A Creative Duo Turn a Popular Christmas Story Into an Animated Film

Family tree.

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  • Photographed by
    Monica Orozco

Jane West Bakerink and her husband, Jay Bakerink, were driving past a tree lot a couple days after Christmas when they noticed trees still for sale. “I felt so bad for them and made the comment, ‘I wonder what happens to those poor trees? They look perfect to me,’” she remembers. When she got home, Jane immediately picked up a pen and paper and started writing The Lonesome Pine.

That was 20 years ago, when self-publishing wasn’t so easy to do. As a kid, Jane was a child actress, singer and dancer in England and hardly ever in school because she was always performing. However, she always had a piece of paper and pencil at hand as she loved to write stories and songs.

When Jane sat down to write the children’s book, she had a very clear vision of how she wanted the book to be, the look of it, the feel of it and, most importantly, the message. Deciding not to collaborate with a publisher that might strong-arm her process, she went to the library and researched anything and everything she could on the subject of self-publishing. She found someone to design the book and picked a printing company that would make the book into a triangle shape.

She started in the month of February, and by the beginning of November she had the book selling at Borders—displayed in the front window. Very quickly she started receiving request after request to read her book at schools, libraries and other bookstores.

Although they had several offers over the years to buy the rights, the passion both Jane and Jay had for the book inspired them to collaborate on a film themselves. “We believed in the project so much that we sold our house to start the process,” shares Jay. “Most would say that was a pretty gutsy move, but to us we’ve never looked back. It was a no-brainer for us. It has been an incredible adventure that we went on together.”

The couple formed their own production company, Haylett Entertainment LLC, and it took many years of finding the people they wanted to work with to see the project realized. As the animation evolved, they were able to secure great talent, such as Jonathan Pryce, Simon Pegg and Lesley Nicol, who plays Mrs. Patmore on Downton Abbey..

As Piney: The Lonesome Pinemakes the rounds this holiday season, both Jane and Jay hope the message resonates with all ages. “We are all special and unique, each and every one of us,” says Jay. “We can all relate to Piney, whether you’re 2 or 102.”