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A TV Show


Play With Your Food! (PWYF!) is a children's show about food and everything it teaches us. The show's mission is to encourage kids to learn about the world and express themselves through the global language of food.

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A TV Show


Play With Your Food! (PWYF!) is a children's show about food and everything it teaches us. The show's mission is to encourage kids to learn about the world and express themselves through the global language of food.

As creator and show-runner for Play With Your Food!, my primary job was to develop a kid's show concept that would translate to television, the web, a cookbook, and an APP. In order to be successful, the PWYF! team spent months identifying the show's intention, structure and contents. Our collective goal was to produce a kid's cooking show that explored language, math, science, chemistry, art and cooking through the selection of a featured ingredient.

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Research


We started by re-watching our favorite kid's TV shows to learn how they were successful at humorously conveying their educational message to a diverse audience.

Research


We started by re-watching our favorite kid's TV shows to learn how they were successful at humorously conveying their educational message to a diverse audience.

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As a team, we honed in on a series of shows we felt had been most successful at teaching while entertaining. We wanted to follow in the footsteps of classics like Sesame Street, Yo Gabba Gabba and Pee Wee's Playhouse. It was most important for all of us that Play With Your Food! be a "smart" television show -- a show whose lessons and stories functioned on many levels so that we could simultaneously speak to kids and their parents. 

Each show we researched shared six featured characteristic:

• A cast of kids, adults and puppets
• A modular show structure
• Strong and diverse characters
• An engaging narrative that teaches a "life lesson" 
• Live music
• Bite-sized educational segments 

Identifying these elements were integral in helping us formulate our own show structure. 

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Synthesize


After joyfully reviewing 100's of hours of our favorite kid's shows, we organized a list of core values and intentions. We wanted PWYF! to have a strong narrative that ran through the show, but also had fluid vignettes geared towards educating our viewers.

Synthesize


After joyfully reviewing 100's of hours of our favorite kid's shows, we organized a list of core values and intentions. We wanted PWYF! to have a strong narrative that ran through the show, but also had fluid vignettes geared towards educating our viewers.

Kids are a sophisticated audience that quickly understand and apply concepts. Learning is easiest for a child when their curiosity is piqued so, we had to find the best way to engage and educate while entertaining. We also knew the show format had to be consistent so that our young audience would develop expectations and excitement from episode to episode. Finally, we needed structure within our own organization to help us reach the lofty goals we set out to accomplish on our first production cycle.

We put together a 'show recipe' -- a list of necessary thematic elements that served as a foundation for each episode. Each show began with a theme ingredient that tied together the narrative, recipe, kitchen tool, and food and story themes; the featured ingredient would work similarly to the letter and number centerpieces for Sesame Street or the word of the day on Pee Wee's Playhouse.

Here is an example of an episode's structure:

Episode 11 - "Putting Your Carbon Footprint In Your Mouth"

by: Danny Brooks + Josh Nathan
ELEMENT #1 // The Ingredient: Tofu. Soft and silky soybean cake that represents the health food movement. Being healthy is great but pushing your beliefs on people can be annoying.
ELEMENT #2 // The Narrative: CHEF DANNY needs a vacation. When ONION reveals he’s never been camping, they set out to spend a night in the woods. The two are interrupted by TOFU claiming to be an experienced camper. TOFU, who litters, wears leather shoes, and checks his always-plugged-in laptop, won’t shut up about living green, reducing your carbon footprint, and sustainability.
TOFU insists on joining ONION and CHEF DANNY on their trip. At dinner, TOFU insists on a vegan meal. CHEF DANNY barbecues some tofu over the campfire. They sing about the role of soybeans in diets and economies of people around the world. After dinner, ONION wants s’mores but TOFU insists chocolate and marshmallows are not vegan.
CHEF DANNY breaks and explains it’s important to “do”, not just “talk”. He explains ways in which he uses sustainable food sources but, admits he could do more. TOFU is humbled by CHEF DANNY'S honesty. The three friends make s’mores together. TOFU goes back for seconds. 
ELEMENT #3 // The Recipe: BBQ tofu marinated with smoky paprika, oregano, garlic, salt, black pepper and olive oil. 
ELEMENT #4 // The Kitchen Tool: A charcoal barbecue. The audience learns about safely starting a fire and how to cook using coals.
ELEMENT #5 // Food Themes: Unexpected ingredients, green alternatives and sustainability. 
ELEMENT #6 // Story Themes: Don't be a know-it-all. Talk is cheap.

drawing by emily jan

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Brainstorm


With a strong workflow and structure supporting the core concept of the show, we plugged in ideas and fleshed them out into full episodes. The results were amazing -- we wrote the pilot and an additional 16 episodes over the course of two weeks!  

Brainstorm


With a strong workflow and structure supporting the core concept of the show, we plugged in ideas and fleshed them out into full episodes. The results were amazing -- we wrote the pilot and an additional 16 episodes over the course of two weeks!  

We completed more than 20 iterations of the pilot before we had an episode that represented our core values and sufficiently developed PWYF's! main characters (a neurotic purple Onion, a sultry French Strawberry, a Rastafarian Rigatoni and Chef Danny). Once we locked script, we dove into the construction of the Play With Your Food! universe -- we sketched puppet designs, developed child-friendly recipes, decided on set design and produced wireframes for the APP.

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Prototype


With a working script, fully functional puppets, and an enthusiastic cast of actors and puppeteers, we were finally ready to shoot a pilot! 

Prototype


With a working script, fully functional puppets, and an enthusiastic cast of actors and puppeteers, we were finally ready to shoot a pilot! 

It's always exciting to enter the production phase of a project! The pace increases, the team grows and the results inch closer. Production for Play With Your Food! spanned two weeks, with principle photography shot in Los Angeles and additional footage shot in San Francisco.

Shooting the pilot was just the beginning of the process as we then spent months in post-production, editing, composing music, producing visual effects, color correcting, recording ADR, and mixing for the final print. We simultaneously worked with a development team to churn out a demo version of the APP and a website plus crafted final print-ready mockups of a companion cookbook and show bible.

The Creation of "ONION"

 

  Production Stills

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Implement


More than two years of working with an amazing team yielded some of my best work to date. We achieved the goals we set out to accomplish and had a great time throughout the process.

Implement


More than two years of working with an amazing team yielded some of my best work to date. We achieved the goals we set out to accomplish and had a great time throughout the process.

We released Play With Your Food! to schools and after-school programs in the Los Angeles area. The show positively influenced kids around the city to take an interest in cooking, understand what they eat and helped them view the world through the lens of a delicious meal.

For more information, click here.

THE PILOT Sizzle reel

 

THE COOKBOOK

 

THE APP

 

THE ADULT PARODY