- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 3, 2006

BOSTON

He’s flown a kite, traveled in a space ship, become a movie star and had a long friendship with a tall man in a yellow hat.

Now he’s coming to public television, and the creative team behind his new children’s series is hoping precocious monkey Curious George will help turn children into budding scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

The series, premiering today, is based on the classic books by Margret and H.A. Rey — dating to their first Curious George story in 1941 — and is geared toward children ages 3 to 6. The series is narrated by actor William H. Macy.

“The global lesson of George … is telling kids, ‘It’s your job to figure out what’s going on and to play; don’t worry about the rules. Your job is to be happy, to test the boundaries, that’s your job,’ and that’s a lovely thing to say,” Mr. Macy said in a telephone interview with Associated Press.

The series starts off with “Curious George Flies a Kite,” followed by “From Scratch,” in which the clever monkey uses detective work to prove a cat is innocent of scratching up booths in a restaurant.

Producers of the television show are hoping to piggyback on the success of the “Curious George” movie that was released in February and grossed nearly $60 million. The series is being produced by Imagine Entertainment, WGBH-TV in Boston and Universal Studios Family Productions.

Curious George and his constant companion, the man in the yellow hat, were creations of the Reys, German Jews who were living in Paris when the imminent invasion of the Nazis forced them to flee. Riding on bicycles that H.A. Rey had assembled from spare parts, the two rode to freedom. One of the items they carried with them — ultimately to where they settled in Cambridge, Mass., — was a manuscript that featured the character Curious George.

The Reys wrote their first book, “Curious George” in 1941 and the last of their George adventures, “Curious George Goes to the Hospital,” in 1966.

H.A. Rey died in Boston on Aug. 26, 1977. After his death, his wife made a deal with a businessman to make filmstrips of Curious George. The copyright for Curious George now is owned by Houghton Mifflin. Margret Rey sold the television and movie rights to Universal before her death in 1996, said Mary Wilcox, the director of franchise publishing of children’s books for Houghton Mifflin.

Over the years, there have been other Curious George books besides the original Rey editions, but this is the first time he’ll be starring in his own TV series, Ms. Wilcox said.

The writers for the series picked as many story lines as possible from the original seven books, but head writer Joe Fallon needed to write others in the same spirit.

“The first thing he did was he combed through the original books and looked for things that kept recurring. In every one of them you could see a little wiener dog. So, he decided to turn that into a character,” said Carol Greenwald, the show’s executive producer.

Some “Curious George” loyalists are waiting to see the results.

“We’re old-fashioned ‘Curious George’ fans, so hopefully it will stick to the original stories,” said Donna Friedman, who with her husband owns Curious George Goes to Wordsworth, a children’s book and toy shop in Harvard Square in Cambridge.

“I think there’s nothing better than reading the book. Sitting down with your baby sitter or teacher is always going to mean more,” Mrs. Friedman said.

Mr. Macy, who said he reads “Curious George” tales to his own young daughters, feels the TV show has gotten it right.

“They’re cute, cute as can be. They’re so bright,” he said. “The man in the yellow hat is a snazzy dresser. That man can wear clothes.”

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