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Nickelodeon pulls ‘Made by Maddie’ after ‘Hair Love’ controversy

"Made by Maddie"
(Nickelodeon)

Amid accusations of plagiarism, “Made by Maddie” will no longer air this fall.

Nickelodeon announced Friday that the animated preschool program — whose central characters bear a striking resemblance to those of the Oscar-winning film “Hair Love” — has been pulled from its schedule. The 22-episode series was scheduled to debut Sept. 13 on the Nick Jr. channel.

“‘Made by Maddie’ is a show we acquired several years ago from Silvergate Media, a renowned production company we have previously worked with on other series,” Nickelodeon said in a statement. “Since announcing the show’s premiere date this week, we have been listening closely to the commentary, criticism and concern coming from both viewers and members of the creative community.

“In response, and out of respect to all voices in the conversation, we are removing the show from our schedule as we garner further insight into the creative journey of the show,” the statement continued. “We are grateful to Silvergate Media for all of their work. And we hold Matthew A. Cherry and the wonderful and inspiring ‘Hair Love’ in the highest regard.”

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After a social media outcry about similarities between them, the studio behind Nick Jr.'s “Made by Maddie” says the project predates Oscar winner “Hair Love.”

A scene from the animated short "Hair Love."
(Sony Pictures Animation )

After Nickelodeon shared the series’ trailer and first-look images this past Tuesday, social media users were quick to point out that its central family (and cat) look quite similar to that of “Hair Love,” Matthew A. Cherry’s short about a Black millennial father attempting to style his young daughter’s hair. “Hair Love,” which debuted in 2017 as a viral Kickstarter campaign, is being developed into its own HBO Max animated series.

“Made by Maddie” was created by children’s programming veteran Paula Rosenthal and is the third Nickelodeon project from Silvergate. Earlier this week, the studio said that the series employs a diverse production team and voice cast and has been in the works for the past five years. (Script excerpts, character descriptions and drafted illustrations provided to The Times to support these claims dated back only to September 2017 — one month after “Hair Love’s” illustration-filled Kickstarter campaign was funded at more than three times its original goal).

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Amid nationwide marches for Black lives, Black animation professionals speak about systemic racism in the industry and the need for diversity.

“As creators ourselves, we have the utmost respect and admiration for Matthew A. Cherry and ‘Hair Love,’ and our hope is that when people watch our show, they will see it is its own story with its own adventures,” Waheed Alli, chief executive of Silvergate Media, said in a statement on Wednesday.

The controversy over resemblances between “Made by Maddie” and “Hair Love” comes as the animation industry, like much of Hollywood, reckons with discrimination against Black creatives in the wake of the nationwide movement for Black lives. In June, a number of animated programs announced that their nonwhite characters would no longer be voiced by white actors, and an open letter asked that studios conduct investigations into internal incidents of racism and commit to the hiring, training and advancement of Black staff.

“Animation is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to how Black people are seen and represented because it’s storytelling, and it is storytelling that influences a lot of young people,” Taylor K. Shaw, the founder and chief executive of Black Women Animate, told The Times in July. “It’s an art form that deeply shapes the minds of our youth.”


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