Josh Wakely, creator, director and co-producer of Beat Bugs, talks to TV Kids about the Netflix original animated series, which incorporates songs made famous by The Beatles.
It’s probably safe to assume that most people around the world have at least heard of The Beatles, the British musical sensation that skyrocketed to global success during the 1960s. With their pleasant, upbeat melodies and catchy lyrics, The Fab Four’s tunes transcend countries and generations. Their universal songs have been featured in both film and TV, but never before have they been the premise for an animated children’s show—that is until Josh Wakely, creator, director and co-producer of Netflix’s Beat Bugs, came along.
“It was a bit of a wild and ambitious idea to secure The Beatles’ rights to tell stories for children,” Wakely tells TV Kids, noting that it took him three years to land the worldwide rights to record covers of the entire Lennon/McCartney “Northern Songs” music catalog. “I wanted to bring Pixar-level animated storytelling to the television screen, and I wanted to do it with the world’s greatest music catalog.”
“There was so much great visual imagery that The Beatles [songs] had, from ‘Yellow Submarine’ to ‘Strawberry Fields Forever,’ and I knew that would be extraordinary and amazing to bring into modern animation,” he continues. “And they had such great stories. So I wanted to see ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ what happens in ‘Hello, Goodbye,’ what could happen to a character called ‘Black Bird.’”
Beat Bugs first became available for streaming on Netflix worldwide in 2016 after premiering on 7TWO in Australia. The Emmy-winning show is sold by Beyond Distribution and co-produced by Thunderbird, Beyond Screen Production and Grace: a storytelling company, where Wakely is a principal partner. Each episode follows the adventures of five insect friends in an overgrown backyard, and features The Beatles songs performed by such artists as P!nk, Eddie Vedder, Sia, Jennifer Hudson, Rod Stewart and the late Chris Cornell, to name a few.
While the main theme in Beat Bugs is ‘All You Need is Love,’ there are many other lessons to be learned. “We have themes about community, friendship, courage and embracing your individuality,” says Wakely. “‘Come Together’ is about teamwork. ‘Yellow Submarine’ is about how new adventures can cause you to see yourself in a whole new light. ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ has an environmental message about protecting the world, because not everything is going to last forever.”
There are currently two seasons of Beat Bugs available on Netflix. Beyond Distribution also licensed the show—which is offered as a 52×11-minute or 26×30-minute version—to Nickelodeon in Australia, where it debuted on Nick Jr. in May. The series has inspired a variety of merchandise at a number of retailers, including Target and Tesco. INK Global is handling the property’s licensing in Europe (excluding the U.K.), Russia/CIS, the Middle East and North Africa.
Wakely is hoping that many more seasons are to come for Beat Bugs—especially since he scored the rights to more than 300 songs recorded by The Beatles. “You’d be surprised how many of them work really perfectly; they all have a natural synergy for children’s storytelling,” he says. “It’s a rich catalog, so it’s a lot to draw from.”
“I’m quite sure that in 100 years, we’ll be speaking about The Beatles the same way we speak about Shakespeare,” adds Wakely. “I feel lucky to [have made] the first show that’s bringing back their inspiration to a new generation.”