Saturday, January 10, 2015

Fun Freetime: Kate & Mim-Mim

A few weeks ago, a new show, Kate & Mim-Mim, premiered on Disney Junior. I had a chance to interview  Scott and Julie Stewart, Kate & Mim-Mim Creators, to learn more about the show.

What led to the creation of Kate & Mim-Mim?
The inspiration for Kate & Mim-Mim came from our three kids! We were drinking coffee one Saturday morning while watching them play. We were in between seasons for a show we produced for Sesame Workshop, called Abby's Flying Fairy School, and we realized we had fallen in love with the children's television world. Previously we had been in post-production, working on TV commercials and we had recently decided we didn’t really want to go back to the advertising world. While we were sipping our coffees, we watched our daughter Kate, who was 2 years old at the time. She was playing with her lovey, a plushy bunny she had named Mim-Mim. We thought, "Wow, she loves him so much and he’s so important to her that it’s almost as if he’s alive!" She would feed him, take care of him, and play with him. It was adorable! We also looked to our boys, William and Matthew, who were 4 and 6 years old. They were so engrossed in their imaginary worlds that they had forgotten we were in the room. It amazed us how deeply entrenched they could be in their own worlds. That was the moment when we tossed up the silliest, most far-fetched question, "If we were to create our own show, what would it be?" So, we put the two ideas together: Kate with a plushy, named Mim–Mim, who comes to life when her parents leave the room and this deep, persistent, vivid, rich, and fantastical imaginary world, which we would later call Mimiloo. Neither of us suspected we could actually turn this dream into reality, but we were willing to try.

What makes it a kid friendly show?
The reason why Kate & Mim-Mim is a kid-friendly show is because it has tremendous heart, loveable characters and because it's seriously fun to watch. The characters really enjoy each other, but at the same time, they’re full of gusto, spirit and a sense of adventure, which makes for great action and really funny situations. Kate & Mim-Mim transports kids to a whimsical world where the rules of a normal world don’t quite apply: you can ride in a bubble; you can catch a giggle bug; you can shrink down to the size on an ant; you can teleport from one spot to another; you can go on a pirate adventure; you can go on an Egyptian adventure etc. Who wouldn’t want to experience these things? It unlocks your imagination in a whole new way, yet because it’s also grounded in the real world (because each episode starts in the real world and then transitions to Mimiloo), it becomes that much more attainable and relatable to little kids. That’s a magical combination.
What is the biggest challenge you've faced in creating the show?
We think time has been the biggest challenge. Everyone who works on the show just wants a little more time. The other difficult thing is keeping the episodes straight. As the show runners, we were working on everything from breaking story ideas to design to animation, to lighting, final music and sound effects. So, in the middle of production, we would touch 30 episodes over the course of a week. It was hard to keep them straight! But we both love all of the excitement, energy and enthusiasm of a well-run production. To that end, working with Nerd Corps Animation and FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment has honestly been a dream. Both companies put creative vision at the forefront of their projects and care deeply about their shows. We had very talented people working very hard alongside us! All their hard work and passion for the show shines through.  It takes a village to make a great show!

What has surprised you the most while creating the show?
Hmmm… That's an interesting one. I think one of the things that surprised us was how funny Mim-Mim has become. Our goal was to make him funny, but his character has taken on a life of his own! It’s fun to create a tight situation and simply ask “What would Mim-Mim do?” It makes the action hilarious and it makes writing for the show quite fun!

But, I suppose that since this was our very first show as creators, it was surprising how much we had to create random things from scratch. In the beginning it feels like you’re making arbitrary decisions. You create seemingly arbitrary story rules or seemingly arbitrary design rules, and then all of a sudden you begin to see the whole world forming. There’s a magical turning point where, instead of us answering all the questions, the characters and the world we created start answering the questions for us. For example, we wouldn’t have an episode where Tack bakes a cake, because Tack isn’t patient enough and he’s an inventor! So, he wouldn’t bake. He’d create some fancy machine to make a cake for him! But Gobble would bake a cake!

By far, though, the most surprising thing of all is that this show, which began as a family discussion almost 5 years ago, has actually reached out and touched families all over the world. The fact that so many people have invited Kate & Mim-Mim into their homes will continue to surprise us for a long, long time. To quote our Kate, “That’s the super greatest thing ever!”


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