Invisible Collective Create Original Animated Series About the Negro Leagues for Major League Baseball

Invisible Collective Create Original Animated Series About the Negro Leagues for Major League Baseball

Feb. 02, 2023

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.

Polk said:

"There was no one else for this job. 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.

Polk added:

"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."

 

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.

Jones said:

"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. 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.

Polk said:

"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."

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