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Invisible Collective & Martian Blueberry Create Original Animated Series About the Negro Leagues For Major League Baseball
- Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023
"Undeniable – Stories from the Negro Leagues" shines a light on the Leagues’ impact on the game of baseball
This Black History Month, Invisible Collective founder Justin Polk and Invisible-represented director Carl Jones celebrate the launch of their inspired and painstakingly co-directed original series for Major League Baseball (MLB.) A contemporary retelling of the Negro Leagues’ history and legacy, the series Undeniable – Stories from the Negro Leagues shines a light on the Leagues’ impact on the game of baseball, including its most legendary players, its historic female ballplayers, and the Negro Leagues’ influence internationally.
Undeniable is MLB’s first-ever animated series, and a key initiative among several meaningful efforts by MLB, as well as Major & Minor League Clubs, to celebrate Black History Month. The creative and live-action production for the series was spearheaded by Polk, a passionate baseball fan. To bring “Undeniable” fully to life, Polk partnered with Carl Jones (“The Boondocks,” “Black Dynamite”) and his animation studio Martian Blueberry, whose ability to highlight underrepresented stories is showcased through the exquisite and detailed comic-strip style animation for the project.
“There was no one else for this job,” said Polk. “Carl’s already a part of the Invisible family, and as the owner of one of the only Black animation studios in the industry, he helped Invisible tell these diverse stories from a place of authenticity.”
The road to Undeniable began in 2020, when Major League Baseball decided it would officially begin treating the approximately 3,400 players of the Negro Leagues, which operated between 1920 and 1948, as Major Leaguers, making their stats and records part of MLB history. “After I found this out, I reached out to Major League Baseball to ask them if they were going to do a campaign in celebration,” said Polk.
In response, MLB asked Polk to pitch them ideas for a project, which resulted in three animated shorts covering the history-spanning legends Jackie Robinson and Monte Irvin, trailblazing women in the league like Toni Stone, and the international impact of the league. Polk originally discovered these stories through Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and a keen baseball historian who would frequently tell these stories to museum patrons. Naturally, Kendrick was tapped to narrate the project as well.
Polk then linked up with Jones and Martian Blueberry for the animation. Over 12 weeks, Jones and his team created Undeniable from traditional hand-drawn 2D animation, and worked in collaboration with MLB to get the detail in the animation exactly right — everything from the right color blue on the Indianapolis Clowns’ uniforms to the cultural accuracy of the player’s physical features was considered in production.
“These are Black and Brown legends who were up against a tremendous amount of adversity and still found a way to overcome and become the icons that they are. We face similar obstacles as Black creatives in Hollywood, where there’s a lack of diversity all around,” said Jones. “Invisible and Martian Blueberry are aligned in our mission statements, and as Black-owned companies, we are specifically focused on telling our stories in an authentic way. Which requires a lot of attention paid to our cultural nuances—to how we talk, walk, dress, and move.”
With this extraordinary level of care, passion and artistry, Polk and Jones convey the weight and vibrancy of the Negro League history in Undeniable and make history themselves. “This project was important to me in so many ways: as a baseball fan, as a supporter of the history of the Negro Leagues, and as a Black man,” said Polk. “I'm so proud that Major League Baseball and the Negro League Museum put their trust in Invisible to share these remarkable stories.”
Watch episode one of Undeniable: Women of the Negro Leagues
Video source: YouTube
The three Undeniable episodes – all approximately five minutes in length – will air during Black History Month:
- February 1st 2023 (National Girls & Women in Sports Day) – Women of the Negro Leagues | Featuring Toni Stone, Connie Morgan and Mamie “Peanut” Johnson
- February 8th 2023 – International Impact
- February 15th 2023 – Jackie Robinson & Monte Irvin
Episodes will be featured on YouTube Kids, MLB’s Official YouTube page, MLB.com/originals and the MLB.tv, MLB app, with additional promotional support from MLB Network and MLB Social Media.
Watch the trailer for Undeniable - Women of the Negro Leagues: https://www.mlb.com/video/undeniable
MLB Social will publish content throughout the month that aims to celebrate and educate on the profound impact Black players, coaches, executives and personnel have had on the evolution and growth of the game. MLB will highlight Negro Leagues and Major League stars of the past, also looking forward, elevating the voice of current Black leaders throughout the sport. There will be Instagram Live takeovers, longer-form video content and unique art – all meant to celebrate Black excellence and its impact on Major League Baseball.
Official MLB press release for Undeniable: https://www.mlb.com/press-release/press-release-mlb-launches-undeniable-...
Client: Major League Baseball | Chief Operations & Strategy Officer: Chris Marinak; EVP, Chief Marketing Officer: Karin Timpone; SVP, Creative and Content Marketing: Scott Weisenthal; VP, Creative Studio: Geoff Proud; Director, Projects, Creative and Content Marketing: Gordon Lessersohn; Director, Production: Matt Mantyla; Producer: Palmira Ríos Segura; Project Manager: Gemma Kaneko; Project Manager: Danielle Skowronek; VP, Social Responsibility: April Brown; Director, Community Affairs: Kevin Moss;
Created by Justin Polk, Beau Abbott and Bryan Abbott
Production Company: Invisible Collective | Live Action Director: Justin Polk, Executive Producer: Sam Kelly Jr., Director of Photography: Adam Bial, Writers: Justin Polk, Beau Abbott and Bryan Abbott
Animation Studio: Martian Blueberry | Animation Director: Carl Jones, Executive Producers: Love Barnett, Omar McClinton and Carl Jones, Animation Supervision: Vini Wolf and Agenor Furigo Neto, Coordinators: Ana Carolina Antunes, Animation Editor: Alaric C. Martin, Art Director: Diego Molano, Animation Compositors: Ryan Cunningham, Danyell Dean
Music Composition by: Mark Iacone
Sound Post-Production: Fiddle Leaf Sound | Sound Design and Mix: Ben Freer
Color and Finishing: Guide Era VFX | Colorist / Flame Artist: Evan Guidera
About The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is the world’s only museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of African-American baseball and its impact on the social advancement of America. The privately funded, 501 c3, not-for-profit organization was established in 1990 and is in the heart of Kansas City, Missouri’s Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District. The NLBM operates two blocks from the Paseo YMCA where Andrew “Rube” Foster established the Negro National League in 1920. @nlbmuseumkc
About Invisible Collective
A production partner built for the future; conviction is built into the mission statement of Invisible Collective. Since 2019, the nimble creative production company has delivered on their mission around inclusivity championing often overlooked, innovative, and premiere talent by working with some of the biggest brands to create dynamic and authentic campaigns that speak to viewers from across the globe. @_weareinvisible
About Martian Blueberry
Martian Blueberry was co-founded by animation veteran Carl Jones, who has provided Peabody Award Winning and NAACP Image award-nominated writing, directing, and animation for various studios and networks across the entertainment spectrum. With a primary focus on animation, we aim to supply the increasing global appetite for diversity and inclusion, by using our wealth of experience, production knowledge, and industry resources, to accelerate the company’s advancement into the forefront of the global marketplace. We’re a young, blossoming, vertically integrated company that offers full-service animation capabilities, specializing in high-end 2D/3D animation, visual effects, and design. Serving a variety of entertainment endeavors including advertising, episodic tv, films, NFTS, WEB3, and music videos. MB is a collective of progressive minds with innovative ideas and talent that reach far beyond the boundaries of tradition. @wearemartianb
PR for Invisible
Steve Arocho or Aby Goodman
Jesse Metres and Simone Smalls
PR for Martian Blueberry
Smalls at Strategic Heights