The mechanics of diabetes can be challenging for anyone just diagnosed, but for little kids especially who may see the fear in their families' eyes, it can be quite scary. That's why we're excited to see a fun, creative new resource using animated cartoons to teach kids about diabetes and how to go about taking care of it.

Say hello to Kara and the (Not So) Dire Beastie, story of a 10-year-old girl just diagnosed with T1D who's learning what it means to live with this condition and what's involved in daily D-management -- all by navigating her way through a fairy tale land and befriending a creature named the Dire Beastie (which to her, is what "diabetes" sounds like). Developed by the Florida-based non-profit animation studio Drawn from Valor, this series of comic/cartoon shorts debuted in mid-July at the recent Friends For Life annual conference in Orlando.

Check out this great trailer preview.

We had a chance to hear more about this animated D-ed in a recent interview with the Drawn from Valor team. Here's what they tell us.

 

An Interview with Drawn from Valor Animators

DM) First, can you please give us an intro to this particular story?

DfV) This is part of the New Onset Diabetes Educator (NODE) program at the University of Florida. The story about a fictional 10-year-old girl named Kara who was just diagnosed. We created her to represent what a child and their family experience when type 1 diabetes comes into their lives. Of course it is often an overwhelming and anxious time.

The "Beastie" is a character representing a cell in the body. He needs a special key, which represents insulin, to unlock his mouth so that he can eat. Normally, he is a happy blue Beastie, roaming the kingdom eating “glueclose." He becomes “Dire” when the keys go missing. At the end of the story, when Kara learns how to manage her diabetes, she realizes the Beastie is not so dire. Our hope is that children following this story will feel the same way -- that diabetes is a manageable disease and not so "dire."

Who are the instigators of this program?

The two key individuals behind this project are:

  • Dr. Angelina Bernier, who created the New Onset Diabetes Educator (NODE), lives and works in Gainesville, FL, and is a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Florida.
  • Alan Caudel, Drawn from Valor’s Creative Director of Client-Led Partnerships, who lives and works in the Jacksonville, FL, area. He led Drawn from Valor’s international team of artists in creating this new series of animated videos.

In case you're wondering none of us on the team have T1D ourselves.

How did the whole NODE project get started?

The NODE project originated when Dr. Bernier saw a need to turn to complex and scary type 1 diabetes information into easy-to-understand materials that allowed children to learn at their own pace. Initial work on NODE was supported by the Department of Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center and the Janey Fund. The animation of “Kara and the (Not So) Dire Beastie” and other components have been supported by the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Florida, the McJunkin Family Charitable Fund, and online crowdfunding.

What's the home base for this new animated series?

It will eventually be the New Onset Diabetes Educator (NODE) website, which is work in progress; Dr. Bernier hopes to release it after further testing in diabetes clinics in Fall 2018. Drawn from Valor is the animation partner and we created this series using the latest in digital animation software, and a program called Toon Boom Harmony. The videos are online now at http://www.drawnfromvalor.org/diabetes.

Can you share more about Drawn from Valor?

We are a non-profit animation studio that has a team of artists from around the world, with the mission to help educate and empower children and families impacted by physical and mental health conditions. Drawn from Valor’s goal is to help these people live longer, happier, healthier lives by empowering them to discover new knowledge in an engaging environment at their own pace. As noted, “Dire Beastie,” like many of the names in the story of “Kara and the (Not So) Dire Beastie” came from a play-on words. It sounds like “diabetes.”

This is our first complete project, by the way. There are a few other things in the works including a series for PTSD called “Tales of the Golden Acorn." We currently have 8 regular staff and contractors who work for DfV, as well as a network of volunteers.

Aside from general D-education for families and kids, what's the hope for this?

Our ultimate hope is that one day doctors, patients, and the Diabetes Community worldwide will know about the New Onset Diabetes Educator (NODE) and be able to access this free resource, whether online, mobile, or in a downloaded printout, as a way to help them understand their diagnosis and disease.

Is there more than just the animated videos?

At the Friends For Life Conference, we raffled off some (Not So) Dire Beastie goodies: a plushie, a squishie, and our “Kara and the (Not So) Dire Beastie” comic books. We also sold the comic books and handed out stickers and pins. We’re currently working on further merchandising and plan to have these items available for purchase on our website in the future.

Nice! So what's next?

Dr. Bernier continues to test NODE website in specific clinics, and hopes to release it more broadly (for clinics) in Fall 2018. We also hope to raise funds to create a mobile-friendly version to be released in Fall 2019.

 

Very cool!

We love seeing fun, creative channels things like this. Can't wait to see what comes next from Drawn from Valor and T1D character Kara and friends.