TCA Press Tour: 'The Cat in the Hat' takes on science for PBS
"The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That" is PBS' new animated series for young children, which premieres on Sept. 6.
What does the Cat know a lot about? Science!
Based on the The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library book series, the TV show strives to engage children in scientific exploration with the help of their favorite characters, the Cat, his friends Sally and Nick, and old pals Fish, Thing 1 and Thing 2.
Actor Martin Short, who voices the Cat, did not attend a panel session Wednesday at the Beverly Hilton. But Kate Klimo, vice president and publisher of Random House/Golden Books Young Readers Group, who works on the series as a production executive, told the story of how the series focused on science came to be.
Klimo, who worked with Ted Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) toward the end of his life, said he had wanted to turn children on to science in the same way he had inspired their reading. He built a partnership with NASA that was supposed to time the the debut of the book series with the launch of the Mars probe rocket.
"Sadly, soon after this, Ted lost his battle to cancer and everyone who had anything to do with this project was fired," Klimo said.
So Random House house approached Geisel's widow, Audrey, about working on the project with her and the Learning Library was born. It was Audrey Geisel's decision to create the TV series on PBS -- she wouldn't consider other networks. Klimo said the Cat in this series stays true to himself.
"Ted always referred to The Cat in the Hat as his alter ego, and I think that's certainly true. The grinch is the flip side alter ego. I think this is very true to the Cat's character ... that thing of his unpredictability, where you just don't know what's going to happen, that we've preserved."
That quality attracted Short to the role, he said in a video PBS showed to reporters during the session. The Cat, the actor said, reminds him of Harpo Marx.
"I think The Cat in the Hat's appealing to children because he's unpredictable and he's sincere at the same time," Short said. "And his thinking has a logic but, like children, it can be over here and over there and over here. And they relate to the way his mind works ... those bursts of unpredictability is what drives me to him."
-- Maria Elena Fernandez
Photo: Image from "The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That" premiere episode. Credit: TM and DSE and CITH Productions Inc. / Red Hat Animation