Net­flix to serve up Green Eggs and Ham

Whim­si­cal kids’ book be­comes an­i­mated se­ries on stream­ing ser­vice

The Peterborough Examiner - - ARTS & LIFE - RICK BENT­LEY

LOS AN­GE­LES—Pub­lisher Bennett Cerf bet Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) that he could not write a book with 50 words or less. Seuss was a man of few words, hav­ing used only 236 to write the clas­sic “The Cat in the Hat.” He ac­cepted the bet and wrote “Green Eggs and Ham” in 1960, us­ing a vo­cab­u­lary of ex­actly 50 words.

Jared Stern faced a daunt­ing chal­lenge in try­ing to turn the 50 words into a tele­vi­sion se­ries for Net­flix. But the cre­ator of the an­i­mated “Green Eggs and Ham” (along with ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Ellen DeGeneres) ac­com­plished the task, and the se­ries de­buts Fri­day on the stream­ing ser­vice with Adam Devine pro­vid­ing the voice for Sam I Am.

“When I first started work­ing on ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ I called my grand­mother, who helped raise me,” Stern says. “She said, ‘Oh, when you were lit­tle, you loved that book and you used to read it to me all the time.’ I loved that be­cause it wasn’t that she read it to me, but I read it to her. I learned to read read­ing this book.”

That Stern read the book as a child fit into the mis­sion Seuss had taken with his writ­ing. He thought most of the books aimed at chil­dren were dull and de­cided to use a more whim­si­cal ap­proach to make read­ing more en­ter­tain­ing for young­sters.

Stern adapted that ap­proach, us­ing a 2D an­i­ma­tion style sim­i­lar to the il­lus­tra­tions in the orig­i­nal books and clas­sic an­i­mated TV spe­cials. In the se­ries, Sam I Am res­cues the rare Chick­er­affe from the Glurfs­burg Zoo, hides it and makes his way to Meepville to find a cold air bal­loon to take the Chick­er­affe home.

The story has been ex­panded be­yond what Seuss wrote, but Stern made sure themes such as be­ing will­ing to try some­thing be­fore re­ject­ing it and the im­por­tance of friend­ship are in the TV se­ries.

One of the most im­por­tant el­e­ments for Stern was mak­ing sure to get the best ac­tors to be the voice tal­ent. Be­cause the an­i­ma­tion has that ba­sic look of a Seuss book, Stern knew it would be vi­tal that the ac­tors get across the emo­tions of a scene with their voices.

Along with Devine, the cast in­cludes Michael Dou­glas, Diane Keaton, Ilana Glazer, Eddie Iz­zard, Tracy Mor­gan, Daveed Diggs, Kee­gan-Michael Key, John Tur­turro, Jef­frey

Wright and Jil­lian Bell.

Devine has starred in live-action projects from “Pitch Per­fect” to “Mod­ern Fam­ily” but also has sev­eral cred­its as a voice ac­tor with “Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero,” “Un­cle Grandpa” and “The Lego Bat­man Movie.”

The Iowa na­tive has a rep­u­ta­tion for im­pro­vis­ing when­ever pos­si­ble, but he’s never been part of a pro­ject that has been based on such a fi­nite num­ber of words. But Devine finds his way of act­ing and Seuss’s writ­ing style match up nicely.

“I feel like he had an al­most mu­si­cal way of writ­ing,” Devine says. “I think that good com­edy feels mu­si­cal. I feel like we take the same beats for sure.

“We got to do some im­pro­vis­ing, and some scenes would call for that more than oth­ers. If it is just a scene where Guy — Michael Dou­glas’s char­ac­ter and my­self — are just sit­ting and talk­ing, I felt there was more room to play.”

In some cases, the ac­tors would bring their own voices to the role, while oth­ers had to find the right sound to fit the char­ac­ter. Devine didn’t need a lot of coach­ing. Mainly, Stern’s di­rec­tions were to make sure his voice was de­liv­er­ing the emo­tional mo­ments.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Cre­ator Jared Stern used a 2D an­i­ma­tion style sim­i­lar to the il­lus­tra­tions in the orig­i­nal books and clas­sic an­i­mated TV spe­cials.

Cre­ator Jared Stern was a big fan of the “Green Eggs and Ham” story as a child.

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