Over 35 years ago, a cheery figure appeared on our screens to warn us about the dangers of mine subsidence holes, using the rallying cry, ‘If you see a hole, don’t think you’re a mole! Walk in the opposite direction and report your detection!’
Despite giving up his time in the limelight long ago, Maurie Mole and his message remains just as beloved and relevant as ever.
“Because of how iconic and beloved Maurie is in New South Wales, we knew it was important to remain true to his original design,” Creative Director Oz Smith said. “So we focused on updating Maurie’s style so he looked more contemporary and published.”
One of the main challenges the team faced was translating Maurie’s very unique features from 80s film roll to web animation. This gets harder when you realise Maurie used to be played by a man in a costume!
Sound designer Sean Crowley was charged with recreating Maurie’s original score – but again, with a fun refresh for the 21st century.
While initially baffled by some unidentifiable brass sounds in the original TVC, Sean transported the song from synth-y 80s riff to a big, full-bodied funk band sound. To polish off the effect, he took a day trip out to a primary school, where he had a children’s choir record Maurie’s iconic jingle.
The team also needed to ensure the assets they created could be easily manipulated based on feedback from Maurie’s original owners. They tackled this in two ways. The first was to work on Maurie and his environment in separate programs, before combining them into the final master scene. That meant if any glitches or changes occurred within Maurie’s animation environment, the background scene would remain unaffected; and vice versa.
The second solution was to export Maurie – who had initially been prototyped in Maya – into Blender. From there, it was easier to use Blender’s robust and naturally-suited rigging tools to experiment with and manipulate Maurie as the project required.
“Going from taking a fairly traditional approach to texturing, like we’ve done in past projects, to using Substance Painter was like magic,” said Oz. “Previously we’d been using Photoshop which meant that we had to continuously cross-reference the model while we were painting. Substance Painter streamlined the whole process by providing us with a ‘map’ of where to paint to join patterns, colours, shapes, making it quicker for us to finish the job. And we’re really glad with the way it all turned out, as was our client.”