Craig of the Creek has become one of Cartoon Network’s most celebrated shows in recent years with its exciting adventures and sincere dynamics involving Craig (Philip Solomon), Kelsey (Noël Wells) and J.P. (H. Michael Croner).
The Emmy-and-NAACP-nominated series has gone on to inspire its own spin-off: Jessica’s Big Little World, an animated pre-school series following Craig’s (big) little sister Jessica (Lucia Cunningham) as she learns important lessons with the help of her friends, imaginary and real.
CoveredGeekly’s Christopher Gallardo had the chance to talk with Craig of the Creek and Jessica’s Big Little World co-creators Tiffany Ford, Matt Burnett, and Ben Levin as well as Jessica’s voice actress herself, Lucia Cunningham, to check out what’s in store for this fun spin-off.
The Wonders of Childhood
What do you think is the best trait about Jessica and how do you think it can help or inspire others?
I think the best trait about Jessica is the way she sees the world like how you would see doing your bedtime routine, like “Oh it’s something easy, not that big of a deal.” Jessica sees it as such a challenge that she’s gonna get through it and saying, “It’s gonna be the hardest thing ever, but I’m gonna do it and then I’m gonna be so proud of myself after I remember to use the bathroom before I go to bed.”
It’s how she sees the world through a sense of wonder and magic and how every little thing is special to her.LUCIA CUNNINGHAM, “Jessica”
Who are your favorite new characters that get introduced in this show?
Small Uncle (Alani iLongwe), I’d say, is the stuffed toy that Jessica is almost never seen without in Craig of the Creek. But, in Jessica’s Big Little World, we get to see how Jessica sees Small Uncle, which is that he grows a little body, he becomes a little person who talks to her.
He’s such a fun character because Jessica wants to be a big kid and she puts on airs [sic] often of being a little bit older than she is, but Small Uncle is like the preschooler of the show in some ways. He is little and there’s so much that he doesn’t understand and Jessica gets to play the role model and mentor to him.
Writing him is just a silly, fun character that everything you can misinterpret about the world, he does so it’s always fun to write a goofball like that.MATT BURNETT, Co-creator
A Reminiscent Inspiration
How did ‘Jessica’s Big Little World’ come about from ‘Craig of the Creek’ and how was the developmental experience working on this show?
We were three seasons into Craig [of the Creek] when [Cartoon Network] approached us about expanding what we were doing and proposed this idea of a spin-off for Jessica, who was a character that we already loved and had made sure to give attention to on Craig thanks to Tiffany [Ford].
Tiffany, in the early days, defined the character of Jessica for us so she naturally was someone we pulled on board to help us develop this spin-off. Pivoting to pre-school [audiences] was a chance for us to reach a new audience of kids and it was certainly a change from Craig, but we really balanced ourselves to keep the same sensibility, tone, and sense of fun and energy and relatability in Jessica, but also figuring a way to put all that into stories that a younger audience can follow and relate to.MATT BURNETT, Co-creator
The very first episode that Tiffany [Ford] storyboarded was “Jessica Goes to the Creek” was about Jessica and she created a very fleshed out character that felt real, there can really be a lot of one-dimensional sibling characters in TV. [Jessica] felt very nuanced and what Lucia [Cunningham] brought to the voice-acting was such an extra level; she brought a lot of herself to it.
Over those three seasons, a really interesting character was created so the tricky part of developing it for pre-school, which we really wanted to do, was just keeping that energy and keeping that fun that they’ve both built.BEN LEVIN, Co-creator
Was there any specific trait that you’ve related to with Jessica in both these shows?
About Jessica on her own, in the original show, we all agreed that something special about her was that she has a very specific grit.
She sticks to things, she’s very thorough, and it was always a point of ours that she wasn’t a kid genius. She is somebody that listens and remembers and somebody that is pretending that she’s in this amazing aspirational place, but the reality is that she is little and doesn’t actually always know what she’s talking about but she would like to know.
Developing the Jessica show for a pre-school audience, we leaned into that aspect of her: that she is aspirational, that she has this idea of who she would like to be and this is the journey of how she slowly gets to that. That is the hook of our show: that it’s slow. Her accomplishments are not great: she remembers to potty, she remembers to brush her teeth.
All her accomplishments are micro, but they’re huge to her. She sticks to this and this is something that I think a lot of people can relate to. She’s very driven in accomplishing regular things [laughs].TIFFANY FORD, Showrunner/Co-creator
Was there anyone or anything that helped inspire ‘Jessica’s Big Little World’ and what made Jessica a character you wanted to explore?
I think that, in the first inception Matt [Burnett] was pointing to: Jessica was already a character on Craig [of the Creek]. So, this precocious child was already in the DNA of the character, but the inspiration to grow that came from so many of us sharing stories about how we all got into these weird situations as little kids.
So many people mentioned their sisters, their nieces, their cousins, themselves saying these outrageously mature things [at 4-years old] and these stories collectively fueled into who Jessica is. The common denominator that I found in all of these stories was that these kids were saying these things, but not necessarily knowing what they were talking about and making wild assumptions at the end of this huge statement they’d made.TIFFANY FORD, Showrunner/Co-creator
The Importance of Family and Friendship
The show contains so many heartfelt messages that kids are going to learn in this show: what’s one lesson from this show that’s had an impact on you?
For me, an unexpected impact that this show has had on me is that I feel that I hope to be a lot kinder after working on this and listening to what other folks have said while creating and writing the show.
Also, the impact of what we say, little ones, anybody, hears it and listens to it and it made me think about the person that I also wanted to be and that I wasn’t done growing and changing and the show really inspired me to think about how to be kinder to myself and others.TIFFANY FORD, Showrunner/Co-creator
With all the positive reaction behind ‘Craig of the Creek’, what do you think is the most important element of the show that most fans resonate with?
I think that any fans of the show who want more or have a younger sibling, you’re gonna get the same kid energy and outlook that Craig of the Creek has. That where we tried to make the little things feel big and the excitement you have as a kid to feel just over the moon.
We tried to bring that because [Craig] has a lot of the same fun. Generally, on both shows, we just tried to write stories that we liked watching and we did the same thing with Jessica. It’s for preschoolers, but it’s also stuff that we like watching.BEN LEVIN, Co-creator
You get to see more of the family dynamic in Jessica cause Craig is off in the creek. Even though we get to see the family sometimes, he’s usually out there in the woods, but in Jessica, we’re getting to see what happens in the house when Craig’s not there and even when he’s there.
The Williams family, they’ve got such a fun dynamic between the five of them and the extended family too, it was just fun to tell more stories about the family.MATT BURNETT, Co-creator
Jessica’s Big Little World will premiere on October 2 on Cartoon Network and October 7 on Max.