Creative Keynote: Marc Brown


The third day of the TV Kids Summer Festival wrapped with a keynote from acclaimed children’s author Marc Brown.

Brown’s Arthur ran for 25 years on PBS, and his new series, Hop, landed on Max this year. You can watch his keynote conversation with TV Kids’ Kristin Brzoznowski here.

Arthur became the longest-running animated kids’ show in history, but I wasn’t finished,” Brown said. “I found while working on Arthur how much I really love telling stories through animation.”

After sketching a frog with one leg that is shorter than the other, Brown sat down with Peter Hirsch, the head writer for Arthur, and his son Tolon, a producer on Arthur, to brainstorm ideas. The result was Hop, a preschool comedy that premiered on Max in the U.S. in April.

Representation and diversity, and encouraging kids to recognize and celebrate their uniqueness, was paramount for Brown and the team behind the show.

“We felt that we could offer children something that’s helpful and hopeful. That’s what we wanted Hop to do. I said to Peter, do you have any guidelines for working with the writers? And he said, Yes, we have to have a big whammy and a little whammy and look for things that are surprising, things that are exciting, where emotions are high in the scene, and we’re always looking for something to pull the viewer in early on in the story. The big whammy, of course, comes three-quarters of the way through the show. Something that is visually exciting and full of emotion. Another guideline for the show is we see the plots as simple but grounded in big emotions. We want to know how characters feel about an event. The way they feel about something is almost as important as the event itself. And I always like to add a dash of quirky. Peter always likes to say that I’m the architect, he’s the engineer, and Tolon’s the general contractor. We’re a pretty good team.”

On crafting the look and tone for the show, Brown said: “I was so comfortable and grounded in the way Arthur was done visually that I thought if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I was conscious of the color palette that we used. I wanted it to be really cheerful, optimistic, bright and inviting.”

Reflecting on the media landscape for kids today, Brown expressed his dislike for the “frenetic quality” to storytelling in some shows he’s seen on streaming platforms. “It doesn’t give kids the dignity of savoring something, or giving them the credit that they can take in this story.”

As the session wrapped, Brown highlighted the creative freedom he and his team were given at Max. “I feel like we’ve been given the entire paintbox to play with!”