Little Ellen Showrunner Calls HBO Max Cancellation "Devastating"

Little Ellen showrunner Jennifer Skelly called the show's fate "devastating," but stopped short of saying that she, or other talent, woudl not want to work with Warner Bros. anymore since things are in so much flux, she admits the whole world may be different again in another year and a half. Little Ellen was cancelled ahead of its planned third season, marking just one in a long line of cancellations by Warner Bros. Discovery, who have gone all out to gut Warner's HBO Max streaming platform since their merger was finalized in May. Back in July, the project's third season was one of a number of casualties of the WBD merger, cancelled to cut costs, because Discovery over-leveraged itself to acquire Warner Bros. and needs to generate billions in quick cash to make investors happy. Season three of Little Ellen was reportedly already completed.

The cancellation came as HBO Max confirmed last month that family-friendly and live-action kids programming was no longer going to be in their content plans, but the speed and thoroughness with which content has been completely shelved has taken creators and fans by surprise. HBO Max revealed this in a statement over the weekend when it was confirmed that TV series Gordita Chronicles had been cancelled, flat out saying: "Live-action kids and family programming will not be part of our programming focus in the immediate future." 

"It's really devastating," executive producer Jennifer Skelly told Variety. "I've worked on a million things that have never seen the light of day, but it's pretty rare that you get this far down the pipe — it's literally done — and it's still not going to see the light of day."

Skelly added, "In the streaming culture, I don't know everything about how that process is done. But to me, it seems like, 'Well you've got them. Just flip a switch. They're done and they're delivered.' But obviously there's so much corporate stuff going on in terms of what that means for them financially."

Skelly said that one of the biggest frustrations is what it means for the careers of some of the filmmakers who worked with her on developing the third season.

"There were writers who had their first episodes in that back 20, and there were directors who got their first shot at directing," Skelly said. "We had a lot of firsts on our crew, and they won't get to see those episodes on TV and see their credit. It's really tough."

While some of the jettisoned HBO Max content will be shopped to other networks -- such as the Batman: Caped Crusader series from JJ Abrams and Bruce Timm -- much of the content is going to become lost media. It likely did not help the Little Ellen team that Ellen DeGeneres herself has gone from one of Hollywood's most universally-beloved figures, to a bit of a pariah, after a series of accusations from crew members and guests claimed the host is unbearable behind the scenes.

"We were a perfect storm of many things, because the Ellen brand has also suffered in the last few years," Skelly said. "Our show wasn't going to be getting a ton of love anyway for that reason. We started out at the high point of her career, but by the time it was animated — because it takes forever to get something done in animation — her brand was in a really different place, and her show was ending."