Watch CBS News

Fans fall in love with Mona, little puppet from Nanalan' on Tiktok

Nanalan' puppet show goes viral on Tiktok
Nanalan' puppet show goes viral on Tiktok 08:57

CHICAGO (CBS) -- If the abstract feeling of childlike wonder could be embodied, it would be in the form of a small puppet named Mona, the main character of "Nanalan'." 

And more than 20 years after her debut on Canadian TV in 1999, her sing-a-long, "Whose that wonderful girl? Could she be any cuter?" is going viral on TikTok.   

Mona is a 3-year-old green puppet with wide eyes, wearing a corduroy pink dress, matching pink pigtails, and a contagious smile. She speaks in small, short sentences with bursts of energy and emotion. 

Creators Jamie Shannon and Jason Hopley said the idea was born out of their love for their own nanas, inviting viewers into the magical experience of playing as a kid at a grandparent's house. 

"Celebrating nanas and a little girl going to her nana's house because her mom goes to work, kind of a pretty common experience," said Hopley, the voice of Nana Bea and their dog Russell.

Originally a children's show, each episode starts with Mona getting dropped off at her Nana Bea's house. 

It then follows the 3-year-old on her daily adventures of learning and experiencing things for the first time.

"Nanalan'" teaches both lifelong lessons such as overcoming fear and sharing but also allows viewers to be present in the moment, taking in Mona's pure excitement and undivided attention of watching a frog hop around or feeding the birds. 

Nana is patient and kind with Mona, even if she is blowing extra bubbles in her milk or flipping the light switch on and off and on and off again. She is encouraging and joins Mona in playing dress up, singing, and dancing. In many episodes, they curl up and read a story together.

Shannon and Hopley first met in art school. They founded The Grogs puppet troupe, going on to produce a variety of shows, such as "Mr. Meaty" and "Ooh, Aah & You."

"Nanalan''" ran as shorts during commercial time and eventually ran for a season of full-length episodes. It later appeared on Nickelodeon, owned by CBS 2's parent company, Paramount, and CBC Television. It received several nominations and overall positive reviews but never got picked up for a second season.

The pair moved on to new projects separately. But, thanks to the internet, Mona and her Nana's backyard never really faded away. 

Decades later, social media brought her world to an entirely new platform: TikTok.

"Suddenly, there was a girl that put a joke on a meme, on a song that Nana was singing in a glorious moment for Mona," Hopley said. In just a week, it got nearly 10 million views. 

The glorious moment is Mona prancing into the living room, dressed as a princess, tiara and all, with her hands up high as Nana plays the organ. "Could she be any cuter? Nuh-uh!" Nana sings. It is the leading video at the center of the memes.

"You can almost hear people singing. Who's that wonderful girl? Because so many people have it ringing in their heads. Just a wild feeling," Shannon, the voice of Mona, said. "It's proof that the work that we did 20 years ago still has the same amount of charm and love," he said. 

"WHO'S THAT WONDERFUL GIRL" - Sing-Along with Nana! - nanalan' by nanalan' official on YouTube

A meme is an image or video with text that spreads rapidly online, often with different variations. 

"I'm really proud and happy that that's become the meme people love," Shannon said.

But Mona was always more than just a meme and is finally having her moment. 

"It's very validating and heartwarming," Hopley said. "The purpose of the series was literally living authentically in the moment... and be delightful about it, be free to do so, and supported and loved while doing it."

"It's no wonder why people have really gravitated towards that," he said. Shannon has been running the social media sites himself, putting all of his efforts into keeping Mona's world alive. 

It paid off. Thousands of new fans follow "Nanalan'" profiles every day.

"So many people make artwork about Nanalan'. So every day all day, I'm reposting these artworks that I find on the Instagram stories," Shannon said. 

"Even a tattoo," Hopley added. "There's nothing more flattering than that."

No scripts were written on the original "Nanalan.'" Every episode was improvised. 

"We had a tiny little crew making the show, and all of it combined all their love," Hopley said. 

The show's popularity hasn't stopped there. The creative duo is also offering up personalized messages from Mona in the form of Cameos, a series of recorded personalized videos. Shannon and Hopley say it's helped them perfect the character's voices. 

"My falsetto is getting stronger, which is nice at this age," Shannon said, laughing. "Once you get to a certain age to perform a 3-year-old, I have to kind of rev up my whole spirit, but I love it." 

After embodying Mona, Shannon is quite giddy, until eventually settling back into his 51-year-old self.

But regardless of age, Mona reminds viewers that we all are young at heart. 

"Somebody ... started bawling at the sight of the puppets because that just kind of unlocked a memory. It holds a really neat place in people's hearts," Shannon said.

To "heal your inner child" is the creator's new slogan, a buzzword that has gained popularity in recent years. It's a type of intrapersonal or therapeutic work that recognizes how the ways someone grows up influence behaviors as an adult and focuses on nurturing self-compassion.

Shannon purposefully created Mona to be simple and accessible. 

"Everybody's like, 'That's me!' So people experience, I think, their childhood through her," he said.

Nana's backyard portrays a place of safety. "It's the magic of everyday things that you know, being that young and experiencing the world and being free enough and supported too," Hopley said. 

And now Hopley, who plays Nana, is a nana, or grandfather, himself. 

"I feel like I'm actually more in my Nana years. You know, when you lose people in the world, you sort of see the world a little bit differently," he said.

So, what's next? Although Nana's backyard is Mona's favorite place, the sky is the limit.

"I think we had the conversation that maybe we'll work together when we're 50 again, right? And then here we are," he said.

 "We're very excited to keep on rolling with all the things Nanalan'," Shannon said. 

Shannon and Hopley plan to create a Christmas special and even a feature film. But in the meantime, the pair will continue to make weekly shorts on YouTube and daily Cameos, and continue to connect with their growing audience. 

"[Our] collective experience as older and wiser from our creative partnership we had years ago. It only benefits Nanalan,'" Hopley said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.