Parents know who they can trust when it comes to genuine, high quality shows, and PBS KIDS is by far, the most important go-to station when it comes to TV time with kids. NATURE CAT, a brand new series that’s sure to be a family hit! NATURE CAT was inspired by the book “Last Child in the Woods,” by Richard Louv, and the research it produced proves what many of us already know: spending time in the great outdoors is essential for healthy child development. The classic cartoon animation style has a timeless appeal for audiences young and old. The incorporation of age-appropriate preschool subject matter allows it the usual educational foundation that many parents come to expect from PBS KIDS series, and this is one show that doesn’t disappoint. Created by multiple award winning brothers, Adam and David Rudman of Spiffy Pictures, NATURE CAT is voiced by a big-time group of comedic actors and actresses including Taran Killam, Kate McKinnon, Kenan Thompson and Bobby Moynihan from Saturday Night Live, and Kate Micucci from The Big Bang Theory.
Recently, we were able to take part in the PBC Press Tour in LA, where we got to hear highlights of the series set to premier on Wednesday, November 25th.
What got you started deciding to start your own producing company, and what got you into NATURE CAT?
David said that he has worked with Sesame Street and the Muppets for over 25 years, and Adam has been writing for Sesame Street over the years. The began creating their own shows about 15 years ago, and started Spiffy Pictures where they created shows for Nickelodeon and Disney. They began to work on NATURE CAT five years ago, and it took that long to get the show on the air.
Will NATURE CAT have songs and activities incorporated in the show?
Songs will be found within the show itself, and sometimes they’ll incorporate the curriculum. The show consists of two 11-minute segments, and will feature Doggone, a band of dogs that will sing a minute long song between the segments. There will also be a website and digital component, as well as an app. The app will feature a scavenger hunt that allows kids to go on outdoor adventures, and will be the first part of the app that will be introduced.
What was the point of having comedic actors do the voices on a children’s TV show?
According to David, they wanted the show to be funny. They wanted the humor to come through, so they thought it was important to get the funniest people. Adam said they were looking for the “best comedic talent” they knew, and in typical Bobby Moynihan fashion, his response of “But they ended up with me,” proved exactly why he was a perfect fit! Moynihan went on to compare the Muppet Show and Sesame Street to SNL, saying that they’re both variety shows, the difference being that some of the characters are puppets. This meeting of the minds began after a visit Cookie Monster (David) made to SNL for a Christmas Tree Lighting, he and Bobby hit it off. David said that Bobby helped put the cast of NATURE CAT together, and it works perfectly because the cast are already so familiar with each other.
How did the concept for NATURE CAT end up as animation?
Adam said that after writing for CYBERCHASE for 15 years, as well as other animated shows, they had a lot of experience in the world of animation. David compared NATURE CAT to be like “Looney Tunes” with a nature curriculum, and also wanted to find a way to inspire kids to head outside and be inspired by nature.
How did you settle on a cat, and why?
In the end, David said that it was because of the easy parallel between kids and house pets. “They’re inside all day but kind of want to get outside and play out in nature.” The characters become stand-ins for the viewers, and they’re symbolic of different kids and their own relationship or view of nature. How the characters tackle each adventure can be representative of the views and this way they’ll bring their own experiences to the stories.
Where do you start trying to write a cartoon?
According to Adam, it’s a hard question to answer, but based on an interesting process. It incorporates a curriculum advisor from the beginning. In this case, it’s Frances Nankin who was one of the original content producers for “The Magic School Bus,” and an environmentalist. She comes up with “curriculum briefs,” which give them a general direction that she wants taught, and they come up with the story. Sometimes they’ll pitch a story idea to her, collaborate, and then work on an outline, and finally have a first draft. From start to animation, it takes about a year.
What will the live-action segments be like in NATURE CAT?
It’ll be simailar to a commercial for nature, with kids actually going out and doing hands-on exploring, or as Adam puts it “exploration of mud.” Hopefully, it will end up inspiring kids to get outside and get their hands dirty!
What is the balance between education about nature and education about conservation incorporating human impact?
They have managed to tackle topics that are directly related to what older kids are learning about in their classrooms. The tie in to what older siblings are learning is a fantastic way to turn NATURE CAT into a whole-family discussion about the importance of the environment. It shows kids what they’ve got access to right in their own back yards, or in their local parks. The focus is on what they can actually go out and see, and how kids can “make a difference in your own backyard.”
David and Adam said that they group up outside of Chicago, in the house that all the neighborhood kid would hang out at, so it would only make sense that they created a show incorporating a time in their lives when they were free to explore outside as much as they wanted. Their goal is to inspire kids to have as much fun outside as they did! After reading Louv’s book, and finding the phrase “nature deficit disorder,” they realized that creating a show to get kids excited about the outdoors could be a step in the right direction for our kids.
How can a cartoon be silly, but still academic?
Bobby Moynihan was the first to talk about his experiences growing up watching Sesame Street – he said the curriculum wasn’t forced on you, but you were learning. Animated songs teach so much, and being able to incorporate curriculum with songs, it’s a way to get kids to learning concepts and ideas that are really important while they grow into independent thinkers.
NATURE CAT will not only excite kids as they’re watching PBS KIDS, but it will excite them to get out and explore. The best part to me, is that it’s accessible – this isn’t the jungles of the Amazon, or the mountains of Nepal. This is their back yards, their parks, their neighborhoods – and it’s all just waiting for them to explore!