WondLa book series author talks his love of animation and adapting the series for television

The popular children's fantasy sci-fi book series is brought to life as an animated series on Apple TV+.
WondLa - credit: Apple TV+
WondLa - credit: Apple TV+ /

If you're wondering what it would be like to be on the search for WondLa, now, you don't have to guess as the children's book series has made its way to the small screen with an Apple TV+ adaptation. All 7 episodes of the series are available to stream now as of June 28.

WondLa is based on the sci-fi trilogy series of the same name which started with The Search for WondLa in 2010, A Hero for WondLa in 2012, and The Battle for WondLa in 2014. The basic premise of the series is centered around Eva, a teenager who is raised in a state-of-the-art bunker by a robot caretaker named Muthr. Eva finds herself on a planet called Orbona after an attack on her bunker. On Orbona, she finds that there are no other humans around and instead meets Otto, a tardigrade, and Rovender, a cantankerous alien who help her on her journey to find humans, her home as well as her true destiny. All books are written by Tony DiTerlizzi for ages 9-10 and published by Simon Schuster.

The series keeps close to the book's premise with an ensemble voice cast that includes Jeanine Mason as Eva, Micaiah Chen as Young Eva, Teri Hatcher as Muthr, Brad Garrett as Otto, Gary Anthony Williams as Rovender Kitt and Roshon, Chiké Okonkwo as Besteel, D. C. Douglas as Omnipod, Alan Tudyk as Cadmus Pryde. The series is a co-production between The Gotham Group and Skydance Animation and distributed by Apple TV+.

We had the chance to speak with the creator of the WondLa book series, Tony DiTerlizzi (The Spiderwick Chronicles), about being a parent and basing his writing on his daughter's childhood. Read on to get a sneak peek into the creative mind behind the books before you watch!

The Parent Watch: What inspired you to craft [and create] the WondLa book series?

Tony DiTerlizzi: Great question. Big question. I was much younger. I had turned 40, and my daughter was two. I was thinking about how much the world had changed in my 40 short years of being on this planet and was wondering, 'What would the Earth be like when my daughter turns 40?' I was thinking about a couple of things, specifically; About mankind's reliance on technology, and I wasn't sure how I felt about that. I was thinking about mankind's estrangement from the natural world, the plants and animals we share the planet with. Those were two big themes that I was thinking about in my mind when I set out to write WondLa. The third thing that was very meaningful to me was my found family, the people that were in my life that didn't necessarily look like me, but that I love just as much as my brother and sister. Those aspects were the bricks; The foundation that the books are written upon. It doesn't really answer those [questions]. It just explores those themes and those concepts and lets the reader come to their own conclusions and those, frankly, are the books I love the most.

I agree. What drew me to this series also is the animation style. I would love to know your perspective as an artist. What do you enjoy most about it?

Well, first of all, I love animation. Everyone here in the DiTerlizzi American artist household loves animation. I love Pixar, I love Disney, and I love Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli films. I'm a big fan. ondLa was a great fit for animation, to be honest with you, because the the audience I'm trying to reach with the books is definitely 10-year-olds. I'm trying to reach 10-year-old me, to be honest with you, Tiara. I'm like, 'What does 10-year-old Tony want that old 50-year-old Tony can make for him?' I'm also thinking of other kids, the kids that I meet all over the world when I'm on book tour, and I'm thinking of the adults who maybe share those stories, or that maybe it's a parent or a teacher or a librarians. That shared experience is super meaningful to me. That is something that feel like the best animation does, that it brings people together and we can all enjoy. It doesn't matter how old we are or where we are. That got me very excited about this. The idea that Skydance Animation uses legends from Disney and Pixar and DreamWorks was an incredible opportunity. I think it's a collaborative process, which I love.

I like collaboration, and animation is very collaborative. I also like the idea that they really wanted me to be very involved with it. You don't always get that with an animation [series], especially as the author. The most you can hope for is, 'Well, here's the themes, and here's what the character is'. You hope that that is all that makes it through. In this case, they really wanted a lot more, and I was able to be very involved with them over these last four years while it's been in production. Which is incredible.

I resonate with characters that I see in animated films and series. Do you have a favorite or do you have one that resonates with you the most?

In WondLa, I think, again, going back to when I was crafting the books and Sophia, our daughter was two. I was thinking am I going to be a helicopter parent; Very protective and you don't want anything to happen to her or am I going to be more like my dad was in the '70s where he's like, 'Look, be home when the streetlights are on and don't get hit by a car. I'll see it for dinner' which is what [the character of] Rovender is like. Those two characters, specifically, are me as a parent trying to figure out what's the best way to be a parent. Again, it offers no answers. It's just me trying to reconcile it, and I'm just doing it in a book. Those two feed a lot to me.

You can stream all 7 episodes of Season 1 of WondLa now on Apple TV+ with a subscription.

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