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‘Frog and Toad’: Revisiting Arnold Lobel’s Wondrous Stories of Friendship

For Adam and Adrianne Lobel, getting to adapt and expand their father’s award-winning book series, alongside showrunner Rob Hoegee and Titmouse, in a new season of their Apple TV+ series that helps kids enjoy what they have in common while learning to embrace what they don’t, is a gift that keeps on giving… Season 2 streams May 31.

When Adam and Adrianne Lobel’s father, children’s book author and illustrator Arnold Lobel, passed away at age 54, the siblings grieved both for their father and the stories he would never get to tell. 

Then, Rob Hoegee gave the Lobels – and many readers of Arnold’s award-winning Frog and Toad books – an unbelievable gift: a Frog and Toad animated series. Now in its second season, the show has allowed Adrianne and Adam to revisit their father’s original stories and add new ones of their own. And there’s no doubt Arnold would have been proud. 

“Our father was a big fan of animation and once told us that he had kids just so he could go see Disney movies in theaters,” said Adam. “He loved making stories for kids to enjoy, and it’s been fun to see a talented studio like Titmouse, which is usually all about adult animation, treat this series with such reverence.”

In the Apple TV+ series, Frog is a frog. Toad is a toad. They have a lot in common… but they are also very different. Frog and Toad are best friends who know that the true secret to friendship is not only enjoying the things you have in common but embracing the things that make you different. Since our differences are what makes us special, Frog and Toad celebrate what makes them unique! The second season – which consists of gourd parties, jealousy over a stick, and all-night stargazing – debuts today, Friday, May 31.

Check out the trailer:

The voice cast includes Academy Award winner Nat Faxon (Our Flag Means Death, The Connors) and Emmy Award nominee Kevin Michael Richardson (The Simpsons, Family Guy) as Frog and Toad. Emmy Award winner Rob Hoegee (Stillwater, Niko & the Sword of Light) serves as showrunner for the series, with Emmy Award-winning studio Titmouse (Big Mouth, Star Trek: Lower Decks, The Legend of Vox Machina) producing the animation. Hoegee executive produces alongside Adrianne Lobel, Adam Lobel, and Titmouse’s Chris Prynoski (The Legend of Vox Machina), Shannon Prynoski (Fairfax), Antonio Canobbio (Arlo the Alligator Boy), and Ben Kalina (Big Mouth).

“I remember these stories from when I was a kid, but my real Frog and Toad experience was when I read them to my own children,” says Hoegee. “We loved Frog and Toad so much that we bought all the Lobel books. So, it's always been my dream to make this as a show. And it just so happened that Apple was in discussions with the Lobels, who then gave me their confidence and trust to make a show from such important, iconic books. It’s a truly great privilege and one I certainly don't take lightly.”

From character scale to getting the inside of Frog and Toad’s mouths right, there have been so many details and new perspectives the Lobel siblings have enjoyed exploring with the animated episodes. 

“I loved getting to see the inside of the ice cream store and looking at things from cookies’ perspectives as they’re brought out of an oven, or seeing Frog or Toad’s face as they reach into a box,” shares Adrianne, who also adapted Frog and Toad into a three-time Tony-nominated Broadway play, A Year with Frog and Toad. “You don’t get to see that stuff in the books, or in the play on stage. This series has been a totally different creature.”

Different, and yet so similar, like Frog and Toad’s characters. 

“We brought out some of our dad’s old watercolor paintings for the animators to reference,” notes Adrianne. “Not just with his Frog and Toad work, which is mostly painted in green and brown, but for his full-color books as well. We wanted to make sure that innocence was there in all the visuals, even though we knew they would be a little different. The book was printed in all green and brown and this series is all in color. Titmouse did a great job translating everything.”

There are so many details that make up the world of Frog and Toad and, as stated by Hoegee, the series was meant to reflect the experience of “lying on your tummy, peering through blades of grass into a hidden world,” where salmon are the size of killer whales, pulling weeds is like cutting down trees, and dragonflies are in desperate need of new doormats. 

“If you think about the books, you have this very monochromatic illustrated image, but it's surrounded by white and it’s like looking through a peephole,” explains Hoegee. “So, part of the goal for the series was to widen that view but, at the same time, still keep the sense that you're looking at something in a very intimate way. We achieve a lot of that through the detail in our foreground, midground and background to show lots of depth. Our art director, Keika Yamaguchi, is a scenic painter and helped put us in a really good place in terms of creating the fullness of this world. Some of these backgrounds are really just gorgeous, and the design team and background color team really knocked it out of the park.”

But one of the biggest visual challenges on the show was the dark space in Frog and Toad’s wide, amphibious mouths. It may seem like a straightforward feature, but it took more brainpower than even the Lobel siblings expected. 

“We were very worried about their mouths,” says Adrianne. “When they open their mouths, it's just a black hole of nothing and we weren’t sure what that was going to look like.”

Hoegee says it all came down to line quality. 

“We wanted it to look like that etching style that [Arnold] Lobel had done in the books,” explains the showrunner. “And there were a few technical challenges. We used Harmony for our animation, which is great in so many ways, but we had a hard time not making the open mouths look too scratchy. You have to get the line weight right. We also had issues with Frog and Toad’s eyes if they looked directly at the camera, which is why they’re shown mostly in profile and have a kind of side-scrolling quality.” 

Adam adds, “But everyone did a great job because my favorite thing about the show is watching Frog and Toad’s mouths move, and their feet move. At one point there was an animation test of Frog walking, and he looked like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. It’s more refined now. We found a good balance.”

And the Lobels wanted to make sure that the series honored the books in not only its visual language, but also in things like character dialogue.

“There were a couple times where we saw animals referred to as ‘Mr.’, like ‘Mr. Fish,’ and we got rid of that,” shares Adrianne. “None of the animals have titles. They are just ‘fish’ or ‘grasshopper’ or ‘toad,’ or whatever creature they are.”

Adam chimes in, “We also made sure to get rid of terms like, ‘isn’t’ or ‘it’s.’ There are no contractions in the books. It’s always ‘It is…’ or ‘It is not…’” 

After all, Frog and Toad was a book for children just learning to read and write. But Frog and Toad’s message about solid friendship despite differences and conflict is one that most of us –adults and children alike – can learn and benefit from. 

Something both Hoegee and Arnold Lobel had in common was they felt their most authentic experience with children’s stories didn’t come from their own childhoods, but from experiencing those stories with their kids, whether it’s 1940s Disney films or Frog and Toad stories. Generation after generation, that space between parent and child grows smaller. And with each animation boom – from the Oscar successes of The Lion King and Spirited Away, to the consistent rise in demand for animated TV programming for viewers of all ages – the line between what parents want to watch and what their children want to watch becomes much more blurred. And it’s growing a shared-experience bond similar to that of friends who spent hours watching things like Lamas in Hats together. 

Creatives like the Lobels and Hoegee are finding that the stories which nurture those bonds between parent and child aren’t just full of potential, they tend to be the stories that last. 

“I think you've hit on something that is so important and profound, this continuum of shared experience,” says Hoegee. “Frog and Toad came out 53 years ago, not to date myself, and I read the books in the early 70s. Much later, when I had kids, I was able to share that with them, these stories that were so important to me. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. Some things haven’t aged well. But some things have. There are so many things in the world right now driving parents and kids apart, including those insidious handheld devices. But the hope of course, is to counteract that by creating a collective shared experience. Many viewers will watch Frog and Toad on those handheld devices, but at least they’ll be watching it as a family.”

He continues, “If you think about the context in which these books are read to a child, like with a kid curled up in their parent's lap, both enjoying one of the most special, safe moments they can ever experience together, it makes sense why Frog and Toad as a series is so special. With it comes a feeling of safety, a feeling of warmth, a feeling of nostalgia and you hold these stories close to your heart as you physically hold your child close to your heart. We wanted to create something that would cause those feelings to live on and be carried on to generation after generation.” 

Victoria Davis's picture

Victoria Davis is a full-time, freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She's reported on numerous stories from activist news to entertainment. Find more about her work at