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Nick Jr. show scrutinized for similarities to Oscar-winning animated short 'Hair Love'

Both 'Hair Love' and 'Made by Maddie' feature fathers with dreadlocks, mothers with natural hair, and daughters with similar-toned skin, hair and a pink bow. Both families have a gray cat.
Image: Hair love
"Hair Love" won the Academy Award for best animated short film in 2019.Courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

An upcoming Nick Jr. show has garnered scrutiny after thousands tweeted that it bears a striking similarity to an Oscar-winning animated short called “Hair Love.”

On Wednesday, Matthew A. Cherry, the writer and director of 2019’s “Hair Love,” which took home the Academy Award for best animated short film in February, retweeted a post that compared his film to the upcoming Nick Jr. show “Made by Maddie.”

Silvergate Media, the studio behind the new show, denied it copied “Hair Love,” saying work on the series started five years ago.

Cherry’s only comment on the tweet was a thinking emoji, but in the replies, many noted the similarities.

“Everyone is saying ‘even the cat’ but damn even the soft pink and green color palette?!!” the author Jonny Sun tweeted.

“Yeah, it’s time to get the lawyers involved,” the retired New York Giants linebacker Spencer Paysinger replied.

“Even the cat, the hair bow and the family coloring. Wait..,” the political strategist Atima Omara wrote.

“Hair Love,” a Sony Pictures Animation project, centers around an African American father learning how to do his daughter’s hair while his wife, voiced by Issa Rae, is hospitalized with cancer. “Made by Maddie,” centers around a Black family with a focus on the titular Maddie, “an 8-year-old girl who uses her fashion sense and design ingenuity to solve problems,” according to a statement from Silvergate Media CEO Waheed Alli.

Both feature fathers with dreadlocks, mothers with natural hair, and daughters with similar-toned skin, hair and a pink bow. Both families have a gray cat.

In response to a person commenting on the fact both families have a cat, Cherry wrote, “It's wild. Coulda been a dog, fish, anything.”

"Made by Maddie,” which is set to premiere Sept. 13 and produced by Silvergate Media, was created by Paula Rosenthal, who is white. Cherry is Black.

“‘Silvergate Media has been working on the series for the last five years and throughout the production has taken steps to ensure a diverse production team and an appropriate voice cast lending their expertise and talent,” Alli said in the statement emailed to NBC News.

Rosenthal did not respond to a request for comment.

Alli said the team behind “Made by Maddie” admires Cherry and his work.

“As creators ourselves, we have the utmost respect and admiration for Matthew A. Cherry and ‘Hair Love,’ and our hope is that when people watch our show, they will see it is its own story with its own adventures,” Alli said.

The studio provided NBC News with confidential character inspiration boards and character designs. Those files show dates ranging from 2017 and 2018 in either the file name or timestamps on the actual image. The earliest timestamp on the materials is dated September 2017. A studio representative told NBC News one image is from 2015, but NBC News was not able to verify the claim.

“We are all very aware of this series including the similarities, but unable to make any comments at this time,” Cherry’s manager, Monica A. Young, said in an email. Sony Pictures Animation did not immediately return a request for comment.

Cherry published a public Kickstarter campaign to fund “Hair Love” in July 2017, which included Vashti Harrison’s illustrations of the characters Cherry planned to feature in his short film. A screenshot tweeted by Cherry earlier this year shows the campaign had been fully funded by Aug. 9, 2017, which was a month prior to the earliest date of the timestamps on the materials Silvergate Media provided.

In a thread posted to Twitter in February, Cherry said he had been inspired to create the short film four years earlier after seeing an image of a Black father and daughter created by 3D artist Julian Santiago. Santiago declined to work on the project with Cherry, saying he was too busy, but gave his blessing for the project to move forward, according to the thread.

On Wednesday evening, the term “Hair Love” trended with thousands of tweets on Twitter as people discussed the similarities between the two works.

“I really thought this was based on @MatthewACherry's #HairLove. I have questions, @nickjr,” April Reign, the creator of the Oscars So White movement, wrote.

One user tweeted that when they used image recognition technology “Google Lens,” it pulled up results for “Hair Love” when viewing an image from “Made by Maddie.”

Cherry did not reply to NBC News’ request for comment, but he has weighed in on several tweets critiquing the similarities between the two entities.

“We are getting a series and this wasn't it,” he wrote to one person who recalled thinking the series was Cherry’s creation.