Netflix Unveils Ambitious Slate of Animated Features, Series

Netflix released its four-year plan to produce a variety of animated series and feature films. The company usually withholds information about upcoming projects until just prior to release, but animation typically involves a long lead-time. As a result, Netflix is publicizing its family-oriented programming in advance, similar to Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks. Netflix also revealed that 60 percent of its users watch family-friendly fare every month and that the new content is intended to appeal to “the tastes of every member of the family.”

The Verge reports that those involved with the projects are “a who’s who of successful animators, directors, and executive producers who have worked on everything from ‘The Little Mermaid’ to ‘Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends’.”

Planned projects include “Maya and the Three,” an animated series about a warrior princess. Due out in 2021, Jeff Ranjo (“Moana”) is the head of story. Also due out in 2021 is “My Father’s Dragon,” a 2D movie written by Meg LeFauve (“Inside Out”). Due out in 2019 is the series “Go! Go! Cory Carson,” based on preschoolers’ toys with executive producers Alex Woo (“Ratatouille”) and Stanley Moore (“Finding Dory”).

Craig McCracken (“The Powerpuff Girls,” “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends”) is heading a show about a child who becomes a superhero, due out in 2020. Also slated for 2020 is “Trash Truck,” a series executive produced by Glen Keane (“The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast”); and feature “The Willoughbys,” written by Kris Pearn (“Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2”).

These projects join previously-announced productions, including CG film “Jacob and the Sea Beast,” written by “Big Hero 6” director Chris Williams; the feature “Klaus,” written by Sergio Pablos (“Despicable Me”); and a stop-motion animated “Pinocchio” movie from Guillermo del Toro. Some of these movies will debut in theaters “in an open attempt to legitimize [the company’s] film releases for industry awards.”

Variety reports on how this slate of new animated programming is being driven by Melissa Cobb, the head of Netflix’s children and family programing division. Early on, she invited a group of top animators to a gathering at Netflix and asked them all to bring their best ideas. Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter stated that Netflix “has to do something” since “all the Disney content is going away as soon as it comes up for renewal.”

The animators gravitate to Netflix for the freedom to propose projects that would be difficult to greenlight at a more traditional studio. “Maya and the Three” producer Jorge Gutierrez said that when he’d go to a studio, “they’d talk about the legacy they established during a golden era some 30 or 50 years ago.” “The appeal of Netflix is there is no legacy,” he said. “This is the golden era and I get to be a part of building this foundation.”