Last updated
16/6/2022

Blog

The Backstory: Hi I'm Endangered!

How do you make lesser-known, strange-looking endangered species relatable to kids? There’s no one answer. Ours was to transform them into characters that kids would want to know — and after a while, feel like they do know. 

It’s not often appreciated how connected we are to all other forms of life. Recognizing our closeness, both physically and culturally, to other species is the first step to generating care for the natural world — and in turn, to the crisis facing biodiversity. So why not make endangered species familiar enough to say ‘hi’ to and laugh with?

Hi I'm Endangered Youtube Series
01

Hi I’m Endangered, now in its second season, is our groundbreaking YouTube series starring Lexi the aye-aye, Eric the pangolin, and Tegan the kakapo. They are characters the likes of which you’ve never seen before, brought to life through motion-capture technology. 

Here’s the backstory about one of the most exciting (and challenging!) from On the Edge, created by Bruna Capozzoli. 

01

Hi I’m Endangered!

Meet Lexi the aye-aye, Eric the pangolin, and Tegan the kakapo. They're some of the strangest and most endangered species on the planet, living together in a small flat in London. See the world through their eyes!

Hi I’m Endangered!

Meet Lexi the aye-aye, Eric the pangolin, and Tegan the kakapo. They're some of the strangest and most endangered species on the planet, living together in a small flat in London. See the world through their eyes!

Who are Lexi, Eric and Tegan? 

To start with, they’re not the sort of endangered species you see on coffee mugs or in TV commercials. They’re unusual. They’re bizarre. They’re downright weird! Take the aye-aye, brought to life by Lexi. This elusive lemur lives only in Madagascar. It’s known for its long, bony middle finger that it uses to tap trees and find grubs. With bat-like ears and blood-red eyes, the aye-aye is unfairly persecuted as an Omen of Death. (We, on the other hand, think they’re positively endearing). 

Aspects of Lexi, Tegan, and Eric’s characters are inspired by their species. For example, the flightless kakapo (only 204 of these birds are alive today, all in New Zealand) freezes when it senses danger. Watch a few Tegan episodes, and you’ll see what that means for this character with a Kiwi accent and a heart of gold.

Why choose such unusual species? 

We chose non-charismatic species, since they don’t get much airtime. They’re just as amazing as a panda, rhino, tiger, or bird of paradise. But they’re less well known and even less well protected. 

By using these weird and quirky species we felt we had a greater chance of provoking curiosity and inspiring questions. “What is that? Are they real? What are they like in real life? Where can I learn more?” Preserving the richness of all life on earth involves understanding and loving all life-forms, even the non-charismatic ones.

Why humanize them? 

We humanized these species to help younger people understand the world through their eyes. To feel connected to them and empathize with them, kids need to relate to and have fun with these species. 

Watching an animated, talking pangolin isn’t the same as watching a nature documentary about a pangolin in the wild. In a way it’s better. Beautiful nature documentaries don’t always do a great job of creating an emotional connection with the species they show. There is plenty of awe and wonder but ultimately a profound divide. It’s as if we are looking at creatures from another planet, not our own.

We are much closer to other species than we appreciate. We share similar impulses, fears, even social structures. One trait of our species is a desire to bond through humor. So we transformed three other species into characters … and wrote jokes!

Lexi Character Concept Sketches
01 / 03
Tegan Character Concept Sketches
02 / 03
Eric Character Concept Sketches
03 / 03

Why create it for kids?

This show is truly for everyone. We scripted it for 9- to 12-year-olds because the world’s future (no pressure) will be in their hands. The next century could see one of the biggest extinction events in our planet’s history, or it could be a time of course correction. Young people today will determine that outcome. 

Also, an 11-year-old’s mind is still (very naturally) open to nature. It’s a time of pure love for animals, for example. By the time you’re a teenager that emotional connection tends to fade. Other things become cool. Your outlook on the world becomes set, and maybe you don’t look back to the time you imagined the world through a bug’s eyes or thought that a tree had magic powers.  

We wanted to capture kids’ imaginations and try to keep nature cool for them, even as they grow up.

What technology is behind it?

Two words: Golum and Fortnite. 

We created the series using motion capture. Behind every movement of Lexi, Tegan, or Eric is an actor wearing a sensor-covered bodysuit. After we film a scene we map a three-dimensional animated body onto the real body, and the actor becomes a talking aye-aye or kakapo. It’s the same technology used in Lord of the Rings.

One of the world’s most popular games also inspired us. We built the character models and environments using Unreal Engine from Epic Games, creator of Fortnite. This was the first application of Unreal to nature storytelling, to our knowledge. 

Using motion-capture and Unreal to humanize endangered species was a huge challenge. We had no blueprint! We learned a lot during Season 1 through trial and error, and with that knowledge we made improvements for Season 2. 

That’s how we work at On the Edge. It’s why we’re different. We’re changing the narrative for nature in the digital age, and that means experimenting at the intersection of media, technology, and conservation science.  

Why YouTube?

It was an easy choice. We're a for-purpose endeavour aiming to get as many eyeballs on the series as possible, and YouTube is free for viewers. There are no barriers to entry, and it's beloved by kids and adults alike. Plus, there are so many weird animal films on there that our characters are definitely in good company!  

Sneak Peak

Behind the Scenes: Filming the Actors

Behind the Scenes: Filming the Actors

That's how we work. We’re changing the narrative for nature in the digital age, which means experimenting at the intersection of media, technology, and conservation science.  

Hi I'm Lexi

Confession: It’s not easy being me. And no, I’m not talking about my bony finger (stop staring!). I think the world’s just not ready for my music. My vibe was too out there for Madagascar. If I’m honest, the London clubs aren’t digging it yet. But at the end of a long day, at least I’ve got my girl Tegan.

EPISODE: People's Reaction To My Striking Face!

Hi I'm Tegan!

Thank gaawwd I’m in London. That island off Aotearoa New Zealand was getting a little tiresome … Imagine being related to everyone you ever see. True, they’re not as tiresome as Eric when he starts going on. But as mum says, I always look on the bright side of life. Anyhoodle, what was I saying?

EPISODE: There’s A Thief In Our House! Video Call Mystery

Hi I'm Endangered Youtube Series

Meet Lexi the aye-aye, Eric the pangolin, and Tegan the kakapo. They're some of the strangest and most endangered species on the planet, living together in a small flat in London. See the world through their eyes!

Hi I'm Eric!

I hesitate to introduce myself, knowing you probably recognize me as Manis crassicaudata, not to be confused with Manis pendadactyla. But, my friends — and by that I mean a kakapo and an aye-aye, who are sitting right over there — call me Eric. No surname as of yet. Lexi, will you stop that? Please! I’m talking to humans. They make me nervous, alright?

EPISODE: Cow's Farts & Burps Vs Climate Change