Bolstering its expanding stable of original kids’ and family programming, Apple TV Plus has signed a first-of-its-kind, multi-year agreement with the Maurice Sendak Foundation to develop children’s series and specials based on the late author-illustrator’s books and other artwork. Writer-director and author-illustrator Arthur Yorinks, who was a longtime collaborator of Sendak, will be developing the projects with Apple through his Night Kitchen Studios. The resulting programs will premiere around the world exclusively on Apple’s streaming platform, which launched last November.
“Nearly two years ago Tara Sorensen [head of children’s programming], from Apple TV Plus came to the Foundation and met with [Foundation president] Lynn [Caponera] and myself to inquire about some sort of collaboration to bring Maurice's work to their yet to be launched streaming service,” Yorinks said, describing the genesis of the deal. “What impressed us was Tara's commitment to preserving and protecting Maurice's work within the framework of the streaming animated projects she was interested in developing,” he added. Other franchises signed to landmark agreements for original kids’ programming on Apple TV Plus include Peanuts (Snoopy in Space), Sesame Workshop (Ghostwriter), and the Jim Henson Company (Fraggle Rock).
Though plans are in the very early stages, Yorinks told PW, “We have our eye on a couple of projects to begin with—I can't say yet what they are—and part of the fun will be to explore Maurice’s work and figure out what’s suited to adaptation. He worked in so many styles, that we know that when you see any project come together it will not only be varied, but uniquely Sendakian.”
Yorinks has worked on a range of adaptation projects in his career and shares his theory of that process. “When an audience member watches something, be it a play, a film, TV program, or whatever, they are lulled in thinking it was written by the original source, even if that source happens to be long gone. That doesn't mean there isn’t room for creativity and expansion, but what gets presented, in this case, should look and feel and sound like Maurice—and how terrific will that be if, or when, we pull that off.”
The range of projects with Apple will be varied, Yorinks says, a mix of specials, episodic series, and maybe some shorts. “The canvas is open and blank at the moment, and everyone—I, Apple, and the Foundation—are all thrilled and excited to start ‘painting.’ ”
Globally recognized for his Caldecott Medal-winning picture book Where the Wild Things Are—which has sold more than 20 million copies—and other now-classic titles, Sendak’s vast body of work encompassed other forms of media as well and has received numerous accolades. Caponera commented on this new chapter for his oeuvre. “We are delighted to be collaborating with Apple to bring the work of Maurice Sendak to screens around the world,” she said. “Though most know him through his iconic books, Sendak’s legacy also resides in theater, film, and TV, and this partnership with Apple will further the awareness of his unique genius.”