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Turning Talent into Toons: Behind the Making of Animated Commentators for “NHL Big City Greens Classic” Tonight

Here's how ESPN Creative Studio and ESPN EDGE are merging the NHL live game telecast with the Disney animated world

The NHL Big City Greens Classic is the first-ever live, animated NHL game telecast featuring the Washington Capitals versus New York Rangers (tonight, 7 EDT).

The alternate game presentation will feature live, real-time volumetric animation of players and teams modeled after characters on Disney Branded Television’s Emmy® Award-winning animated comedy Big City Greens. ESPN+, Disney Channel, Disney XD, and Disney+ will present the live, animated telecast, while the traditional game telecast will be available on ESPN and ESPN+.

Ahead of the first-ever NHL Big City Greens Classic, Front Row caught up with Michael “Spike” Szykowny, Senior Director, ESPN Creative Studio, regarding the technology being put to use as they create fully animated versions of Kevin Weekes and Drew Carter, the ESPN talent calling the game.

How did the idea of animating Weekes and Carter come about?
The idea of animating Kevin and Drew came out of a discussion with [ESPN Vice President, Production] Ed Placey and Zack Malet [ESPN Business Development & Innovation] the ESPN EDGE Innovation team. We discussed ways in which we could keep the audience in the cartoon world of BCG even in intermissions, and it was then I suggested to make our talent doing the game-motion capture avatars so that they would have the look and feel of actual announcers that could live in the Big City Greens world.

Ed and Zack have been excellent partners in past projects and they fully supported the idea and worked with the ESPN Creative Studio to make it happen.

Can you explain how the graphics package was designed in tandem with the Big City Greens team?
The graphics package was developed with the Big City Greens creative team we worked with closely. We came up with ideas based on the assets they provided in the style of Big City Greens and then took that back to them for approval. It was really a seamless and enjoyable process.

Jon McLeod produced the video

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