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

From the moment Marc Brown met you, he shaped you. Just maybe not in the usual way.

Brown, 75, creator of the Arthur Read illustration, said: “People remind me of animals, 8-year-old boy wearing close-up glasses since the book ‘Arthur’s Nose’ came out in 1976. , has helped children navigate the world around them. “When the kid I’m talking to reads a book and all the characters are animals, they don’t care about the color of their skin. They are immediately attracted to the character they identify with and feel a connection to them. “

For more than 25 years, Brown and a team at WGBH, the Boston affiliate of PBS, have produced the animated series “Arthur,” in which the nightingale, his friends, and a team of stars Animal stars tackle tough topics like bullying, divorce, and disability. . The series, which has won critical acclaim from both children and parents for its excellence in portraying challenging situations – as well as seven Emmy Awards and distinction in the children’s animated series longest run on American television – will air the final episodes of the series this week. (All four will air Monday afternoons and stream for free on PBS Kids.)

“One of the reasons I love ‘Arthur’ is because of the imperfections in our characters,” said Carol Greenwald, who created the show with Brown and is now an executive producer. “It’s important to show kids that you can really screw up and that it’s not the end of the world. You can learn from your mistakes and come back a better person.”

Both Brown and Greenwald say that the idea from the start was that the series not only reflect issues that concern children, but also present a world in which they can see themselves. When they first started, Greenwald says, the WGBH team sent people with cameras to capture neighborhoods around Boston to help the animators diversify homes in Arthur’s world.

“Arthur lives in a nice little house with a steel fence, but we wanted to diversify the world so that kids living in apartment buildings, or in smaller neighborhoods, have income,” she said. Enter lower, will feel yourself part of that story. ”

And Elwood City, Arthur’s fictional home, has made many viewers feel at home, not only in Boston but around the world. So when one of the show’s writers revealed in July that the show had ended production – and when PBS later announced that the series’ final episodes would air this winter, the reaction, at least on social media, was a collective fist. Arthur popular meme).

But for fans who’ve been with Arthur for over 250 episodes, there’s some consolation: The characters will continue to live on in a new podcast about Arthur, the game, and the digital shorts – and episode The end of the film will appear to give viewers a glimpse of Arthur and his friends growing up.

“There were definitely some surprises,” Greenwald said.

In a recent video call from his sunny West Village living room, Brown is outspoken, witty, and sly. His clothes and belongings are impeccably neat, his white hair neatly combed – it’s not hard to spot where Arthur, fond of polo shirts and V-neck sweaters, takes his mark. Brown, who remains an executive producer of the show, reflected on its longevity and why now is the right time to end it, and he talks about some of the new projects of the show. himself, including the series Arthur has gained new momentum recently. (He also set the record for several fan theories.) These are edited excerpts from the chat.

Happy 25 years! Did you ever think you would have this conversation when the first episode premiered in October 1996?

Not in my wildest dreams. I think it will last two years – if I’m lucky.

Many authors help create a show, then backtrack. Why are you still so strongly engaged after 25 years?

I still had the same feeling when PBS came to me and wanted to put Arthur on television. I invested 15 years earlier in the characters, and I received a lot of letters from the kids. It’s like a small family, and I want the characters to stay true to my vision. And so I used to be the guard in the corner that way.

Many of the stories are inspired by real-life experiences you had when your children – Tolon, Tucker and Eliza – were young. Now that they are adults, is it harder to come up with new ideas?

So many episodes grow from the experience of our scripting team – and it turns out that they are still useful and suitable for children! There are episodes, like the episode about lice, where every time we run them, because it’s still an ongoing problem for so many kids, it gets a lot of positive feedback.

Why end it now, then?

Technology has changed in the last 25 years and kids are now watching stories on their iPhones, listening to podcasts, playing games on their devices – they get information in different ways. We are looking for ways to try new things.

Are you surprised by this reaction?

It’s great to see the feedback. I still get a lot of messages on my Instagram page: “Is Arthur really over?” I love seeing the reactions from these young people who have grown up with Arthur, the fact that these characters are still fresh in their minds. It’s great that he’s touched so many people so deeply that they want him to move on.

In the first book, “Arthur’s Nose, ”Arthur looks like a nightingale with a long snout, not a rat with glasses. What happened?

The second book, “Arthur’s Eyes”, came out while my son Tolon was wearing glasses. He came home and said, “Dad, I think all my friends look better.” You can’t make up! Of course Arthur also has glasses. As the series went on, I got to know him better, and he became more likable and more human – and his nose shortened. It’s not intentional!

Have you ever encountered a lawn?

[Laughs.] I have not had any encounters with aardvarks, although I think there may be one living in an apartment across the street.

The series is notable for its diverse characters, including those with blindness, dyslexia, autism, and dementia. How do you ensure those representations are correct?

We work with a bunch of experts for each episode, just like we did about Arthur’s grandfather Dave, who is struggling with Alzheimer’s disease and can’t remember Arthur’s name. Things like that are so important, and so many families are dealing with that. We heard from a father who had watched a program about autism and through the program discovered that his son had autism and had written to thank us. The program has helped parents understand their children. Matt Damon’s mom happens to be one of our great professionals who has helped us make many episodes. That’s how we got Matt Damon as a guest. Poor guy doesn’t know what hit him!

Programme appeared in the headlines in 2019 when it was revealed that Mr. Ratburn, Arthur’s teacher, was gay. The episode also shows his wedding to a man. Are you worried about how people will react?

We want to represent the world around us. When we wanted Arthur’s teacher to get married, we thought it might be an opportunity for him to marry a gay friend – and kudos to PBS, who got behind us and let us do it. there, and do it in a way that isn’t about his sexual orientation. It’s about the fact that their teacher, the one they love, has found a life partner of theirs, and they’re happy for him.

When The New York Times Talks To You 1996 – as soon as the first episodes aired – you received 100,000 letters a year from children. How much fan mail do you get these days?

I received a letter asking for Francine’s phone number – ah, Francine [a monkey character on the show] no phone number! Years ago, I was really stupid: In my book “Arthur’s Thanksgiving,” I included our home phone number in a little illustration on a bulletin board that said “Call Arthur” at 749-7978.” Every Thanksgiving, the phone starts ringing and ringing. My wife, Laurie, had the best response. You will hear a small voice: “Hello? Is Arthur there? ” And she would say, ‘No, he’s at the library. That’s when we lived outside of Boston; it’s been going on for a few years!

What’s next for you?

For three years now, I have been working on a new preschool animation program called “Hop”. It was a small frog, and one of its legs was slightly shorter than the other. It’s a show about the power of friendship, problem solving, and kindness.

And my dream of an Arthur feature film, which I decided would never happen, could actually happen in a way that I can be proud of. When that idea arose 15 years ago, I spent way too much time in Los Angeles talking to people who didn’t make much sense – in my mind. But now I think I have found the right person.

Can we do a quick lap? There are several fan theories that I would like you to confirm or deny.


Let’s start with the most logical one: Arthur lives in Pennsylvania.

I grew up in Erie, Penn. Lakewood Elementary School is where I attended elementary school. I can still see my high school class, and all my friends, many of whom have turned into characters from Arthur’s world. But I also lived in Massachusetts for many years, and I used a lot of elements from there – the movie theater in “Arthur’s Valentine” is the movie theater on the street where we live. When Carol and I were trying to come up with a name for Arthur’s hometown, she suggested the city of Elwood, also in Pennsylvania, near where she lived as a child. That’s how it happened, guys!

Arthur gets married.

I didn’t tell you! You will have to adjust and learn.

Arthur takes place in the multiverse.

Is not? [Laughs.]

Arthur is a reality series directed by Matt Damon.

I didn’t hear that. It’s really interesting.

The whole program being acted upon by aliens.

Well, we did something similar a few years ago with Buster and his fascination with aliens, so…

That’s not a no?

I couldn’t be happier to inspire people’s imaginations. It’s a good thing!

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/20/arts/television/marc-brown-arthur-ending.html Marc Brown on ‘Arthur’ End and His Favorite Fan Theories

Fry Electronics Team

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