This article is available in: French
Created by Elfriede de Rooster and directed by Joeri Christiaen, Mush-Mush & the Mushables is a TV show aimed at kids aged 4 to 7, and featuring mushroooms.
Mush-Mush & the Mushables follows the comedy adventures of the Mushable community as together they put the fun back into fungi! As pocket-sized Guardians of the Forest, each Mushable has a special gift. While Mush-Mush can communicate with nature, Lilit shines bright like a light and Chep has an impressive memory. As they get to know their talents and their limits, the Mushables find there is still a lot to discover about growing up… Mush-Mush & the Mushables is a fun journey of self-discovery, exciting outdoor adventure and mush mush more!
Mush-Mush & the Mushables is produced by La Cabane Productions and Thuristar, in coproduction with CAKE Entertainment, VRT-Ketnet, RTBF Télévision Belge. Season 1 was animated and rendered by French studio Cube and has been a success: it has been broadcast in about 150 countries. It also garnered 8 awards, 46 nominations (including for the International Emmy Awards and the Annecy Festival). Unsurprisingly, the team is already working on season 2.
Perrine Gauthier, co-founder – La Cabane & producer – Thuristar, told us about this upcoming season and gave us some details about the main evolution on the technical side: season 2 is rendered using Unreal Engine!
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Mush-Mush meets Unreal Engine
The reason behind this choice: during the production of the first season, Cube was using Cycles, Blender’s physically-based path tracer. Unfortunately, as Perrine Gauthier explained us, the series relies heavily on SSS (subsurface scattering, a physical phenomenon where light penetrates the surface of translucent objects such as skin, wax, foliage). This created some noise in the rendered pictures, and the team had to deal with this issue.
It should also be noted that even though the producers were completely satisfied with the work done by Cube, the studio has been acquired by Xilam at the beginning of 2020. This had a few consequences on the production conditions, and the producers of the show decided to look for alternate animation studios.
This is why two major decisions were taken for season two (48×11′ episodes + 2×22′ episodes).
The first one was to rely on other animation studios: Shards (Paris-based, specialized in creating environment and assets), Autour du Volcan (Paris-based and linked to production company Autour de Minuit), and Borderline (based in Angoulême, in the South of France).
The second decision was to work alongside Shards to implement a new pipeline centered around Unreal Engine. Various tests using several engines showed that Unreal was the best suited for the needs of the show. In particular, there is no more noise: a huge relief for the whole team, since they won’t have to take care of this issue any more.
Unreal Engine is used for shading, lighting, layout, rendering, while Blender is used for modeling, rigging, animation.
Unreal Engine: a bet that paid off
In addition to the end of the noise issues when using SSS, real-time has two huge advantages for the team, as Perrine Gauthier explains. The ability to begin working on the lighting as early as the layout stage, and the greatly reduced carbon footprint thanks to much lower render times. It takes about 90% less time to render an episode from season 2 using Unreal than it took on the first season using Cycles. There is no carbon audit report at this stage, which makes sense since season 2 won’t be completed before the end of 2023: the team only recently started working on the compositing. But La Cabane does intend to work on a comprehensive audit, which will take GPUs into account. They teamed up with another company specialized in the transition of media companies towards more sustainable business models, Workflowers, to determine their carbon footprint. At this stage, the data is quite promising.
Below: a shot rendered using Cycles / an Unreal Engine test for season 2
Unreal Engine also has a few more advantages: not only did it allow the team to keep the same level of quality, but they were also able to push things even further. From the moss to the canopy, the scenes are richer, the pictures sharper and more vibrant. Furthermore, since render times are basically nonexistent, the artists don’t have to wait constantly, which is less frustrating.
Of course, this new pipeline also has a few drawbacks. Since there are three animation studios involved, they have to work together and exchange assets/data, which means more work is needed on this part of the process. Furthermore, as with any new pipeline, switching to Unreal means you can stumble upon issues that were not anticipated, despite pre-production tests.
Another challenge arises when it comes to training and recruiting, since there aren’t many artists and technicians within the animation industry that are used to Unreal. It should also be highlighted that since the French animation industry is in good shape, whatever render engine/real-time engine you use, finding new recruits can be difficult.
Last, but not least, even if Shards is using Unreal Engine 5, the latest features of the engine (the new lighting system, Lumen, and the geometry engine, Nanite) won’t be used to create the new season of the show: during the pre-production test, the team spotted some bugs that would have been an issue during production.
That being said, the Mush-Mush team is very satisfied with their new pipeline. The pros outweigh the cons by a very wide margin.
We also learned more information about La Cabane. This production company is about 20 people strong, including 5 permanent positions. Perrine Gauthier, Joeri Christiaen and their partners want La Cabane to remain a small company focused on production, instead of becoming an animation studio. This way, the team can stay involved in the artistic side of their projects, and they don’t have to sell services to other companies, which is what many big studios have to do regularly. In a nutshell, staying small means they can maintain more artistic freedom.
Wile you wait for Mush-Mush season 2…
As explained above, the team will keep working on Mush-Mush & the Mushables season two until the end of 2023. In the meantime, you can check out the official website to learn more about the show, including how to watch it depending on where you live. In the USA, the series is streaming on HBO Max.
You might also want to check out other projects by La Cabane, such as the short film Luce and the Rock: you might be able to watch it in an upcoming animation festival near your location!
Produced by La Cabane Productions and Thuristar
In coproduction with CAKE Entertainment, VRT-Ketnet, RTBF Télévision Belge
With the participation of Canal+, RTS, and Warner Media
Broadcasters: Canal+, Piwi+, VRT-Ketnet, RTBF Television Belge, RTS, and WarnerMedia/Boomerang/Cartoonito
Created by Elfriede de Rooster
Directed by Joeri Christiaen
Produced by Perrine Gauthier
Literary bible by Elfriede de Rooster and Benjamin Richard
Graphic bible by Elfriede de Rooster
With the voices of Jules de Jongh, Teresa Gallagher, Kaycie Chase, David Gasman, Christopher Ragland, Lizzie Waterworth and Rachael Miller
Music by Frederik Segers and Jan Duthoy
Head writer: Ross Hastings
Art director: Joeri Christiaen
With the participation of the Centre National du cinéma et de l’image animée
Co-funded by the European Union
With the support of:
The Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF)
The VAF/Film Fund
The Tax Shelter of the Belgian Federal Government via Shelter Prod
Taxshelter.be and ING
The Nouvelle Aquitaine Region with the CNC
MAGELIS, with the support of Charente county council in partnership with the CNC
International sales: CAKE Distribution Limited
Licensing agent: Copyrights Group
3D Studios: Autour du Volcan, Borderline Films, Shards CGI
Copyright: Mush-Mush © 2022 – La Cabane Productions – Thuristar – Cake Entertainment – VRT-Ketnet – RTBF Télévision belge
For more information, you can also check out this article about the show and Unreal Engine, published by Epic Games.