Who’s That Wonderful Girl? How “Nanalan’” Found New Success on TikTok

Who’s That Wonderful Girl? How “Nanalan’” Found New Success on TikTok

“Nanalan’” hasn’t been on TV in years, but it’s the hottest show on TikTok.

A Canadian children’s program that made its debut in 1999, it has had a resurgence in recent weeks, thanks to its growing popularity on the social media platform, where it has been watched millions of times.

A big part of the show’s appeal lies in its fiendishly catchy songs. One of them includes the lines: “Who’s that wonderful girl? Could she be any cuter?”

The girl in question is Mona, a little green puppet with pigtails sticking out from both sides of her head. No, she could not be any cuter.

The “who’s that wonderful girl?” earworm comes from a scene in which Mona enters a room dressed as a princess. Her grandmother, Nana, is singing the song while accompanying herself on organ. Nana’s dog, Russell, then appears in the garb of a royal courtier.

The clip took off in mid-October, after a TikTok user posted it with the caption “When the clothes you ordered arrive and you treat the family to a fashion show.” The video has been viewed over 9.5 million times.

“Nanalan’” joined TikTok, YouTube and other social media platforms this year. But it didn’t make much of an impression until the video of Mona in her princess regalia began circulating, said Jamie Shannon, who created the show with Jason Hopley. The pair started making “Nanalan’” shorts in 1999, and the series ended up airing on CBC, Nickelodeon and PBS for Kids.

In addition to reposting old content, Mr. Shannon, 51, has started making new videos with the “Nanalan’” puppets for social media. He discussed the show’s newfound audience and weighed in on why nostalgia reigns supreme online. The conversation has been edited and condensed.

How did you get into the puppet business?

I was traveling in Europe, I think it was 1990, and Jim Henson passed away. He was such a big part of my childhood. And I was like, “Well, that’s exactly what I want to do.” I was already kind of a puppet maker and an actor. So I kind of combined it all.

For many people online, this is their introduction to your show. What should they know?

It’s wild. Fifty-two percent of our audience on TikTok is American. “Nanalan’” is short for Nana Land, which is what I called my nana’s backyard. It’s about a little girl in that backyard. Mom drops Mona off at her nana’s everyday and goes to work, just like a lot of people’s situations. We were so lucky to do it without scripts, improvised.

When did the show end?

In 1999, we made the original set of three-minute shorts. We did that again in, I think, 2000. In 2003, we made a bunch of half-hour episodes, and that was it.

Until social media discovered “Nanalan’.”

We had a huge viral breakout in 2016 as well. Somebody did this hilarious thing. In one of the three-minute episodes, Mona’s describing the garden to Russell: “There’s a cooshie and a peepo.” Someone put the words up on the screen, just the silly words and then it went crazy on Tumblr. It became one of these things where people were like, “Try not to laugh.”

Sorry — a peepo?

A pea pod. I’m trying to imitate a kid imitating what a parent told them, but they don’t quite remember the word.

Why do you think TikTok has embraced Mona?

The world is so, so difficult and scary right now, and the show’s very comforting. Everything looks soft. There’s no special effects. It heralds to what I think people want to see, which is just something that’s real and authentic in the, you know, fake, fake, fake world. Everything’s A.I., and people don’t know what’s real.

Mona recently joined Cameo, a platform that allows celebrities to send video messages to fans for a fee. What’s that like?

I was trying to join Cameo so long ago, and I guess they weren’t accepting puppets. It’s great, I love it. It’s like four or five videos a day. Touching stuff, too. People say, “Grandma died, can you …?” So I do a lot of pep talks.