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Frequenty Asked Questions

Do Busy Little Engine's "peeps" mean anything in particular?
Are all those crossing signs real?
How was this show created?
Do tank cars really carry orange juice?
Does Pig really drive a red MGB convertible with a BZLTLNGN license plate?

Q: Do Busy Little Engine's "peeps" mean anything in particular?
A: Yes. Biz's happy peeps correspond to the standard horn signals that all railroads in the US use. Here are the signals that Biz uses:

One Peep "I've stopped"
Two Peeps "Yes" or "Okay" or "I'm starting to go"
Three Peeps "I'm backing up"
Four Peeps "I don't understand" (on real railroads it's a "request for signals")
Two Short Peeps, One Long Peep, One Short Peep Approaching a crossing

Q: Are all those crossing signs real?
A: Some people are surprised to learn that the kangaroo, koala, turtle, duck and other crossing signs are real. The pig, squirrel and cat crossings were part of Busy Little Engine and Pig's imaginations.

Q: How was this show created?
A: The "Making of The Busy Little Engine" short on YouTube and on the DVD shows some of the 3-D modelling and animation techniques I used in creating the show. "The Making of..." also shows how Pig was filmed and added to the show.

I created all the scenes of the show by "compositing" (layering) still picture backgrounds, motion picture backgrounds, 3-D animations and live action elements (Pig, real trains, traffic passing, etc.). The simplest scenes were the playroom scenes where you see a wooden train on wooden tracks on the floor. Those scenes required shooting an actual wooden train on wooden tracks in a room. Busy Little Engine was animated in those scenes using a lateral tension metering mechanism (pulling a thread attached to Biz).

The more complex scenes required compositing multiple elements. In the "On a very tall bridge" scene, for example, I created two 3-D animations of Busy Little Engine - one for crossing on the top of the bridge, and one for his reflection in the water. The tall bridge itself is a still picture; by making the water and reflections appear to ripple like real water, the scene is brought to life!

Tracking down and filming real trains was a fun but difficult part of production. Since I couldn't ask a freight train or Amtrak passenger train to do a scene over, it sometimes took repeated attempts to get the lighting, camera angles and backgrounds just right. Catching the long freight train that Biz pulls at the end of the show was pure luck. As I was taking my daughter to school one morning, a very long train was blocking every crossing through downtown Durham for what ended up to be about 90 minutes. (Some streets pass under the tracks, so traffic was still able to get by.) After dropping my daughter off, I rushed back to find the train still there. I was lucky enough to have enough time to set up the shot with good lighting and camera angles and a good vantage point before the train started moving again. By digitally removing part of the train, I was able to make it look like Biz was pulling the train!

Q: Do tank cars really carry orange juice?
A: Yes! Tank cars really do carry orange juice, corn syrup, oil, milk, detergents and many other liquids. Milk is rarely carried in railroad tank cars these days, (now it's mostly carried in tank trucks or bottled at the dairy farm), but it was commonly carried in tank cars just a few decades ago. The "Milk" tank cars you see in Thomas & Friends™ shows and videos are accurate for their time period (the original Thomas stories were written in the middle of the last century).

Let us know if you have any other questions!

Please send an email Desmond at dsm@busylittlestudios.com if you have any other questions or comments about The Busy Little Engine.

Send an email to dsm@busylittlestudios.com
Or call us at 919/260-8858

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