Chicago-based TV producers animated approach to puppet series

Courtesy of Fred Rogers Productions

DONKEY HODIE, a whimsical, new PBS KIDS puppet series produced by Fred Rogers Productions and Chicago-based Spiffy Pictures, encourages preschoolers to aim high, embrace challenges and work hard to achieve their goals.

When the esteemed Fred Rogers Productions decided that their next big series would be puppet-based, they immediately turned to acclaimed local, Chicago-based children’s television production brother duo, renowned puppeteer David Rudman (Cookie Monster, Scooter, Janice and Beaker) and Emmy Award-winning writer Adam Rudman (Sesame Street,Tom & Jerry, Scooby-Doo) to partner with them in bringing the series, Donkey Hodie, to life.

The the imaginative puppet series from Fred Rogers Productions and Chicago-based Spiffy Pictures, which launched in May and quickly became a hit for PBS KIDS, is fully produced out of WTTW Chicago. Inspired by the funny, quirky side of beloved children’s TV pioneer Fred Rogers, the preschool series follows the adventures of Donkey Hodie, a “can-do” little yellow donkey with a bright magenta mane – and the granddaughter of the original Donkey Hodie character from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

Courtesy of Fred Rogers Productions

Master puppeteers, puppet builders and storytellers, the Rudmans and their Spiffy Pictures (Jack’s Big Music Show) are taking great care in bringing reimagined versions of beloved classic characters from the original Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood  to a new generation of kids and parents, alongside newly created characters for the series. 

The team is also helping to nurture the next generation of puppeteering talent including fellow Chicago native, Frankie Cordero, who first reached out to David Rudman when he was in high school with dreams of becoming a puppeteer. Cordero now plays the role of Purple Panda, a reimagined version of the heritage character who appeared in the original Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. This is his first leading role. He stars alongside fellow newcomer Haley Jenkins, and veterans – Rudman, Tony Award-winner Stephanie D’Abruzzo (original cast of Avenue Q) and Peter Linz (Walter in Disney’s The Muppets movie).

As we head into the holiday season, a week of new episodes of Donkey Hodie is coming to PBS KIDS beginning on Monday, November 22. The new episodes all feature Donkey Hodie’s trademark messages that empower young viewers to dream big and overcome obstacles, work hard and persevere, be resourceful, and discover they can solve problems on their own – including a very special episode premiering on Thanksgiving Day (November 25) emphasizing the power of giving.

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