|JOT was conceptualized in 1959 by Ruth Byers, a graduate of Baylor University who degreed in drama and later began working in children's and teens' theater; and Ted Perry, a writer with the Southern Baptist Radio & Television Commission (RTVC). Dr. Paul M. Stevens, then president of the RTVC, commissioned Byers and Perry to develop JOT into a children's television show with the purpose to reach children with moral messages on their level. Stevens, Byers, and Perry along with the Southern Baptist
Foreign Mission Board, educators and community leaders from across the United States, and many others collaborated on JOT. Preliminary sketches and scripts were submitted to a production company and after some tweaking; JOT came to life.
"The Lutherans had Davey & Goliath and I wondered what we Baptists could do for children's television," remembers Stevens. Dr. Stevens also recalls
that in the preliminary sketches, JOT had hands and feet in all the frames but exorbitant production costs forced a change resulting in a "bouncy, fun" JOT whose hands and feet only appeared when he was at rest in a scene.
Byers was director of dramatic children's productions at Paul Baker's Dallas Theater Center and had worked on prior children's projects at the RTVC when she got the call from Stevens. Byers worked on JOT as writer and production supervisor from the first episode until the last in 1974. When talking about the story line and animation, Byers said, "It was very important that
every line in the story be a philosophical and theological truth. That includes the artwork and music, too." Wanting a timeless design that would
appeal to generations, children's drawing styles were taken and used in the creation of JOT's look. Noting the basic shapes and variations in color showing mood changes that children use, Byers directed the animation
production team to conform to the style. "JOT was just a basic circle that changed shape and color depending on his relationship with God," remembers Byers, "JOT was named after the image was finalized. The name fit perfectly since JOT is another word for a small dot. It was also easy for children to say."
Only two production companies ever produced JOT, using their own voice artists in the various episodes. Two women voiced JOT over the years: Lou Kelly, presently of Cleburne, Texas, from 1964-1967, Colleen Collins in 1967, and Kelly again from 1968 - 1974. Walt Hoffman served as JOT's father in 1967, and the University Baptist Church Boys Choir was featured in the
1969 episode A Good Deed for Mat in which JOT unselfishly lets Mat use his choir robe when Mat discovers his robe is torn and he won't get to sing in
the choir on the day his grandfather is visiting. "Many around the world aspired to be (JOT) artists but not just anyone could draw JOT and him remain scripturally sound," explained Byers, "We realized that it didn't
matter how well artists could draw, if they didn't have a relationship with Christ, they wouldn't be able to relate to JOT."
Thirty episodes were made with production continuing until 1974. The production costs of the early episodes were $25,000 each but lowered with the change in production companies. JOT was distributed to 19 foreign countries and translated into several languages with simple lessons carried around the globe in the form of film, Sunday school and Vacation Bible School literature, lesson plans, and products (lesson plans and products were distributed by Broadman Press). Broadcast syndication continued for years after production ceased and JOT also inspired A Day in the Life of JOT, a non-SBC stage production of several-episodes compilation performed at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. "Nothing like JOT was on television at the time and I still get calls from people who watched JOT as children expressing their fond memories," said Stevens.
Compiled by Lisa Kennedy Program Marketing Assistant, FamilyNet Television April 11, 2002
Ruth Byers, JOT writer and production supervisor, Fort Worth, Texas
Dr. Paul M. Stevens, former president of the RTVC, SBC, Fort Worth, Texas
Robert Thornton, former production supervisor at the RTVC, SBC, Fort Worth,
The last episodes were made in 1980-81, not 1974. I was an inker, painter and in-between artist on the last 4 episodes, which were made after a gap of several years during which the show was not in production. The main animator was Dan Peeler, at Bill Stokes Associates in Dallas. Prior to him, the show was made by K & H Productions. The Southern Baptists Radio & TV Commission produced these episodes, as with all the others, and included the original voice talent.