Alum Animates Netflix Series ‘Waffles + Mochi’
June 18, 2021
When Waffles, a yeti/breakfast food hybrid, and Mochi, a sentient pink ice cream treat, escaped the land of frozen foods last March, they delighted Netflix’s audiences young and old. The duo’s adventures in Waffles + Mochi see the titular duo travel the globe to learn about fresh food in support of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s mission to teach families about healthy eating. A big part of the show’s success is its animated sequences, directed by Musa Brooker BFA ’95 (Animation).
Waffles + Mochi is a highlight of Higher Ground Productions, the production company established by the Obamas in 2018. Throughout the show’s 10-episode run, the animation sequences Brooker directed introduce audiences to different foods, ingredients and cooking techniques. In one, a tomato, voiced by pop singer Sia, sings about how she’s not a vegetable but a misunderstood fruit. In another, comedian and singer Jack Black steps into the role of an egg to expound on the many ways in which he can be prepared.
Art has always been a central part of life for Brooker, now creative director at Los Angeles’ 6 Point Harness Studios. A native Philadelphian, he is the son of renowned abstract artist Moe Brooker. His stepmother, Cheryl McClenney-Brooker, was the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s longtime director of external affairs and broadened the audiences that engage with the museum’s collections.
Classes at Philadelphia’s Fleisher Art Memorial eventually gave way to studies at UArts. After graduation, Brooker landed his first gig with a game design studio in Delaware. He later found his way to New York, working on projects such as MTV’s animated series Daria. Eventually, Brooker moved to California for graduate studies and to teach stop-motion animation classes at University of Southern California.
Brooker's involvement was an unexpected surprise, and it arrived at a pivotal moment in his career. He received an unexpected email from the Obamas’ production company, which admired his work.
"I was flabbergasted by that," Brooker said. "That's not an email you expect to get every day."
Brooker revealed that Sheila Sofian, his former instructor at UArts and now colleague at the University of Southern California, had recommended him as a consultant for a project that eventually led to Waffles + Mochi. At the same time, he was being considered for his role at 6 Point Harness, which coincidentally won the bid for the show.
“It’s thrilling, a little bit daunting and a little bit overwhelming for sure,” Brooker says about being tapped to work on a project focused on a former First Lady’s signature initiative. “The question everybody asks me is if I got to meet Mr. and Mrs. Obama, and I did not, unfortunately.”