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31st October 2019
Halloween Special: Control's Threshold Kids

When people talk about Control, the topic of the Threshold Kids TV series isn't far behind. Starring Meg, Topher and Mr Bones, this unnerving children's show has seared itself into our memories and, like the Night Springs episodes or Mr Scratch broadcasts from the Alan Wake series, became something that we loved and feared to collect. For Halloween this year, we couldn't pick anything scarier to talk about. So, how did this nightmare come together?

Creating the Concept

On her blog, Anna Megill, describes Threshold Kids as a "fever dream". Anna moved to Helsinki from America to become part of Remedy's narrative department in August 2017, joining Sam Lake, Mikko Rautalahti and Eevi Korhonen, to create the lore behind the game. She worked at the studio and on the game until her departure for Ubisoft Massive in Sweden in November 2018. While in the credits, her work is described as "Pre-Production Narrative Lead", she was also one of the developers who travelled and spoke about the game during its reveal at E3 2018, and a familiar face to community members who followed the game's announcement in the months that followed. She was also the one who pushed for Threshold Kids to be included in the game, and the one we blame for starting the ball rolling.



The concept was originally inspired by videos such as Kirsten Lepore's Hi Stranger as well as Don't Hug Me I'm Scared, both videos with an eery and unsettling vibe, where the atmosphere is tense and unfamiliar. Still, not everyone was won over by it in the team, with Anna going onto describe the initial reaction as "lukewarm". While it could have been one of the unused concepts for the game, the idea was stubborn enough to stick around a little longer and after a while found some traction.

Mircea Purdea, Senior Cinematic Designer at the studio, was the first to bring these creepy creatures to life. With past experience creating puppets, he approached Anna after hearing that his skills might be called upon. His designs, particularly for the deathly appearance of the characters, set perfectly the tone for show, whether it's Topher's huge sunken eyes or Mr Bones' doll face, these puppets did an incredible job at making the players feel unsettled.

Another artist brought on board the project was Costume Artist, Heli Salomaa, who created the miniature outfits for each of the characters, working with the figures that Mircea had created, and ensuring that the clothes felt in keeping with and complementary of the series' off-vibe.

As the puppets were taking form, the episode scripts were soon in development. Anna came up with the premise and "beats of the episodes" before fellow writer, Clay Murphy, gave them shape in the screenplays. Clay also created the unsettling theme song filled with a sickly sweet theme and innocent singing voices that players can hear at the beginning of each broadcast.


Introducing the Characters

In Control, Threshold Kids follows the adventures and discussions of three characters. The main character, Meg, named after Megill, often introduces the audience to the episode's situation. Her slim ghostly-pale face is contrasted with red puffy hair that extends beyond the width of her shoulders. Her eyes are wide and child-like with a deep-green hue, and sitting above them are two thumb-tack-like eyebrows, or probes, depending on how you see the face. Her clothing is a simple woollen tunic with yellow at the top and orange at the base. In the centre of the tunic is a dark square sewn on with a white running stitch. Meg's personality is more melancholy and cautious compared to her co-stars, which is often used to highlight the dangers of the FBC.



The second character is Topher, named after Anna's brother. His face is similar to Meg's, having the same ghostly colour and sunken eyes. Unlike his co-star, the separation of his jaw to allow for movement and speech is a straight line running along the full width. Resting on top of his head is a pilot helmet with brown leather piping and details outlining a dull grey top. He wears a dark blue short sleeve hoodie with green sleeves over a striped full-length top, with the hoodie fastened by crooked stitches or staples. His personality is very different from Meg's and his questions and lack of understanding about the dangers around him act as an introduction to them for the audience.

The final character is Mr Bones, a beloved favourite of the Threshold Kids series and without a doubt the creepiest character. He takes on the role of the teacher; instructing Meg and Topher in the rules and regulations of the FBC. His design is the most fun and interesting of them all; with the body of a  skeleton, Mr Bones wears the unmoving face of a baby doll over his right eye. His bright pink pin-striped suit, ripped white shirt, and black tie is strategically placed to showcase the decomposing rib cage and wiry arm. His personality and intense and confrontational, with a strict attitude to Bureau codes.

In a recent Instagram video posted on the remedygames channel, Heli went into depth about the process of designing Mr Bones' unusual costume, revealing, "since Mircea made such a brilliant body for him. I don't want to cover it up too much. So I'm giving him free spaces here, and I want to expose the spine a little, so I leave open spacing here and to the jacket too. And he's missing a sleeve; it's all kind of very worn out and then I use staplers for attachments for all the dolls."


While Meg, Topher, and Mr Bones filled the roles, there was another character who appeared in the introduction sequence but who wasn't introduced in the episodes themselves. This mysterious character is seen standing alone in front of the "Neurology Research", which mirrors the Bureau's Parapsychology department. Through the 90s filter and on-screen static, the character looks to be wearing a helmet and features an eye in the centre of the face, with some design overlap to the mould-infected FBC agents. The character wears a green and blue overalls covering their entire body with the exception of their left arm, indicating an experiment or investigation gone wrong.

Threshold Kids

Throughout the game, players can track down six separate episodes informing viewers of certain risks at the FBC. These dangers include the risks of interacting with Altered Items, losing a family member on missions, sharing secrets, shifting rooms, the Astral Plane, and wanting THE BIG CHAIR. Eagle-eye players can also find the in-office proposal which led to the FBC giving the show the green light.

Initiative Proposal The "Threshold Kids"

PROBLEM:
With the recent arrival of the                    , there are certain glaring gaps in the Bureau's ability to educate and raise a young                       . There are no other                   FOR        to play with and REDACTED is expected to learn about frightening new concepts.

SOLUTION:
                     will require a slow, REDACTED-friendly introduction to paranatural topics. With this in mind, allow me to introduce the Threshold Kids, a television show in which a cast of cheerful puppets explain the dangers of living at the Bureau, but also show the fun side of paranatural!

Budget would be minimal. I took a few puppet-making courses at my local community center. We can have research staff build the sets, record the footage, and even do the voices. It will be good for morale, and I guarantee                        will respond positively to these videos. We can't expect a           to enjoy lectures and people in lab coats. But, as television has proven for years,                   love puppets! 

Following the launch of the game, the reception to the series has been very positive, with articles dedicated to the series posted on GameCrate and Kotaku. Players have also described the series as "pure nightmare fuel" and "There are a lot of weird and creepy things in Control. And then there's Threshold Kids." Despite being incredibly creepy, these critters have also managed to bury themselves in the hearts of some of the community members including long-time Remedy fan and artist, Carla, who drew this hauntingly cute family portrait:


If you want to learn more about how Threshold Kids came to be, Anna has written a brilliant article detailing the creation of the series on her website. Check it out HERE


Happy Halloween!


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