If you’re like me, when you hear the words If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, you’re instantly transported back to your childhood as you remember your mom reading you the super-cute kids story written by Laura Numeroff and beautifully illustrated by Felicia Bond. Great reads in and of themselves, each story was actually a mini-logic lesson in disguise, a circular tale that included an “if/then” premise as its main plot point. The classic children’s stories are now part of the warm-and-fuzzy nostalgia feels for a whole new generation of storytellers and bedtime listeners alike, but there’s an all-new version of the tale that’s coming to Amazon.
Starting November 7th, 26 stories from the world of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie will be available to stream over Amazon Prime Video. In advance of the series’ debut, I had a chance to talk to the show’s writer Ken Scarborough all about what happens when you give a mouse a cookie, give a dog a doughnut, or give a pig a pancake. We chatted about his previous efforts writing in this world for both the 2015 pilot episode and the 2016 Christmas special, which led to the green light for the brand new series. The former Doug writer also shared his insight on whether or not that particular Nicktoon is getting a reboot.
But first, check out our exclusive clip from the upcoming series to get an idea of what If You Give a Mouse a Cookie will look and sound like:
How did this project come about?
Ken Scarborough: They called me in 2013. A few different people gave pitches, but they liked my take on it. The pilot went on two years ago in November of 2015, and people could vote on various pilots that went up, so two years later, we have the first 13 all done at once and we’re going to get them out there. I think they called me because I did Arthur, based on the book, so I get a lot of calls that are book-based. I did Martha Speaks and then I came in as head writer on Curious George, so I’ve sort of become associated with taking books and turning them into kids’ series. Everybody has a slot, and I guess that’s my slot!
How did the pitch evolve over the course of the series’ timeline?
Scarborough: They came and wanted an overall series pitch: How would I do it and what appealed to me? Who had a sense of the book that they liked? And I liked that it had a sense of circularity; it all comes back to where it started. It’s like, “Read it again, mom!” It’s perfect as a book, but the trick is, how do you turn that into a TV series? The mouse doesn’t really speak in there, nobody has any names … you kind of see the characters expressed—like the moose likes to knit, and little things like that—but in the development of this series, the pitch was about what was important and what values we wanted to get across. That’s what’s most important to me: You take these things and turn them into characters, then each of them represent a different world-view and you get a clash of personalities. They still know how to work it out, but everybody has their own way of doing things, they still respect each other at the end, they still get along. I wanted the story to not just be meaningful to kids because our little guy gets stuff done and he’s pure exuberance, but also because it has something to say.
So the initial challenge of my pitch was to figure out who all these characters were. There are five kids and five animals from the five books—Moose/Muffin, Cat/Cupcake, Pig/Pancake, Dog/Donut—healthy choices! In the books, it’s in the illustrations more than anything that the animals sort of run the kids ragged; they’re the children of the kids and are sort of dragging them into adventures. All of that is in the vision of what I thought the show would be. That was refined in terms of storytelling things like: What’s the family like? Do you see the parents? Just a million little decisions that, once you see it on the air, you realize it’s meant to be that way.