of you lucky enough to access iPads this Christmas, head to the Apple App Store to download the first of a series of interactive e-books planned for release over the next few months.
Lion Rock has partnered with leading digital agency, Marker Studio to bring a number of the episode stories to life as themed interactive book apps for the iPad.
On iPads with a front facing camera, the child reading the story is able to become part of the story. They can see themselves in the world of Rolling Downs. “The story content with real world children buzzing Buzzy Bee at his radio station in Rolling Downs provides the perfect opportunity to apply the front face camera technology and let kids see themselves in the story” explains Jon Beattie, Managing Director at Marker Studio. “I haven’t seen this application of the technology in an App before and we are delighted to be showcasing it possibly as a first in the world against the stunning colour palette of New Zealand’s famous icon, Buzzy Bee brought to life in Buzzy Bee and friends. Everything looks amazing particularly on the new retina screen devices.”
The App finishes with a fully animated segment from the Christmas Tale TV episode with the cast singing a poignant Christmas song composed by talented New Zealand composer, Andrew McDowall of Auckland based Digicake Studios. Children and adults can sing along to the words “…Christmas is only Christmas if we can share it with you..” The App includes a narrated option with narration by well known New Zealand stage and voice artist, Jennifer Ward-Lealand.
The App is first of many digital extensions to the brand planned by Lion Rock Ventures. While manufacturing economics means that production of our iconic Buzzy Bee toy is forced off shore these days, Wendie Hall, director of Lion Rock and producer of the TV series hope’s New Zealanders will take some pride that the original cherished toys have inspired New Zealand creativity to bring these toys to life as loveable characters in the digital age.
For more information please contact:
Jon Beattie, Marker Studio 021 434 133
Wendie Hall, Lion Rock Ventures 021 650 117