Meet Our Neighbors: Justin Vandenberg

Get to know Justin Vandenberg, Production Designer for Donkey Hodie, the hee-hawesome PBS KIDS preschool series produced by Fred Rogers Productions and Spiffy Pictures.

Tell us about yourself and how your career led you to work in children’s television.

As a child, I was fascinated by the world around me. The ability to recreate or re-interpret our environment was something I naturally gravitated towards. Growing up drawing and painting, and building dioramas, I discovered a joy for creating imaginary worlds. As I pursued a career in advertising, I found myself attracted to work that allowed me to use this approach on a larger scale. Thankfully, I found a home with Donkey Hodie where I can really expand on a wonderful world of curiosity.

What was your favorite TV show when you were growing up?

My favorite and certainly the most influential TV show for myself as a child would be Sesame Street. I was captivated by the enthusiastic puppets and the look of a practical textured world. Sesame Street was the place I wanted to live!

Describe your role on Donkey Hodie.

As the Production Designer for Donkey Hodie, I lead the process of creating the look and feel of the land of Someplace Else. I design our locations and props, then I get to work with a very talented team to bring the world to life. Because the puppets cannot actually hold an item or walk on the ground, we are constantly finding new and creative solutions to allow the puppeteer to get the most out of their performance.

What is your favorite episode of Donkey Hodie?

There are so many fun episodes of Donkey Hodie that it’s hard to choose, but I’d have to say “Poetry Problem.” It was a joy to imagine and a challenge to create the big mess our pals Donkey and Purple Panda may have made inside Donkey's windmill.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

When I am not working on Donkey Hodie, I enjoy being out in nature or outside exploring our neighborhood with my children. As a father of two young boys, I remain forever curious and surprised. Often, I feel as if I’m living with a couple of our silly puppet characters!