The Emperor's New


The Emperor's New

Okay, let’s cut right to the chase. For months I have been dying to share with you LST’s very first video—the product of the smoothest collaboration I have ever been a part of. So I’ll take a moment to step back, let you watch this adaptation of Ep. 9: The Emperor’s New Onesie, and then you can read on and find out how the video came to be.

Now for the behind the scenes stuff.

For those of you who have pitched me your stories for the podcast (and thank you for that!), you know that I have a one-paragraph rule when it comes to submissions. This is mainly because I don’t have much time to read the many submissions that come my way, but also because I believe that compelling stories can always be sold in a single paragraph. If those paragraphs leave you wanting more, they are doing their job. The stories that I’ve put on this podcast have either come from people I know or from people who have successfully woken me out of my mommy-induced stupor and driven me to do work that I am not paid for in time that I don’t have (a note on this below). No pitch has done this so clearly as the one I received from Joyce Slaton. In her e-mail, Joyce just basically told me that she had a toddler who went naked for an entire month and during that time they never left the house. I had to know more. Wouldn’t you?

So when my radio colleague, Rekha Murthy, came to me asking if I’d like to be the recipient of a small grant she received from the Knight Foundation to develop an existing podcast episode into a video, I knew the answer was yes and I knew the episode had to be “Onesie.” I mean, I racked my brain, thinking about all of the other episodes, but the rest were either not narrative enough plot-wise or were really boob– or vagina-centric. Which poses some challenges visually. A funny thing to say, considering “Onesie” is all about nudity. Not to mention child nudity. But I had faith that a talented illustrator would handle that tastefully.

And tastefully she did! Just as intuitively as I knew “Onesie” was our episode, I also knew that our illustrator had to be Jen Corace. Jen is one of my favorite illustrators—I’ve mentioned her work in children’s books like Mathilda and the Orange Balloon and This Plus That on this blog—and this gorgeous print made it clear to me that Jen was the right lady for our clothing-strewn tale.

Dress’m Up” by Jen Corace

Neither Jen nor I had any experience with animation, so I hunted for an animator who would help us bring Jen’s watercolors to life. Video producer Joe Posner turned out to be the perfect collaborator. Joe suggested that Jen’s work was best suited to a style of animation using paper cut-outs, à la Terry Gilliam from Monty Python. An idea that I loved.

Our process was basically this:

1. I cut down the episode so that it would only include Joyce’s voice, not my intro or questions. I also wanted the story to focus on, well, the story—not so much on the reflection or emotional analysis of the story. While I think reflection is key to the audio version, I felt it would be difficult to produce, and not necessarily interesting to watch, someone going to therapy and figuring out that her daughter has a sensory processing disorder. The info is still in there; it’s just not something that gets worked through the way Joyce and I do in the podcast.

2. Jen took the cut-down audio and drew up a storyboard.

Jen really got my desire to have the video not be a literal visual translation of the audio but to say something new itself (note the snakey/firey/cactusy clothing!). Joe and I gave her notes on where we thought that could be done even more strongly and Joe advised on how to carry out Jen’s ideas technically.

3. Joe and Jen spent two days—and long nights—in Jen’s Providence studio building the elements and animating them. They tell me that they worked through the script, figuring out what needed to happen in each scene, what drawings were necessary, and Jen would go make the drawings on the spot. I love this idea. Drawing on demand.

4. Once I saw a draft of the video, I gave Joe some notes on where I thought the animation could be sharpened/tightened. The timer/sticker chart/raining candy sequence is Joe’s elegant solution to one of those notes. I am still in awe of the blurry candy.

5. Ta-da! We had our video. Ready to present to you on the 19th day of Sensory Awareness Month. Yes, October really is Sensory Awareness Month. (Do you have a child with SPD? Would love to hear from you in the comments.)

One final note. As most of you know, I produce this podcast completely as a labor of love, in the minutes here and there when I can squeeze it in, between work and taking care of my toddler. I do it all for free. Many of you have asked over the last (almost) two years if there’s a way that you can contribute to this cause. Here is a chance to do that. If you like what you see (and hear!), please share this video with anyone you think would appreciate it and consider contributing to the tip jar by following this link to the original Vimeo video.

Many heartfelt thanks to the Knight Foundation, Rekha Murthy, Jen Corace, Joe Posner, and Trevor de Clercq (music) for making this project possible.

UPDATE: These links are from the post for the original podcast episode. But if you’re new to LST and think your child might be showing signs of Sensory Processing Disorder, Joyce recommends checking out the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation. And she wishes she’d found this clothing company earlier. (See a comment from SOFT’s founder below!)

17 thoughts on “Video: The Emperor’s New Onesie

  1. This is amazing. You’ve really taken the art form to a new level. My only regret is that the interview was recorded on the phone. Given the high level of production values elsewhere, this stood out a bit. But you get so absorbed in the story that eventually it recedes into the background. Good luck on your next one!

    1. Thanks, Will. I know. I have regrets about the phone tape. I record the podcast in my bedroom over Skype while my daughter is napping. Skype was buggy that day, so I had Joyce switch to the phone. For the podcast, I feel like it doesn’t matter if it sounds like it was over the phone. In fact, it’s sort of nice to be able to imagine two moms chatting over the phone. If I’d known this was going to get turned into a video I would’ve waited and figured out another recording method. But I also find that people tend to be more emotionally present when they are not in a studio or having a tape sync-er sticking a mic in their face. If I were to do it over again, I’d probably aim for clean Skype audio.

      1. I didn’t even notice anything strange about the audio. I guess I was so caught up in the conveyed message but I just watched it again and I agree…it sounds like Joyce is talking to her best friend, siste, mother, etc over the phone. Very real to me. Love it.

    2. I actually really like the hollow sound of the phone recording. It sounds like I am eavesdropping a bit. And it reminds me of another storytelling program I enjoy very much.

  2. So good! Your video conveyed the frustrations of parenting a child with SPD. It was especially nice to see the progress made with treatment/OT. It’s been a long journey for us and I am happy to say that my son has made great stides. It’s so great for you to bring awareness to SPD. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this podcast. As a mom of a three year old daughter with SPD this video really hits close to home. I burst into tears about 30 seconds into the video. Not really sad tears but more relief that information is getting out there about SPD. I feel like it’s such an unknown disorder and it’s so hard to explain it to other people. My daughter was diagnosed over a year ago and I still have a hard time fully grasping it and explaining to others when they ask me about my daughters behavior. She doesn’t have sensory issues when it comes to clothes (unless it’s a halloween costume) but there are a range of other things that can set her off in an instant. This video was so emotional for me because when I heard Joyce speaking about her daughter and the frustrations she felt before her daughter was diagnosed sounds so familiar to what we went through in my household. I plan to send this video on to all my family members and friends so they can maybe understand my daughter just a little bit more when words fail me. I can’t thank you enough. Excellent, powerful work.

  4. This is beautiful in form and content. PSD is maddening and alarmingly common these days. Dietary intervention worked wonders on my kid. First, we took him off wheat and dairy–huge improvement. Then other sensitivities popped up. Got him off artificial dyes, corn, and soy and saw even more improvement. Once we went totally organic (no more MSG, GMOs, or high fructose corn syrup EVER, which was difficult for a family who was not particularly food-conscious at the outset), our son’s issues have entirely subsided. Occupational therapy and behavioral mod. are great, too, but there is a biomedical component to these disorders.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing this. As I posted on the other board, Joyce is a friend of mine and my twins are both friends of Violet from school in San Francisco and if you could see the beautiful clothing Joyce makes for her, it’s amazing! She has come so far too– I remember in Kindergarten our girls wearing similar soft clothes but mostly Violet having these beautiful handmade just right for her clothing. Both of my girls have sensory but one more so and particularly with the clothing so Joyce and I have shared many a conversation and website for where to get the right things that will work. For those of you looking for clothing, we’ve found that the soft company online has the best stuff or at least shirts that Maddy will wear without question. She will still wear uncomfortable things sometimes because she wants to try and see how long she can push through it. We went through at least two years where both girls would rip off their clothes after dinner and run naked and I realized it was more than just a fun thing for Maddy. She did not want to get on PJ’s especially which are still a problem for us. I recently discovered that Nordstrom has a brand of PJ’s that are even softer than Hannah Andersson which was all Maddy would wear for a while. Don’t get me wrong, they all have seams, they all make her squirm but she will eventually wear them. Sometimes she’ll also just wear a large soft t shirt to sleep. The Tea brand also makes tagless clothing but not seamless.

  6. I am absolutely blown away by this beautiful video. I am a special educator and was inspired by a student like Violet to create a clothing line for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder and skin sensitivities, called SOFT. I would love to send Violet and her mom some of our seamless, tagless clothes to see if they make mornings a little easier. Thank you for choosing this important and often misunderstood issue as the subject matter for this beautiful project/video.

    1. Jessica, thanks for sharing this. Funny coincidence–Joyce actually shared a link to your clothing company in the post for the original podcast episode. This reminds me, I should make sure the link in here, too. I’ll give Joyce your email so she can contact you directly if she chooses.

  7. Thank you so much for posting this. Your stories, although often harrowing for the parent in one way or another, are always about taking the time and effort to understand the child, and to help him/her understand him/herself. Thank you so much for your perspective, and for taking the time to get the stories out, especially in this case, so beautifully.

  8. I loved this beautifully illustrated story as told from a mother’s perspective. I am a mother and Occupational Therapist certified in Sensory Integration Therapy. I also have a child with Sensory Processing Disorder. It can be frustrating when a simple task, from a parent’s perspective, can become a huge ordeal for a child with processing difficulties. I will share this video story so that parents and families will feel hopeful and seek help and understanding of Sensory Processing Disorder. Thank you.

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