“Team Zeno Go” is an animated series for preschoolers created via a collaboration between DreamWorks Animation Television and Mainframe Studios. The series was created by Jack Thomas for Netflix and based on the “Dojo Daycare” books by Chris Tougas. After a successful debut on March 15, 2022., a second series launched on August 8, 2022. “Team Zeno Go” takes place in Harmony Harbor which is an idyllic town where nothing ever goes wrong. What the citizens don’t realize is that their peace of mind is attributed to a quartet of young heroes who keep everything copacetic. Operating out of a noodle truck run by lovably weird Auntie Yuki, Ellie, Niah, Jax and Ari do secret good deeds, as TEAM ZENKO GO.
Gregory R. Little is the SVP of Content at Mainframe Studios. He is responsible for developing and executive producing the company’s original content for older kids and families. Greg has ample experience working on animated and live-action television. Greg recently discussed the launch of the second “Team Zenko Go” series.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in television and did you always gravitate towards the children’s genre?
Gregory R. Little (GRL): I worked in live-action and animated features for years but moved to television because in some ways the range of stories you can tell is broader for animated TV vs features. Also, the ratio of what you develop to what you make is higher. Creatively, I think animated features and TV are moving toward each other for family audiences. Animated series for older kids feel increasingly like the all-audience stories of great animated features. Having grown up on Amblin features where it’s all about best friends versus the world, I love taking new series in this direction. I’m producing another show like that right now—The Guava Juice Show on YouTube. Check it out, it’s a lot of fun!
MM: How did you break into the TV industry and how did you find your way to Mainframe Studio?
GRL: This is actually my second stint at Mainframe. The first time, the company was focused on features like Escape From Planet Earth, which I developed and executive produced. Then I worked at Brown Bag Films as their Los Angeles exec and they were doing only TV, so I was able to start developing deeper relationships with TV creators, writers and artists. In the meantime, Mainframe had also focused more on TV. When studio president Michael Hefferon reached out and asked if I’d be interested in coming back, it seemed like exactly where I wanted to go creatively.
MM: What kind of media do you most seek?
GRL: I watch a ton of anime with my kids…one of our current favorites is Seiin Boys High School Volleyball Team. Both kids play volleyball and this is the most epic, all-or-nothing, strive-for-glory-and-honor version of volleyball that’s ever been told. On the other end of the spectrum, I am a sucker for a great British detective story and always love an underdog who beats the odds.
MM: What about “Team Zenko Go” grabbed your attention?
GRL: That’s easy—it’s the idea of kids working in secret to do good for people in their community. There is so much pressure on kids these days to have everything they do documented, “liked” and shared. Our show is about how good it feels to make someone’s day when NOBODY knows it was you who did it.
MM: What do you enjoy most about this show?
GRL: Beyond the great writing, characters, comedy and heart, I do want to highlight our animation style. We were going for big 2D expressions and poses in a CG show, and I think our Mainframe team really pulled it off. It was hard—so many expressions broke the models initially—but the result is great comic performance in a preschool CG series.
MM: Out of all the episodes in both seasons, do you have any personal favorites? If so, which ones and why?
GRL: Of course, I love them all but aside from the main kids and Yuki, Rodney is my favorite character and I love the episodes that feature him. We have a couple of great Rodney episodes early in Season 2, so make sure to watch! Rodney has basically zero self-awareness and finding a way to help even him really tests our team’s commitment to doing good.
MM: What’s the best fan feedback you’ve gotten about the show?
GRL: Without a doubt it’s the feedback on the Ari character. Ari uses a wheelchair to get around but is absolutely a full partner in all the action and in some ways he’s the most epic of the group. We spent a lot of time working to get this character right, and we have gotten amazing feedback from kids and parents about how much representation matters when it comes to kids with challenges of their own.
MM: How do you hope this show and Mainframe Studio evolves over the next five years?
GRL: There are a lot more stories to tell in the Harmony Harbor beyond these first two seasons and we look forward to telling them if everything lines up. For Mainframe, Team Zenko Go is part of our original content push and only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to original series we’re developing and producing. You’ll be seeing a lot more originals from us in CG and 2D.
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
GRL: I get paid to hang out with hilarious and talented people making all the shows we would have loved to watch as kids and still do as adults. So, I guess I’m living my future goals! Follow us on Instagram via @mainframstudios