This Black History Month, Invisible Collective founder Justin Polk and Invisible-represented director Carl Jones celebrate the launch of their three-part original series for Major League Baseball (MLB): Undeniable – Stories from the Negro Leagues.
This animated retelling of the Negro Leagues’ history and legacy shines a light on the Leagues’ impact on the game of baseball, including its most legendary players, its historic female ballplayers and its international influence.
The series will be featured on YouTube Kids and MLB’s Official YouTube page. It will also be available at MLB.com/originals and the MLB app.
Undeniable is MLB’s first-ever animated series, and a key initiative among the org’s plans, as well as its 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. Polk partnered with Jones (The Boondocks, Black Dynamite) and his animation studio Martian Blueberry to craft a comic-strip-inspired spotlight on these important stories.
“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 concept was sparked 2020, when MLB 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.
MLB asked Polk to pitch them ideas, 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. Now, Kendrick continues to spread the word as narrator for the animated shorts.
Jones and his Martian Blueberry team produced Undeniable‘s hand-drawn 2D animation ove rteh course of 12 weeks, working in collaboration with MLB to get every detail exactly, historically correct — everything from the right shade of blue on the Indianapolis Clowns’ uniforms to the cultural accuracy of the player’s physical features.
“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.”
Polk emphasized, “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. I’m so proud that Major League Baseball and the Negro League Museum put their trust in Invisible to share these remarkable stories.”
All three Undeniable shorts (five minutes each) are scheduled to debut during Black History Month, beginning today:
- February 1 (National Girls & Women in Sports Day) – Women of the Negro Leagues. Featuring Toni Stone, Connie Morgan and Mamie “Peanut” Johnson
- February 8 – International Impact
- February 15– Jackie Robinson & Monte Irvin
Written ByMercedes Milligan
February 1, 2023 for AnimationMagazine.net