Marc Brown on the End of ‘Arthur’ and His Favorite Fan Theories


From the minute Marc Brown meets you, he’s sizing you up. Simply perhaps not within the traditional means.

“Individuals remind me of animals,” stated Brown, the 75-year-old creator of the illustrated character Arthur Learn, the 8-year-old bespectacled aardvark who, for the reason that e-book “Arthur’s Nostril” debuted in 1976, has been serving to kids navigate the world round them. “When the kid that I’m speaking to reads a e-book and all of the characters are animals, they don’t care what colour their pores and skin is. They’re instantly drawn to the character that they establish with and really feel an affinity with.”

For greater than 25 years, Brown and a group at WGBH, Boston’s PBS affiliate, have produced the animated adaptation collection “Arthur,” through which the aardvark, his mates and a lineup of animalized visitor stars deal with tough topics like bullying, divorce and incapacity. The collection, which has gained reward from each kids and fogeys for its candor in depicting difficult conditions — in addition to seven Emmy Awards and the excellence of longest-running kids’s animated collection on American tv — will air its last new episodes this week. (All 4 will air on Monday afternoon and stream free on PBS Children.)

“One of many causes I like ‘Arthur’ is due to the imperfections in our characters,” stated Carol Greenwald, who created the present with Brown and now serves as an government producer. “It’s necessary to indicate youngsters which you can actually screw up and it’s not the top of the world. You’ll be able to study out of your errors and are available again a greater particular person.”

Each Brown and Greenwald stated that the concept from begin was for the collection not solely to mirror points related to youngsters but additionally to current a world through which they might see themselves. After they first obtained began, Greenwald stated, the WGBH group dispatched folks with cameras to seize neighborhoods round Boston to assist animators diversify the properties in Arthur’s world.

“Arthur lived in a fantastic little home with a picket fence,” she stated, “however we needed to diversify the world sufficient that children who lived in condo buildings, or in smaller, decrease revenue neighborhoods, would really feel like they have been as part of that story.”

And Elwood Metropolis, Arthur’s fictional house, did come to really feel like house for a lot of viewers, not simply in Boston but additionally all over the world. So when one of many present’s writers revealed in July that the present had wrapped manufacturing — and when PBS later introduced that the collection’s last episodes would air this winter, the response, at the least on social media, was a collective balled fist (a riff on a popular Arthur meme).

However for followers who’ve been with Arthur throughout greater than 250 episodes, there’s some comfort: The characters will stay on in a brand new Arthur podcast, video games and digital shorts, (Reruns of “Arthur” will proceed to air on PBS Children for the foreseeable future.) And the collection’s last episode will flash ahead to offer viewers a glimpse of what Arthur and his mates develop as much as be.

“There are positively some surprises,” Greenwald stated.

In a current video name from his sunny West Village lounge, Brown was candid, sprightly and puckish. His clothes and furnishings have been impeccably tidy, his white hair neatly combed — it wasn’t arduous to see the place Arthur, keen on polo shirts and V-neck sweaters, took his sartorial cues. Brown, who continues to be an government producer of the present, mirrored on its longevity and why now was the correct time to finish it, and he talked about a few of his new tasks, together with the long-gestating Arthur film that has gained new momentum not too long ago. (He additionally set the document straight on just a few fan theories.) These are edited excerpts from the dialog.

Congratulations on 25 years! Did you ever assume you’d be having this dialog when the primary episode premiered in October 1996?

Not in my wildest desires. I assumed it’d final two years — if I used to be fortunate.

Many authors assist create a present, then step again. Why are you continue to so intensely concerned after 25 years?

I nonetheless have the identical feeling I had when PBS got here to me and needed to place Arthur on tv. I had invested 15 years earlier than that within the characters, and I used to be getting a number of letters from youngsters. It felt like just a little household, and I needed the characters to be devoted to my imaginative and prescient. And so I’ve been a guard within the nook in that means.

So lots of the tales are impressed by real-life experiences you had when your youngsters — Tolon, Tucker and Eliza — have been little. Now that they’re adults, is it harder to give you recent concepts?

So many episodes develop out of our writing group’s experiences — and it seems they’re nonetheless useful and related to youngsters! There are episodes, just like the one on head lice, that each time we run them, as a result of it’s nonetheless an ongoing downside for lots of children, it will get a whole lot of constructive suggestions.

Why finish it now, then?

Expertise has modified within the final 25 years, and children at the moment are watching tales on their iPhones, listening to podcasts, enjoying video games on their gadgets — they’re getting info so many different methods. We’re in search of methods to strive new issues.

Have you ever been shocked by the response?

It was fantastic to see the response. I’m nonetheless getting many messages on my Instagram web page: “Is Arthur actually over?” I like seeing reactions from these younger adults who grew up with Arthur, the truth that these characters are nonetheless recent of their minds. It’s nice that he’s touched so many individuals so deeply that they need him to proceed.

Within the first e-book, “Arthur’s Nose,” Arthur regarded like an aardvark with an extended snout, not a mouse with glasses. What occurred?

The second e-book, “Arthur’s Eyes,” got here from when my son Tolon was getting glasses. He got here house and stated, “Dad, I assumed all my mates have been better-looking.” You’ll be able to’t make that up! So in fact Arthur had glasses, too. Because the collection went on, I simply obtained to know him higher, and he grew to become extra lovable and extra humanlike — and his nostril obtained shorter. It was not intentional!

Have you ever ever met an aardvark?

[Laughs.] I haven’t had any encounters with aardvarks, though I feel there could also be one which lives in an condo throughout the road.

The collection is notable for its various characters, together with ones with blindness, dyslexia, autism and dementia. How did you guarantee these representations have been correct?

We work with a collection of specialists for every episode, just like the one we did about Arthur’s grandfather, Dave, who was scuffling with Alzheimer’s and doesn’t bear in mind Arthur’s identify. Issues like which are so necessary, and so many households are coping with that. We heard from a dad who watched the present about autism and found by way of the present that his son was autistic and wrote to thank us. The present helped dad and mom perceive their youngsters. Matt Damon’s mother occurs to be one in every of our fantastic specialists who’s helped us with many episodes. That’s how we obtained Matt Damon as a visitor star. The poor man didn’t know what hit him!

The present made headlines in 2019 when it revealed that Mr. Ratburn, Arthur’s instructor, is homosexual. The episode additionally confirmed his marriage ceremony to a person. Did you will have any worries about how folks would react?

We need to signify the world round us. After we needed to have Arthur’s instructor get married, we thought it might be alternative for him to marry a same-sex companion — and kudos to PBS, who obtained behind us and allow us to try this, and do it in a means that wasn’t about his sexual orientation. It was about the truth that their instructor, who they love, discovered a companion who he cherished, they usually have been blissful for him.

When The New York Occasions talked to you in 1996 — shortly after the primary episodes aired — you have been getting 100,000 letters a 12 months from youngsters. How a lot fan mail do you get nowadays?

I get letters asking for Francine’s cellphone quantity — nicely, Francine [a monkey character on the show] doesn’t have a cellphone quantity! Years in the past, I used to be actually silly: Within the e-book “Arthur’s Thanksgiving,” I put our house cellphone quantity in just a little illustration of a bulletin board that claims “Name Arthur at 749-7978.” Each Thanksgiving, the cellphone started to ring and ring and ring. My spouse, Laurie, had the perfect response. You’d hear just a little voice say: “Howdy? Is Arthur there?” And she or he’d say, “No, he’s on the library.” That was once we lived outdoors Boston; it went on for just a few years!

What’s subsequent for you?

For 3 years now, I’ve been engaged on a brand new preschool animated present known as “Hop.” It’s just a little frog, and one in every of his legs is just a little shorter than the opposite. It’s a present in regards to the energy of friendship, fixing issues collectively and kindness.

And my dream for an Arthur characteristic movie, which I made a decision wasn’t ever going to occur, would possibly really occur in a means I might be happy with. When that concept was hatched 15 years in the past, I spent means an excessive amount of day trip in Los Angeles speaking to folks that weren’t making an entire lot of sense — in my thoughts. However now I feel I’ve discovered the correct folks.

Can we do a fast velocity spherical? There are a number of fan theories that I’d like to have you ever verify or deny.

Positive.

Let’s begin with probably the most believable: Arthur lives in Pennsylvania.

Nicely, I grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania. Lakewood Elementary Faculty was the place I went to elementary college. I can nonetheless see my third-grade class, and all my mates, a lot of whom became characters in Arthur’s world. However I additionally lived in Massachusetts for a few years, and I used a whole lot of parts from there — the movie show in “Arthur’s Valentine” was the theater down the road the place we lived. When Carol and I have been making an attempt to give you a reputation for Arthur’s hometown, she advised Elwood Metropolis, which can be in Pennsylvania, close to a spot the place she lived as a baby. That’s the way it occurred, of us!

Arthur will get married.

I’m not telling you! You’ll need to tune in and discover out.

Arthur takes place in a multiverse.

No? [Laughs.]

Arthur is a reality series directed by Matt Damon.

I hadn’t heard that one. That’s fascinating.

The entire present is acted out by aliens.

Nicely, we did do one thing related just a few years in the past with Buster and his fascination with aliens, so …

That’s not a no?

I couldn’t be happier inspiring folks’s creativeness. That’s factor!



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Marc Brown on the End of ‘Arthur’ and His Favorite Fan Theories

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