Friday, May 15, 2020

Q: Can you give me your biography?

Author, illustrator, animator, and playwright Mo Willems is best known for his #1 New York Times bestselling picture books, which have been awarded three Caldecott Honors, two Theodor Geisel Medals, and five Geisel Honors from the American Library Association. Translated into over 25 languages, his books have won many accolades in America and abroad, including having his first book, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! inducted into the Picture Book Hall of Fame.

Mo began his career as a writer and animator on PBS’ Sesame Street, where he garnered six Emmy Awards (writing). Other television work includes two series on Cartoon Network: Sheep in the Big City (creator and head writer) and Codename: Kids Next Door (head writer), and Nickelodeon's The Off-Beats (creator and head writer).  

Willems is the inaugural Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence.  During his term, Mo will write, perform, produce, and collaborate in creating fun new projects involving classical music, jazz experiences, comedy concerts, dance, painting, opera and digital works with collaborators like Ben Folds, Jason Moran, Ephrat Asherie, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the Washington National Opera.

His art work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world, including major solo retrospectives at the High Museum in Atlanta and the New-York Historical Society.  A large scale interactive exhibit based on his book characters is currently on view at the Indianapolis Children's Museum, part of a decade-long tour of the show to children's museums across the nation.

Over the last decade, Willems has become the most produced playwright of Theater for Young Audiences in America thanks to the popularity of his theatrical adaptations of Knuffle Bunny: a Cautionary MusicalElephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play!,  Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: the Rock Experience, and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!).  

Mo is also the inaugural Artist in Residence at HBO Max where he is (and will be) creating live action and animated specials, concert films, and television series based on his books.

As a performer, Mo's voice can be heard in numerous animated shorts and digital apps featuring his book characters.  Having started out in Stand-Up and Sketch Comedy, he has returned to his roots, hosting multiple sold-out performances of his books as Sketch at the San Francisco Sketchfest and the Kennedy Center.

Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic include Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems, Thank You Thursdays, The Yo-Yo Mo Show (w/ Yo-Yo Ma) all at the Kennedy Center website and Art in Place: social distancing in the studio at the Eric Carle Musuem of Picture Book Art (online)

Mo’s papers reside at Yale University’s Beinecke Library.