Body by Jake (for kids), 2010
One of the things that keeps you employable in the animation business is your ability to adapt at a moment’s notice. One day you might be drawing storyboards for 2D, the next for CG. One day it might be superhero fight choreography, the next you might land on a retro-style cartoon based on a real person. That’s a good summation of my career around 2010 when this job dropped into my lap.
I was hired for this project by director/producer Eric Radomski, who I’d worked for on several shows since 2003 (and thereafter). The studio was Wildbrain and the client was actor/fitness guru Jake Steinfeld, better known under the brand name “Body by Jake.” After a successful career of training adults, he made the commendable decision to turn his efforts toward children’s health. And there are few better ways to reach children than through cartoons.
The concept was a series of 1-minute shorts in which Jake interacts with kids to give fitness tips. The presentation style was on-brand for him: breezy, positive, and encouraging. By the time I was called in, scripts had been written for 26 of these shorts and there was a small package of character and background designs. My job was to turn them into storyboards. At a total of 26 minutes, it was roughly equal to a half-hour TV show, and it was easy to draw; a lot simpler than the superhero shows I was doing at the time.
The assignment came right at the end of the drawing-on-paper era, which was giving way to the digital age. If it wasn’t the last storyboard I ever draw on paper, it was almost there. It was enjoyable and went quickly, then I moved on to other things and mostly forgot about it. It sort of seems like everyone else did, too. All the shorts got animated and delivered to Jake, and everyone involved had thoughts of this turning into a regular TV show, but nothing of the kind ever happened. In fact, no amount of online searching has indicated that the shorts were released to the public. Therefore, these animatics may be the only evidence that they ever existed.
You’ll see plenty of paper artifacts here. My finished storyboards were scanned, touched up wherever the director wanted to enhance or revise a drawing, and matched to the voice recordings. Nowadays, that’s all done digitally and they’re a lot slicker, but the construction process is the same. Watching these “paper animatics” will give you a much better sense of how animators think when they translate ideas into pictures.
On a personal note, I was nowhere near a level of “fitness” at the time of this project. I was freelancing harder than ever, which kept me sitting at the drawing board seven days a week with no time for exercise and constant access to food. A deadly combination. So it felt like Jake himself was talking directly to me. I’m glad to say that I turned that around about six years later and recovered my body before indolence could claim it. Thus, I heartily endorse EVERYTHING Jake has to say in these cartoons. Well done, sir.