Josh Wakely: Bitten by the Beatle bug
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - August 1, 2016 - 12:00am

Time to come together, Beatlemaniacs! That is, even only to watch Beat Bugs, the highly-anticipated children’s series that premieres on Wednesday, Aug. 3, as announced by Netflix with GRACE: A Storytelling Company, Thunderbird and Beyond Screen Production.

Beat Bugs features original characters and a world created by Josh Wakely who directs, writes and produces the series, following a deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing for worldwide rights to record covers of the Beatles song catalogue for this production.

The series incorporates songs from the Lennon/McCartney Northern Songs catalogue, to tell uplifting and life-affirming stories filled with hope and melody. World-leading artists, animators and writers have come together to work on this extraordinary show. Inspired by music of the Beatles, the series tells uplifting and life-affirming stories filled with hope and melody.

Raised on the East Coast of Australia in a home that was constantly filled with music, Wakely became intimately familiar with the songs of the Beatles at a very young age. Even then, he was aware of the positive messages contained in the songs, and how they could be explored further. This awareness was the beginning of the idea that became Beat Bugs. Years later, he acquired the worldwide rights to record cover versions of the entire Lennon/McCartney Northern Songs music catalogue, paving the way to create the series.

Wakely studied acting at Australia’s prestigious Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. After graduating, he transitioned behind the camera, creating, writing and directing a variety of projects. He wrote and directed My Mind’s Own Melody, a cinematic modern musical that came out in 2011. The short film featured original music and lyrics by former Silverchair frontman Daniel Johns and stars Golden Globe winner Lisa Gerrard. The project inspired a TED talk by Wakely and Johns in which they shed light on their creative process behind making film. Wakely also served as a writer on the acclaimed family series Lockie Leonard which was nominated for a BAFTA and won an Australian Film Institute Award for Best Children’s Drama.

Wakely is a principal partner at GRACE: A Storytelling Company, a film and television production company with offices in Australia and Los Angeles.

The Beat Bugs are charming, funny, adventurous, and have a knack for getting themselves into mischief and mayhem. Each of the five friends (Jay, Kumi, Crick, Buzz and Walter) has a distinctive personality, and they display the charm and energy of five knockabout, lovable kids. They are best friends who band together to explore and learn in an overgrown suburban backyard, which to them is their entire universe.

The show features some of the most well-known Beatles songs woven into the narrative of each episode, among them Help!, All You Need Is Love, Come Together, Penny Lane, Yellow Submarine, Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour.

“It’s a rare occasion to be presented with a truly one-of-a-kind children’s show that is so perfectly suited to Netflix,” said Andy Yeatman, director of original kids’ content at Netflix. “Josh and his team have not only developed a compelling children’s show filled with life lessons, but they’ve built a show that will transcend generations and have parents and grandparents enjoying right alongside their little ones.”

Funfare recently did an exclusive phone interview with Wakely.

Excerpts:

I’m sure Beatlemaniacs around the world are excited about Beat Bugs.

“Nice to hear that. Perhaps we can recreate Beatlemania all over again for children.”

I’m glad that you are introducing the Fab Four to a new generation, and kids at that!

“Bringing Beat Bugs to life on Netflix and having a platform to re-imagine this universally-acclaimed music for families around the world is an exhilarating and rewarding experience. Our partners have been fantastic in making this concept a vivid reality, and this is a great example of the innovative and fresh storytelling at the heart of Grace’s ethos.”

How did the idea of Beat Bugs come about?

“I wanted to bring the exciting Beatles melodies and the lasting messages to parents around the world. The idea was all set in a magical backyard. It has long been my passion to bring back songs like Yellow Submarine, Help, Strawberry Fields Forever and Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. I want it to be my last goal. That’s what I have been doing with Beat Bugs.”

Will the stories on the show be based on real life inspired by Beatles songs?

“Yes, the stories are inspired by Beatles song told in a very friendly, childlike style. Isn’t it exciting to get lost in Strawberry Fields Forever or to get on The Yellow Submarine? All the stories convey positive messages, mostly about love which is the inherent message in the Beatles songs.”

How old were you when you fell in love with Beatles songs?

“I have very early memories of lying on my library floor, listening to Yellow Submarine and wondering who Eleanor Rigby was. I was intrigued by the thought of how Strawberry Fields looked like and how it could go on forever. They are full of vivid imagination that has stayed in my mind as I grew up and kept inspiring my life.”

Would you remember the first Beatles song that you heard?

“I remember listening to Black Bird as a child, wondering how Black Bird got lost in the night. It was my mom who got me into listening to that song.”

What’s your favorite Beatles song? Mine is In My Life.

“Oh, it’s a very good choice. Can we sing it together?” (We did and then proceeded with the interview.)

And what’s yours?
 “You know, all the Beatles songs are my favorites so I can’t choose just one.”

Are you taking good care of your Beatles memorabilia at home?

(Laughs) “I collect memories. The music and the beautiful messages of the Beatles songs are nicely stored in my memory.”

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com.)

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