Author and illustrator Mo Willems has formed the Hidden Pigeon Company in partnership with Willems’s existing production partner, the global media company Stampede Ventures, and private investment firm RedBird Capital Partners. The new venture’s mission is to expand Willems’s library of kids’ and family IP, both existing and in development, across entertainment platforms. It will take characters such as The Pigeon, Knuffle Bunny, Elephant & Piggie, Cat the Cat, and Unlimited Squirrels into television, film, digital content, gaming, live events, location-based experiences, consumer products, and publishing.
HPC will include a new publishing imprint, Specific House. The imprint has already partnered with Union Square & Co. to launch Willems’s adult humor book, Be the Bus: The Lost & Profound Wisdom of The Pigeon, published in April, as well as the author’s two latest Pigeon children’s books, The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster! (Sept. 2022) and the forthcoming holiday title—a first for the character—Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh! (Sept. 2023). These are part of a five-title deal with Barnes & Noble-owned Union Square & Co., announced in January. Willems’s other publishers to date have included Disney Publishing, Penguin Random House, and HarperCollins.
“Specific House has been created to publish the future work of Mo Willems and other authors he and HPC have chosen to support and amplify,” said Kathy Franklin, the newly named CEO of Hidden Pigeon Company. “We are very happy to be partnering with Union Square & Co. to release all the books in our current publishing plan. Mo’s relationships with his team there are longstanding collaborations that have launched enormously successful books.” Existing publishing relationships for backlist titles will remain in place.
Kathy Franklin was formerly president of franchise development at Lightstorm Entertainment, where she led the global brand management and strategy for Avatar and other properties. Prior to Lightstorm, Franklin was with the Walt Disney Company, leaving as v-p, global studio franchise development for Disney Consumer Products.
Erin Morris will serve as senior v-p global consumer products, in addition to handling the licensing of foreign translation rights on behalf of HPC. Willems continues to be represented by Marcia Wernick at Wernick & Pratt Agency for domestic literary rights.
In addition to his books, Willems, who began his career as a writer and animator on Sesame Street, has been involved in classical music, opera, dance, comedy, art exhibits, and other creative endeavors. The partnership between Willems and Stampede has resulted in two specials that premiered on HBO Max (now known as Max), Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Underground Rock Experience (2022) and Storytime All Stars Presents: Don’t Let the Pigeon Do Storytime (2020).
The new company’s name was inspired by the fact that the character of The Pigeon is hidden somewhere in all of the books Willems illustrates.