There are only 50 words in the Dr. Seuss’s classic children’s book Green Eggs and Ham. That said, how does one create a 13-episode season of half-hour animated episodes based on a story about a guy who refuses to eat green-hued cuisine in a house; with a mouse; on a boat; with a goat, in a box; with a fox — you get the idea. Series creator and showrunner Jared Stern makes it sound effortless.
“It helps to have talented people,” said Stern of stretching the book out into a TV adaptation. He cites Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s who translated Legos and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs into full-length features. “They took something very simple and used the essence of it to make it magical. That was my intent [with Green Eggs and Ham] — it’s about trying new things and never judging a book by its cover.”
During a TCA session at Warner Bros., Stern was joined on the stage by Producer Helen Kalafatic and Storyboard Artist John Anderson as well as actor Adam DeVine, who lends his voice to the character of Sam I Am.
The new series, which debuts on the streaming giant in the fall, prides itself on going back to 2-D animation — an art that is seldom seen in a time of CG. All characters in the series are hand-drawn with some computer animation thrown in.
In the presentation, Stern took the audience through the process of constructing a scene from beginning to end. We were presented with a script, a live storyboarding demonstration courtesy of Anderson as well as various stages of animation until we got the polished finished product — which paints a nostalgic, yet modern picture of the Seussiverse.
Stern, Kalafatic, Anderson and DeVine shared their connection to the Dr. Seuss books and how it had an impact on their young lives. Stern and Kalafatic said that he learned to read from the books and DeVine said that he grew up with them.
“When you read one of his books you fell asleep and dreamed in technicolor,” said DeVine.
More than that, Stern reiterates how the books continue to have morals and lessons that are relevant right now. Although the story is about eating green eggs and ham, it’s about learning to try new things, hope and friendship. “Sometimes [Dr. Seuss] is commenting exactly what’s going on right now,” he said.
“They are timeless — more now than ever,” adds DeVine.
Stern and his team may have stretched out a 50-word story into a full series but he thinks it can stretch some more. He said that the Green Eggs and Ham series was definitely created so that they can continue beyond one season, which took four years. Stern said that even though there is one goal of getting Guy to eat the titular delicacy, “there are other goals.”
Stern produces the animated series with Ellen DeGeneres. DeVine is joined by an all-star voice cast that includes Michael Douglas, Adam DeVine, Diane Keaton, Ilana Glazer, Eddie Izzard, Tracy Morgan, Daveed Diggs, John Turturro, Jeffrey Wright, and Jillian Bell. Rounding out the cast is Keegan-Michael Key, who voices the narrator — and the only character that rhymes throughout the series.