By Mercedes Milligan
January 28, 2022
WarnerMedia Kids & Family is expanding its partnership with critically-acclaimed children’s book author, illustrator and playwright Mo Willems ahead of a compelling slate of originals for HBO Max and Cartoon Network. Announced Friday, HBO Max has extended its licensing rights to the Emmy-nominated live-action special Mo Willems and The Storytime All-Stars Present: Don’t Let the Pigeon Do Storytime! and the animated Mo Willems Story Time Shorts! Both programs are available to stream now on HBO Max.
These beloved programs, designed for unlimited fun and laughter, will continue offering kids of all ages and families ways to engage and enjoy content from Willems as they look forward to his new projects on Cartoonito on HBO Max and Cartoon Network. They include the animated musical event, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Underground Rock Experience, premiering this summer, and Unlimited Squirrels, an upcoming animated series debuting next year.
In collaboration with Stampede Ventures as his producing partner, Willems signed on with WarnerMedia Kids & Family for a multi-year deal to create live-action Storytime Specials, and multiple animated and live-action series based on his popular children’s books. He is repped by Ellen Goldsmith-Vein of The Gotham Group and Marcia Wernick at Wernick & Pratt.
Mo Willems Storytime Shorts! is a collection of animated adaptations of the author’s beloved books, including Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Nanette’s Baguette, Knuffle Bunny Free, An Unexpected Diversion and many more. The shorts feature voice acting by Willems and his close family and friends.
Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Underground Rock Experience – Premiering Summer 2022
Based on Willems’s New York Times best-selling book and the sold-out theatrical rock experience, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Underground Rock Experience is a one-hour 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 theater experience will knock your socks on!
Willems and Tom Warburton co-wrote the script with original tunes by Willems and composer Deborah Wicks La Puma. Willems and Warburton will executive produce alongside Stampede Ventures’ Greg Silverman and Jay Judah, with OddBot Animation Studios serving as animation house. Megan Alrutz will also serve as producer on behalf of the Mo Willems Workshop. Songs are produced by Dan Petty, Doug Petty and Michelle Lewis.
The voice cast includes: Jordan Fisher as Wilbur, the sensitive, curious and brave mole rat; Yvette Nicole Brown as Grande, a member of Mole Rat society’s popular crowd and front mole of the Tunnel’s Rock Band; Kate Micucci as Tall, a rule-follower with a heart of gold; Kevin Michael Richardson as Venti, a big lug that needs just two things in life: rocking out with his bandmates and being stark raving naked!; Carol Kane as Grand-Mah, the larger-than-life matriarch of the Mole Rat society; Ron Funches as Les Pants the Weather Mole; Thomas Lennon as Stark Naked the News Mole; and Jenna Ushkowitz as the Secret Service Mole.
Unlimited Squirrels – Premiering in 2023
Based on Willems’s New York Times best-selling books for early readers, Unlimited Squirrels! is a hilarious animated series centered 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 co-write with Willems. Willems is also executive producer with Stampede Ventures’ Greg Silverman and Jay Judah.