Paper Owl Films launches new pre-school show on littleBe and RTÉjr

Paper Owl Films, the production company behind the award winning series Pablo, launched its latest show, Happy the Hoglet, in November..

The first 26 x 7’ episodes of Happy the Hoglet launched on 14th November 2022 and continue to air on littleBe and RTÉjr throughout December. 

Happy is a grumpy, smelly hedgehog who has fleas. If he can make a friend, so can we all! 

Happy and his Sunny River friends reflect the emotional ups, downs – and everything in between – of the preschool audience. And these guys have plenty of feelings to go around.  

From feeling excited to feeling ‘hangry’, or feeling like you just need a quiet minute, Happy the Hoglet models emotional resilience for pre-schoolers. It aims to build inner strength by tackling big feelings and growing positive ones.

Kindness and empowerment are at the heart of the show, visible in Happy’s relationships and the wider world around him. 

The show inspires its young audience to look after each other, get outside and work with nature.  

In Happy’s world of the Sunny River Community Garden, big feelings are as natural as the carrots growing in the veg patch. 

This is a world built on loving energy that nurtures all creatures. All living things here coexist in perfect balance. Well, mostly. Some of the time… we just need to grow into it.

The production was supported by the Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF) which is managed by the BFI and financed by the UK Government, and supported the creation of distinctive, quality content for young audiences. 

Dr Sam Wass, child psychologist and expert on The Secret Life of Four/Five/Six-Year-Olds, comments: “It’s very common for a young child to experience a range of emotions without actually understanding what it is that they are feeling. It’s not something that we teach them at school! There’s a lot of new research suggesting that children’s ability to understand how they are feeling and communicate it is an essential first step in learning to manage their emotions. Which is why watching Happy can play a vital role in children’s development. Through simple, beautiful and easy-to-follow stories, it teaches children what joyful and difficult emotions are, and that all feelings will pass. Every child experiences the emotional rollercoaster – so it’s something that every child should sit down and watch!“

Grainne McGuinness, Creative Director at Paper Owl Films comments: “The concept for Happy has been developing since my teenagers were toddlers. Their experience of an imaginary hedgehog friend got me thinking about this character who became happy when he had friends to play with. From there, Happy was born and has been in studio development for over two years.”

Darren Nartey, ITV Acquisitions Manager: Films and Kids, comments: “We are absolutely delighted to be bringing Happy The Hoglet to our audience. It’s a fantastic show with an important message, and is a welcome addition to the IittleBe family.”

Robin Gladman, Head of Acquisitions at Aardman, comments: “Happy the Hoglet is a wonderfully entertaining series for kids, and truly unique in its agenda to help pre-schoolers understand the wide mix of emotions they are feeling. The Paper Owl team is the very best at taking such important and often overlooked subject matters and delivering these in an enlightening and fun way for children. We are very proud to be partners with Paper Owl and to be bringing Happy to audiences worldwide.”

Jackie Edwards, Head of Fund, at the YACF comments, “We all need more Happy in our lives, especially when it comes in the form of a little hoglet. Happy might have fleas, he might be a bit smelly and grumpy, but he is going to show us how to navigate life and its little challenges, and have some fun and laughs along the way. The Young Audience Content Fund were so pleased to support this beautiful, helpful and very ‘happy’ show – it offers fun, optimism and positivity to the very youngest viewers and will help everyone find their Happy.”

Richard Williams, Chief Executive at Northern Ireland Screen, comments: “We are very proud to support this engaging project from Paper Owl Films. Young viewers will enjoy watching Happy the Hoglet’s adventures at Sunny River Community whilst learning about how to tackle their emotions. We believe this animation has an important message for young viewers and we’re confident it will go down well with audiences across the UK and Ireland.”

Suzanne Kelly, Head of Children’s & Young People’s Content RTÉ, comments: “Everyone, not just pre-schoolers, feels prickly and out of sorts from time to time.  A helping hand to recognise and understand why we are feeling this way is always welcome. Happy the Hoglet and his wonderful bunch of friends will ensure that no matter how grumpy, sad or cross we are, we can work through it together. I am really excited to introduce the RTÉjr audience, including all the mums and dads, to Happy the Hoglet, as everyone could do with some Happy right now!”

For more information please contact:

Betsy Francis-Mearns, Highlight PR, 

About Paper Owl Films, creators of Happy:

Creators of Pablo and Sol, Paper Owl Films represents a diverse team of creatives bringing content that matters to audiences all over the world. Paper Owl Films Ltd. was founded in 2012 by Grainne McGuinness, Stephen Petticrew and Gavin Halpin, and employs a dedicated collective of storytellers, film makers, animators and creators across their animation and live action collective. Paper Owl specialises in producing content for children and grown-ups across international broadcast and digital platforms. Their work is enjoyed all over the world on channels such as CBeebies, RTÉjr, TG4, BBC, CBC, NBC Universal, Netflix and digital platforms. 

About Aardman:

Aardman, an employee-owned company, is based in Bristol (UK) and co-founded in 1976 by Peter Lord and David Sproxton, is an independent and multi-Academy Award® and BAFTA® award winning studio. It produces feature films, series, advertising, games and interactive entertainment – current animated productions include; 2021 holiday specials Robin Robin and Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas, CGI series Lloyd of the Flies, a new stop motion series for pre-schoolers The Very Small Creatures, feature length sequel Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget and a brand new Wallace & Gromit film for 2024.

Its productions are global in appeal, novel, entertaining, brilliantly characterised and full of charm reflecting the unique talent, energy and personal commitment of the Aardman team. The studio’s work – which includes the creation of much-loved characters including Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, Timmy Time and Morph – is often imitated, and yet the company continues to lead the field producing a rare brand of visually stunning content for cinema, broadcasters, digital platforms and live experiences around the world. Recent celebrated projects include the ‘visually astonishing’ (Guardian), BAFTA® nominated console game, 11-11: Memories Retold, the four-times Gold Cannes Lions-winning StorySign app, AR experience Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix up – and innovative attractions for both the domestic and international market, including a 4D theatre attraction at Efteling in the Netherlands.

The studio runs the Aardman Academy which has a commitment to nurturing talent by delivering excellence in film and animation training and mentoring. The Aardman Academy offers a variety of courses from intensive one-day workshops teaching production skills and storyboarding, to comprehensive twelve-week courses for professionals in craft based subjects from model making to animation.

In November 2018 it became an Employee Owned Organisation, to ensure Aardman remains independent and to secure the creative legacy and culture of the company for many decades to come.

About littleBe:
littleBe is a dedicated pre-school block on ITVBe targeting children aged 2-4 in the UK during key broadcast hours (09:00-12:00). ITV’s home for younger viewers, the block has been acquiring a range of animated and live action programmes.

ITV is an integrated producer broadcaster and the largest commercial television network in the UK. It operates a family of channels including ITV, ITVBe, ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 and CITV, which are broadcast free-to-air. ITV is also focused on delivering its programming via ITVX, mobile devices, video on demand and third party platforms. 

About the BFI Young Audiences Content Fund:

Managed by the BFI, the Young Audiences Content Fund (YACF) supports the creation of distinctive, high-quality content for audiences up to the age of 18. Up to £57 million over a three year pilot, the YACF will support the creation of distinct, high-quality content for children and young audiences to be broadcast on free-to-access, Ofcom regulated television channels and online platforms.

Financed by UK Government as part of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Contestable Fund, the YACF aims to provide new avenues for creators of original content and bring new voices to the market, and back content which entertains, informs and reflects the experiences of young people growing up across the UK today.

The BFI is the UK’s lead organisation for film, television and the moving image. It is a cultural charity that:

  • Curates and presents the greatest international public programme of world cinema for audiences; in cinemas, at festivals and online.
  • Cares for the BFI National Archive – the most significant film and television archive in the world. 
  • Actively seeks out and supports the next generation of filmmakers. 
  • Works with Government and industry to make the UK the most creatively exciting and prosperous place to make film internationally. 

Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by Royal Charter. The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Josh Berger CBE.

About Northern Ireland Screen:

Northern Ireland Screen is the government-backed lead agency in Northern Ireland for the film, television and games industries, driving global growth through boosting our economy, celebrating our culture and enhancing our children’s education.

In our strategy, Opening Doors (Phase II), launched in 2018, we have a clear vision to transform the screen industries in Northern Ireland, ensuring that we have the strongest screen industry outside of London in the UK and Ireland within 10 years, supported by vibrant and diverse cultural voices that are recognized and celebrated equally at home and abroad.

This mission, to accelerate the development of a dynamic and sustainable screen industry and culture in Northern Ireland, is supported by intervention in the following areas:

  • Production and development funding for film, television and digital content; 
  • A free information service and production support for filming in Northern Ireland, including locations FAM trips for incoming productions; help with sourcing crews and facilities; studio facilities Titanic Studios and Belfast Harbour Studios, as well as excellent alternative build space; 
  • Marketing Northern Ireland as a worldwide production location and promoting its product and talent; 
  • Financial assistance for training and skills development; 
  • Production funding for Irish Language and Ulster-Scots programming;
  • Investment in film education, heritage and archive, film festivals and cultural cinema.

Northern Ireland Screen is a company limited by guarantee, currently employing 28 people and governed by a Board of thirteen Directors. The Chairwoman is Rotha Johnston and Kenneth Branagh is Honorary President.  

Northern Ireland Screen is funded by the Department for the Economy and by the Department for Communities and is delegated by the Arts Council of NI (ACNI) to administer Lottery funding for film in Northern Ireland. 

About RTÉJr:

RTÉjr is a dedicated Irish children’s channel on TV, radio, and online. This service is part of public service broadcaster RTÉ’s free to air offering for younger people. Completely advertisement-free, the service is primarily aimed at children under 7 although some content will be also suitable for older kids.  RTÉjr also offers online services which allow children to access original, entertaining and educational content that reflects their lives and is made exclusively for them.  Let’s make screentime a good time.