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HBO Max and Cartoon Network Greenlight 3 New Mo Willems Projects

Award-winning author and playwright expands his existing deal with new animated series ‘Unlimited Squirrels!,’ animated special ‘Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Special,’ and live-action immersive series ‘Cat the Cat’s Show the Show Show with YOU the YOU!’

HBO Max and Cartoon Network have just announced greenlighting three new projects with New York Times best-selling children’s book author, illustrator, and playwright Mo Willems: a hilarious animated series Unlimited Squirrels!; a 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 are designed to encourage kids (and former kids) to feel comfortable in their own skin. The three new orders join the recent live-action special, Mo Willems and The Storytime All-Stars Present: Don’t Let the Pigeon Do Storytime!, and a collection of Weston Woods Studios animated films adapted from his award-winning books, Mo Willems Storytime Shorts!, to further expand the innovative content slate that is part of the streamer’s multi-year deal with Willems. The new projects will also be executive produced by Greg Silverman’s Stampede Ventures.

“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,” Willems said. “It’s a joy collaborating and discovering how to bring these characters to the screen in fun, new ways. 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."

In collaboration with Stampede Ventures as his producing partner, Willems signed on with HBO Max to create live-action Storytime Specials, and multiple animated and live-action series based on his popular children’s books. His beloved characters have garnered three Caldecott Honors, two Theodor Geisel Medals and five Geisel Honors between them.

Willems began his career as a writer and animator on Sesame Street, where he won six Emmy Awards for writing. He is the most produced children’s playwright in America and his art has been exhibited in major museums across the country. As the education artist in residence at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, he is developing multi-disciplinary performance projects with the National Symphony Orchestra, Washington National Opera, Dance, Jazz, Comedy, and Theatre for Young Audiences. Mo Willems and The Storytime All-Stars Present: Don’t Let The Pigeon Do Storytime! and Mo Willems Storytime Shorts! are available now on HBO Max.

About the upcoming projects:

Unlimited Squirrels!

Based on 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 Willems. Willems is also executive producer with Stampede Ventures’ Silverman and Jay Judah.

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Special

Based on 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!

Willems and Mr. Warburton co-wrote the script with original tunes by Willems and composer Deborah Wicks La Puma. Willems will executive produce alongside Stampede Ventures’ Silverman and 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 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 Willems. Willems is executive producing alongside Stampede Ventures’ Silverman and Judah.

Source: HBO Max

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.