Some people come up with their ideas in the shower. Luke Jurevicius had the idea for his animated television series Figaro Pho when someone offered him an after-dinner mint.
“The inspiration came to me while I was sitting around enjoying afternoon tea with my family. I remember a box of after-dinner mints being passed around, and I recoiled from them like garlic to a vampire.
“I’ve got this aversion to mints. I remember discussing how ridiculous it would be to create an animated story about a character that gets knocked around by a bevy of phobias.”
Two years on, the idea has evolved into a 26-part animated series that premiered on ABC earlier this year. Figaro Pho follows the adventures of a boy whose phobias range from spiders and jelly to body odours and beards.
Each episode is a brief 90 seconds but delivers a fully formed little tale about fear and loathing. One episode, ‘The Fear of Bodily Odours’ has Figaro terrorised by a stranger’s armpit. The three-dimensional animation is quirky, dark and a touch gothic – no doubt influenced by the series’ creative consultant, Deane Taylor, well-known for his art direction on Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
In any one day Jurevicius says he could be wearing the hat of director, voice artist or music producer. The industry awards he’s been scooping up are testament to that diversity.
In 2007 he received the South Australian Short Screen Awards for best animation, best sound design and best composition – all for his work on ABC’s Dust Echoes (series two), a collection of 12 animated Dreamtime stories from Arnhem Land. In the same year he received the APRA/AGSC award for best music for children’s television, also for Dust Echoes.
Surprisingly though, the role he identifies with most is that of illustrator. “As a children’s book illustrator at heart, there’s no doubt that I lean towards conceptualising characters and environments,” he explains. “I love designing things – it’s a total passion of mine.”
Jurevicius began illustrating 14 years ago when he was first commissioned to work on a set of children’s readers for Blake Publishing. He has since gone on to illustrate an astonishing 400 titles, most of them for children, including titles such as The World’s Longest Toenail (Blake Education), written by Susan Knight.
The leap from paper to screen came roughly nine years ago when Jurevicius started experimenting with twodimensinal Flash animation, and eventually moved into three-dimensional animation. Now he works with a team of skilled operators – a contrast to the solitude of illustration work. However he says the hand-drawn still plays a major part in his work.
“The transition into animation felt quite natural. It’s so thrilling to see your still images and concepts come to life, [but] there’s always pencil to paper in the initial stages of production. I tend to work a lot with computers – in fact I use a Wacom Tablet (a touch sensitive digital tablet and pen), which allows me to draw directly into the computer as if I’m drawing on paper.”
These days Jurevicius works out of his Adelaide-based production company Vishus Productions. When we speak he is working furiously on two projects due to premiere soon on Australian television. The first is an eight-minute animated film, Wadu Matyidi, which tells the story of three aboriginal children during the 19th century. Jurevicius says it’s a theme he’s been pulled back to after his experience working on Dust Echoes.
“I am quite fascinated by the Dreamtime stories I was exposed to from the town of Beswick in Arnhem Land. Although I believe it’s changing for the better, I tend to feel like Indigenous stories and art have been devalued over the years. I feel very passionate about being able to give their stories and culture some much-needed value.”
Also in the works is a ten-part animated series Horace in Slow Motion. The project is a collaboration between Jurevicius and industry colleagues Arthur Moody and Andrew Kunzel.
“It’s about a pig that does all sorts of gross things in slow motion,” he explains. “It was just an idea that popped into my head after I ordered a couple of sloppy burgers and thought – wouldn’t it be funny watching us eat these in slow motion?”
If only great ideas were that easy for all of us.
View episodes from Figaro Pho on the ABC website www.abc.net.au/rollercoaster/figaropho/
Luke Jurevicius became a member in 2008, after the Copyright Agency’s copying surveys identified his illustrations in the schools sector. He has benefited from payments from our education distribution, which pays rightsholders for the use of their works in Australian schools and universities.