Lewisham’s Director of Public Health, Danny Ruta, and BBC children's producer, Allan Johnston, describe how they came up with the idea for their 'animatic novel', LITE KNIGHT, aimed at challenging childhood obesity.
Hi. My name's Danny Ruta. I'm a Director of Public Health for the London Borough of Lewisham, and I'm also the obesity lead for the London Directors of Public Health. I'm passionate about trying to turn the tide on obesity.
Hi. My name's Allan Johnston. I spent 22 years as a BBC children's producer and created the BAFTA Award winning show Something Special and the character of Mr Tumble, aimed at children with learning disabilities. My passion has always been to create content that will genuinely change children's lives.
We've been mates since school and, three years ago, we started to think about how we could combine our skills and passions to find a new and innovative way to change the debate about childhood obesity.
We wanted to find a way to speak to children and their parents, to get across the message that being overweight is not about being a lazy or greedy child. Or being a bad parent.
We wanted to help parents and kids understand that the obesity epidemic is a normal response of normal families to an abnormal environment.
And that's what gave us the idea for LITE KNIGHT.
LITE KNIGHT is an exciting children's adventure set in a fantasy world. It tells the story of Roller, a lovable but overweight 11 year-old who's now developed type 2 diabetes.
Roller's a massive comic book fan, and his favourite comic is the Guardian Knights of Eclados. It's full of fantastic tales of a futuristic Arthurian world powered by crystals, and it follows the exploits of four superhero knights called Sir Bedivere, Sir Hengest, Sir Galeschin, and Sir Ecktor – each of them has their own different superpower.
Roller has to enter his favourite comic book because it turns out he's the only one who can save his super heroes. Sir Ecktor has turned traitor, and has found a way to turn crystals into food that gives ordinary people super strength, and he's raising a whole army of evil knights.
Eventually these food crystals will have awful side effects, turning the good people of Eclados into lethargic overweight zombies.
As we said, on one level the story is an exciting children's adventure, but on a deeper level it's about childhood obesity. To become a superhero, Roller will need the same skills he needs in the real world to take control of his life and manage his weight. Ecktor and his evil plan is really an allegory for the fast food industry – the real baddies in our world, and the real cause of our obesity epidemic.
We wanted to find a format and medium that speaks to children in a way that's both relevant, entertaining, and memorable.
That's why we need your help. We want to turn the LITE KNIGHT story into a three-part animated graphic novel that's free for children and teachers to download.
We've found a great comic book artist, Wayne Lowden, who's created the artwork you see here. Wayne has offered to illustrate our story for the ridiculously cheap rate of £55 per completed page, because he feels it's for such a good cause. Some of these pages took him two days to produce.
To see what a LITE KNIGHT animatic novel will look like, take a look at the clip in our Kickstarter Video.
Wayne has illustrated the opening scenes of our story, and Allan's Studios, Jungle, in Wardour Street, created a soundtrack to bring the visuals to life...
Part animatic storyboard, like those used in the film industry, part graphic novel. We're calling our new medium an 'animatic novel'.
Allan's studios have generously agreed to provide all the filming and sound recording, including voice artists and music, at cost.
And that means we can create the first 30 minute episode of our LITE KNIGHT trilogy, if we can raise £17,600. That includes Kickstarter's costs, and the cost of mailing out some of our special rewards. We're offering our time to work with Wayne for free.
We'll be grateful for any support you can give us. Even £2 or £5 will be gratefully received, and we'll show our appreciation with a personal email of thanks.
We did think about printing lavishly bound, high quality copies of the graphic novel as rewards for larger donations, but that would have added to the total we would need to raise.
So we decided not to print hard copies, but to show our appreciation for pledges of £20 and £25 we will put your name on the end credits.
And for £50 we'll send you an original draft preparatory drawing signed by Wayne.
And for £75 we'll send you an original completed page of artwork from the final comic, signed by all three of us, as a token of our appreciation for your generous contribution to a truly worthy cause.
Please help us get the message across that turning the tide on childhood obesity is not just about individual behaviour change, but about challenging the food and drinks industry to change its behaviour too.
As we said, if we reach our goal we'll be able to create the first part of the Lite Knight trilogy and make it free to download for kids, parents and schools. If we raise twice as much, then we can create the second part of the trilogy, and if we raise...you get the idea. So if you see we've exceeded our goal, please keep pledging.
If we raise more than 300% of our goal, we'll use any extra money to write to all primary schools in the UK telling them about Lite Knight and providing them with the link to the free download.