By Denise Petski
October 28, 2020
HBO Max and Cartoon Network are expanding their partnership with bestselling children’s book author, illustrator and playwright Mo Willems with a greenlight for three new projects. They are animated series Unlimited Squirrels!; CGI animated rock special Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Special; and a pilot order for a live-action immersive series, Cat the Cat’s Show the Show Show with YOU the YOU! The projects, all aimed at encouraging kids to feel comfortable in their own skin, will be executive produced by Greg Silverman’s Stampede Ventures, and fall under Willems’ multi-year deal with HBO Max.
The Mo Willems projects are among several new series ordered by HBO Max following a restructuring, with Tom Ascheim, President of Warner Bros. Global Kids, Young Adults and Classics, now also overseeing kids programming for HBO Max. The list also includes Unicorn: Warriors Eternal from Genndy Tartakovsky and Tiny Toons Looniversit.
“Mo’s creative vision and profound legacy is a remarkable force that has the power to shape the future of kids and family programming,” said Tom Ascheim, President of Global Kids, Young Adults and Classics at Warner Bros. Entertainment. “This collaboration is integral to reaching children and adults simultaneously in different and unique ways that are also incredibly fun for everyone.”
“Thanks to my pals at Stampede Ventures and HBO Max I have been given an exciting opportunity to innovate with spectacular creative teams. It’s a joy collaborating and discovering how to bring these characters to the screen in fun, new ways,” said Mo Willems. “While each of the upcoming projects is different in scope and approach, they all focus on my guiding principle to always think of my audience, but never think for my audience.”
Willems began his career as a writer and animator on Sesame Street, earning six Emmy Awards for his work. Willems also created several animated projects for Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. His New York Times bestselling books have been recognized with three Caldecott Honors, two Theodor Geisel Medals and five Geisel Honors. Willems has written four musicals based on his books and is the most produced playwright for Theatre for Young Audiences in America. Willems currently serves as the inaugural Education Artist-in-Residence at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, collaborating with artists in Jazz, Classical, Dance, Theater, Opera and Comedy.
“Mo is an unparalleled talent and his ability to connect with kids and parents alike has been our great pleasure to support. We are thrilled to deepen our relationship with HBO Max as we help Mo bring to life three exciting worlds brimming with character that will delight audiences of all ages,” said Greg Silverman, Founder/CEO of Stampede Ventures.
Details on the upcoming projects as provided by HBO Max/Cartoon Network follow below.
Based on Mo Willems’s New York Times best-selling books for early readers, Unlimited Squirrels! centers around Zoomy and an unlimited ensemble of Squirrel Friends who help Zoomy navigate new encounters and learn cool things along the way. Each episode will feature big stories, big facts, squirrely songs, and acorn-y jokes to keep young kids amused and stocked with an unlimited supply of fun, facts, and giggles. Tim McKeon who is attached as showrunner, will cowrite with Mo Willems. Mo Willems is also executive producer with Stampede Ventures’ Greg Silverman and Jay Judah.
Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Special
Based on Mo Willems’ New York Times best-selling book and the sold-out theatrical rock experience, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed is a CGI animated rock music special that wears its heart on its sleeve. Wilbur Mole Rat and all his Fellow Mole Rats in the Tunnel have always been, well…naked. But when Wilbur discovers clothing and a love for style, the Tunnel turns upside down! An animated hour of “underground” music and comedy about being comfortable in your own skin, this adaptation of the popular theatre experience will knock your socks on! Mo Willems and Mr. Warburton co-wrote the script with original tunes by Mo Willems and composer Deborah Wicks La Puma. Mo Willems will executive produce alongside Stampede Ventures’ Greg Silverman and Jay Judah, with OddBot Animation Studios serving as animation house.
Cat the Cat’s Show the Show Show with YOU the YOU!
This live-action, immersive performance series is for the very young and the very, very curious. Based on Mo Willems’ New York Times best-selling CAT the CAT book series, this show introduces Cat the Cat and her friends as they create, rehearse, and perform with YOU the YOU! A show that is focused on the performers at home, as well as on the screen, Show the Show is a chance for YOU to show how special YOU are! Kristen McGregor is showrunner, and also cowriter with Mo Willems. Mo Willems is executive producing alongside Stampede Ventures’ Greg Silverman and Jay Judah.