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The beloved cartoon 'Arthur' pivots to podcasting

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

It seems like just about everybody these days with a microphone and a laptop is making a podcast...

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE ARTHUR PODCAST")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Arthur Read) Testing - one, two, three. Well, I can hear me, so I guess I'm ready.

PFEIFFER: ...Including a TV star with seven Emmy Awards, a Peabody and millions of books sold. We mean Arthur the aardvark.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "THE ARTHUR PODCAST")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Arthur Read) Hello there. I'm Arthur Read, and this is "The Arthur Podcast." I'll be telling you about my friends and my family.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As D.W. Read) Hey, Arthur.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Arthur Read) D.W.

PFEIFFER: The beloved PBS cartoon "Arthur" aired its final new episodes this year after 25 seasons. But Arthur, his sister, D.W., and their pals are returning to wherever you listen to podcasts.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PFEIFFER: Carol Greenwald is helping Arthur make his podcast, which debuts today. She's senior executive producer at GBH Kids. Hi, Carol.

CAROL GREENWALD: Hi.

PFEIFFER: Tell us what it's going to be about. Is it really just the TV show continued in our ears rather than our eyes?

GREENWALD: Well, we are repurposing some of the beloved "Arthur" stories into an audio format. We know that kids love these stories. They watch them over and over again, and we thought it would be fun to try to do them as podcasts; so some of the classic "Arthur" stories that people love heard in a different way and in an audio context.

PFEIFFER: This is a podcast for a children's show. So who are you expecting your audience to be, largely children?

GREENWALD: I think we are hoping it will certainly be largely children, but we're also hoping that parents will want to listen. We know that there's a lot of co-listening that goes on between parents and kids. Looking at our audience information and also through social media, that many parents, many young parents are now watching "Arthur" with their children. And they're so happy to introduce their kids to "Arthur" because they loved it so much when they were growing up.

PFEIFFER: I feel like I have to admit to you that I have not watched "Arthur." It's not exactly my generational show. I'm not exactly the generational demographic. Can you explain why this character is so beloved, why so many older millennials have a really soft spot for him and the types of lessons he taught?

GREENWALD: Well, I've always said that the reason that everyone loves Arthur and his friends and his family is because they're imperfect. They are very authentic. They're very real. They make mistakes all the time. They have to figure out how to come back from them. And those stories, just - those are the things that everyone connects to. So it's my feeling that by making Arthur real, by making him imperfect, he's somebody everybody feels a connection to. And of course, he's kind of funny, too, so that helps.

PFEIFFER: And did he also spend a lot of time in stories that dealt with kindness and diversity and affirmation? I mean, was that part of the appeal as well?

GREENWALD: Yes, that was. And I think one of the other things we did from day one was to try to make sure that kids could see themselves in the television show. You know, there was, like, bulldogs and aardvarks and bunnies. But you could see yourself as someone who may come from a less privileged background than your friends. We have a character who is autistic. We have characters in wheelchairs. We have a very - a key character who's blind. And we've also just really tried to make sure that if you watch "Arthur," you could see something that feels familiar to you in your life that you might not see anyplace else on television.

PFEIFFER: I also have to ask you about what is considered a major plot discrepancy, and that is that Arthur wears his headphones on the side of his heads, just like humans do because that's where our ears are. But I'm looking at a picture of Arthur right now, and his ears are on top of his head because he's an aardvark. But the headphones are on the side, so it looks like they're clamped to his cheeks. How do you explain this?

GREENWALD: You know, when we started making "Arthur," there were no such thing as earbuds.

PFEIFFER: (Laughter).

GREENWALD: Yeah, we did not have earbuds when we started, and so we worked with what we could. And then we've established this thing. And this is just the way Arthur wears his headphones. And somehow, he manages to hear just fine.

PFEIFFER: Carol, thank you.

GREENWALD: Thank you.

PFEIFFER: Carol Greenwald of GBH Kids. She's executive producer of the "Arthur" TV Show, still available on PBS Kids. And Arthur's first podcast is out now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sacha Pfeiffer is a correspondent for NPR's Investigations team and an occasional guest host for some of NPR's national shows.