Ottawa studio animates live-action sitcom after COVID-19 halts production

An Ottawa-based animation studio has been recruited to animate an episode of One Day at a Time, after the pandemic halted the live-action comedy's production.

Big Jump Entertainment's episode of One Day at a Time will air this June

Caricatures of the cast and guest stars of the upcoming “One Day at a Time” animation special, as animated by Ottawa-based Big Jump Entertainment and Toronto's Smiley Guy Studios. (Twitter/One Day at a Time)

An Ottawa-based animation studio has been recruited to animate a popular Hollywood sitcom whose production was halted due to coronavirus.

Big Jump Entertainment partnered with Toronto-based Smiley Guy Studios to animate a special episode of One Day at a Time, a Sony Pictures Television-produced comedy that tells the story of a three-generation Cuban-American family living under the same roof. 

Rick Morrison, president of Big Jump Entertainment, said the near-total shutdown of the production of live-action TV shows and films has created openings for animators.

"There seems to be a little light at the end of the tunnel for animation," Morrison told CBC Radio's All In A Day. "There's opportunity for animation to be more prevalent inside live-action, or switching live-action to animation, because of just the shutdown and what it's causing."

Big Jump Entertainment is no stranger to animating live-action shows. The studio has animated a segment within a live-action episode of the hugely-popular Community and is behind the animated version of Trailer Park Boys.

One Day at a Time, which aired for three seasons on Netflix before being picked up by American channel Pop TV, is a modern reboot of the classic sitcom of the same name which ran from 1975 until 1984. It tells the story of Penelope Alvarez, a U.S. Army Nurse Corps veteran who returns to civilian life as a single mom living with post-traumatic stress disorder, two teenage kids, and her Cuban mother.

The show had its midseason finale in April, with six episodes left on order which can't be filmed because of coronavirus restrictions, said Morrison. 

Morrison said working with a group of actors and producers used to making live-action TV can take some getting used to.

"It's a different format ... but these guys are pretty creative and determined to do it," said Morrison. "They were on board and very timely with the turnarounds of everything that we were doing to date."

One caricature at a time

To make the episode, Morrison said the first step involved caricaturing the actors so they could be animated. The episode takes place mostly in one room, so that had to be designed as well.

The actors, normally used to performing in front of a live studio audience, instead recorded voice tracks either in a recording studio or at home in isolation. 

After that, the voice tracks were sent to the animators, who then created the visuals and added the audio.

"[The actors] are very gifted at delivering the lines, so it makes it easier on the animators to mimic that in the movements of animation," said Morrison. 

The episode Morrison is working on is scheduled to air June 16 and will feature an appearance by special guest Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the wildly popular Broadway musical Hamilton, among other guest stars.


  • A previous version of this story said Big Jump Entertainment created the animated version of Corner Gas. In fact, Smiley Guy Studios did.
    May 23, 2020 11:33 AM ET

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