The cat’s out of the bag! Charlie Brooker’s new interactive production – Cat Burglar – is coming to Netflix on 22 February 2022!
Cat Burglar – an Interactive trivia cartoon
Cat Burglar is a classic cartoon – think Tom and Jerry or The Looney Tunes – family-friendly and with the added magic of interactivity! The animation is inspired by the work of Tex Avery – animator, director, cartoonist and voice actor (cited as being the man behind the original personality of Bugs Bunny).
The average runtime is 15 minutes but, with over an hour and a half of animation to explore, viewers will be able to play and watch, time and time again. Each rewatch presents the opportunity to see never before seen footage. Therefore, with every re-watch viewers can enjoy a different telling of the story. Available on Netflix, audiences and families are able to enjoy the show again and again!
What are the interactive elements in Cat Burglar?
By answering witty trivia questions, viewers must help Rowdy Cat get one over on Peanut the Security Pup and break into a museum to steal some prized paintings.
The show is framed as an “interactive trivia cartoon” – where audiences must answer the trivia questions presented on screen.
When Bandersnatch – the first interactive production from the Black Mirror team – first launched on Netflix, the big concern was around whether people would actually be inclined to interact and make choices to move the story along. Carla Engelbrecht, Director of Product Innovation, told The Hollywood Reporter that 94% of viewers were making choices. Of course, this fact completely wowed them all – and showed them the potential of this type of video!
“We’re talking about decades of training that when you watch TV, you put on what you want, drop that remote and snuggle into the couch. And instead of snuggling back, people were actually leaning in to make these choices.” – Carla Engelbrecht, Director of Product Innovation.
How did Charlie Brooker make Cat Burglar and Bandersnatch?
The creators of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch have once again come together with Mike Hollingsworth and the team behind the hit animation BoJack Horseman to create what will be a unique and very re-watchable production!
After they made Bandersnatch in 2018, executive producers Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones were very vocal about how hard it had been to make.
Charlie said of the whole production process, “It was like doing a Rubik’s cube inside your brain. Everyone went a bit bananas at some point.”
This was before we’d released Stornaway.io. Similarly, Charlie had the same problem that prompted us to design Stornaway as the all-in-one interactive filmmaking tool.
He had the task of writing several hours of interactive script divided into over 250 pieces. In fact, whilst it started as a seven-page outline, Bandersnatch quickly grew into a 170-page hand-coded script!
He said that at the time, “There were no tools aimed at scriptwriters who are used to writing scripts. So we had to use a hybrid of everything. I was using Final Draft and Scrivener and Twine and it was just like [another exhalation]. And that’s on top of the logistical nightmare of coming up with any of it!”
“If we’d known how hard it was going to be, we might not have done it”
His co-executive producer Annabel Jones was even less impressed by the process. “If we’d known how hard it was going to be, we might not have done it,” she said. “On the first day we got out the Post-It Notes, and then we progressed to ‘let’s get a whiteboard’, and then you very quickly go ‘oh God’, we are inventing the whole scripting infrastructure and production infrastructure and everything to go with it, and then your heart sort of sinks [laughs]. You realise, God, this is going to be awful.”
Netflix was busy making sure their main video player could handle seamless playback of all these choices – but hadn’t solved the creative production team’s problems. After hearing their pain during the production of Bandersnatch, Netflix started to build their own in-house editing tool called Branch Manager, which they made available to the team a couple of weeks after editing had already started. Producer Russell McLean then worked with the Assistant Editor John Weeks then wrangled Charlie’s Twine script into Branch Manager for delivery to Netflix’s interactive system.
Nowadays, it’s a very different experience, in a post-Stornaway world. You can simply map out, write and playtest your interactive film in Stornaway. “Twine on steroids” as one producer recently labelled it! And keep testing and editing it all the way through to delivery on the web – or as mobile and desktop apps, a game for Playstation, X Box and Switch, or one of the VOD platforms.
Annabel Jones, Charlie Brooker and Russell McLean
Bandersnatch – Showing that interactivity is award winning!
Bandersnatch was a huge success! It was a huge viral hit and won the Emmy for Outstanding TV Movie. Following this, Netflix have kept slowly but steadily producing interactive shows, mostly animations for kids, and all as extensions of existing IP. There are about 20 of them so far – Interactive Specials are now their own genre on Netflix.
Worth checking out are:
- Bear Grylls You vs Wild (2 films and a series of 6 episodes),
- The comedy special of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,
- Headspace meditation experience (which gives a sense of the possibilities of this new TV gaming form).
3 years later, Charlie, Annabel and Russell have recovered from the PTSD of Bandersnatch. They teamed up with Mike Hollingsworth to make Cat Burglar – a quiz of the sort that we’re seeing lots of creators playing with in Stornaway.io. Netflix has kept developing their production processes in-house. As a result, production has been easier this time – working to a carefully controlled animation schedule.
If you’d like to make films and games like Bandersnatch and Cat Burglar, sign up for Stornaway.io today.
Planning, testing and prototyping in Stornaway is the best way to learn and to develop and pitch your idea. In fact, it will transform your production process into something much more creatively and logistically fun than the “nightmare” that Annabel and Charlie faced.
Want to know more?
Creator – Charlie Brooker
Executive Producers – Charlie Brooker, Annabel Jones, Mike Hollingsworth
Writers – Mike Hollingsworth, James Bowman
Interactive Producer – Russell McLean
Voices – James Adomian, Alan Lee, Trevor Devall