TV host snags early start in industry

Daniel Cook is a star — just ask any four-year-old. Daniel Cook is the star of his own TV show, simply called This Is Daniel Cook. The premise isn’t hard to divine from the title — Daniel, being himself, while doing all of the things most grade-schoolers would love to try: feeding zoo animals, making ice cream, flying a plane and conducting an orchestra, among the hundred-plus things Daniel has done for the cameras.

If you’ve never heard of Daniel, it’s probably because you don’t have a reason to be watching Treehouse, the preschooler cable channel, or TVO during one of their kid-friendly morning programming blocks. If you have, it’s because you probably live with someone between the ages of 2 and 10 who made This Is Daniel Cook a hit in its first season.

The six-minute shows air throughout the week, but Treehouse also airs a half-hour show on Saturdays and Sundays.

Daniel is an apparently fearless red-haired boy who approaches each task with revving enthusiasm, alternating occasionally with distracted moments typical of his age — a quality that his audience obviously identifies with. Two years ago, he was a six-year-old being courted by a talent agency for commercial work when he met J.J. Johnson, a Ryerson student working at the agency. Daniel tells the story simply:

“My dad had a friend at work who knew the person I work for right now and he thought I’d be great to be on TV, and he said ‘Why don’t you go meet him?’ That’s what we did, and that’s how I got into the TV business. And the director of my show saw me and said, ‘Hey, he’s pretty good, let’s put him on a show.’ And that’s how I got on this show.”

Johnson recalls talking to Daniel about Transformers, and jotted down a few short notes that would become This Is Daniel Cook. Johnson and two of his friends, Matt Bishop and Blair Powers, started Sinking Ship Productions when they graduated, shot the first episode (Daniel making chocolate truffles) over a weekend, and went back to their jobs on Monday. This year, they were nominated for three Geminis, and This Is Daniel Cook began airing on Playhouse Disney in the U.S. For his part, the highlights of Daniel’s year have included taking the controls of an airplane and a helicopter, but he’s quick to tell you about his favorite show of all.

“Digging for dinosaurs. Well, we did find a few dinosaur bones, and I got to work with a paleontologist who dug up my favorite dinosaur in the dinosaur era — Giganotosaurus, the biggest meat eater ever.”

He’s says he’s learned a lot in the past two years.

“I’ve learned about some interesting plants — I learned that milkweed’s been around as long as the dinosaurs. And I learned a lot about duckies and tigers — I got to pet a tiger.”

Was he afraid? “No! I also saw elephants. And a whole bunch of farm animals — I got attacked by a whole bunch of chickens! I did.”

Does he have any advice for anyone entering the TV business?

“It takes a long time to make a short TV show. It takes a long time to make any TV show, actually, even if it’s five minutes long, it takes an hour to film. I get a bit tired when we do the second part of filming — I start to fall asleep.”

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