And the Beat Goes On
Kids will frolic to tunes of the Fab Four in Netflix’s new series.
“I think everyone should pursue a mad and impossible idea once in their life.”
So says Josh Wakely, who embarked on two impossible ideas simultaneously — securing the rights to the music of the Beatles and Bob Dylan. The Australian writer-director can laugh about the dream now because after years of dead-ends, the impossible became reality.
After landing in L.A. with a few short films and features under his belt, Wakely eventually, against all odds, obtained the rights to the music of both icons. And he learned of the good news about two weeks apart.
“It was a good fortnight in my life,” he recalls with a modest chuckle, still amazed.
Beat Bugs, his new Beatles-inspired animated series (produced by Wakely’s Grace: A Storytelling Company, with Beyond Screen Productions and Thunderbird), debuted on Netflix August 3.
Each episode of the show — about a group of kids who happen to be bugs in a suburban backyard — is inspired by a song made famous by the Beatles. More than 50 classics will get the Beat Bugs treatment, including “Come Together,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Help!” and “I’m a Loser.”
To gain access to the tunes, Wakely worked tirelessly for years with Sony/ ATV, publishers of the Lennon/McCartney Northern Songs publishing catalogue.
“I didn’t [listen] when they finished every meeting by saying, ‘We’ve never granted these rights before,’” Wakely recounts. During the three years it took to win over Sony/ATV, he performed animation tests, crafted stories, wrote a dozen 11-minute episodes and cooked up another 40 storylines and synopses.
Wakely remembers when one of the record company’s hard-nosed lawyers made a suggestion during a meeting. “He said, ‘I’ve thought of a really good way for you to use ‘Hello, Goodbye.’’’ And I was like, ‘They’re finally starting to see it.’”
His upcoming Dylan series — a drama for Amazon titled Time Out of Mind — was “birthed from” characters in Dylan songs and was “something I’d thought about for many, many years,” Wakely says. “So by the time I came [to pitch Dylan’s manager, Jeff Rosen, in New York], it was pretty fully formed.”
After showing Wakely a list of Emmy and Oscar winners who’d unsuccessfully pitched Dylan, Rosen promised to send his client some of Wakely’s writing samples.
Soon enough, Wakely — while trying to get his six-week-old son to stop crying as his wife slept — got a call. “Bob really loves your writing,” Rosen told him. “So let’s do this.”
Did Wakely drop to his knees and weep upon hearing that his musical hero loved his writing?
In so many words, yes. “I think suddenly I was crying at the same level as my child.”
This article was originally published in emmy magazine, Issue No. 7, 2016