'Once Upon A Time' EPs to oversee series to completion
The duo, whose pact at the studio expired June 1, will remain at Disney for an additional three years and possibly four.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The duo scored this past season as creators and executive producers of “Once,” the highest-rated new scripted series on ABC and third-most-watched show overall on the network. The fantasy skein that aired on Sundays drew a healthy 4.1 rating/10 share in the 18-49 demo in its rookie season, and 11.8 million viewers overall.
As part of the deal, they are committing to remain showrunners on the series for its duration.
If the show extends beyond two seasons, the deal kicks into a fourth year. After that, if “Once” remains a hot property for the Alphabet, the pair could reup with the studio or move elsewhere, but they will stay on board to steer the creative course of the series.
“Our intent is to be with the show until it’s done,” Horowitz told Variety. “We don’t know when that will be, but it has been a passion project for us and we want to see it through.”
Horowitz and Kitsis have already been at ABC Studios for five years. Their relationship with ABC dates back 14 years to the writing staff of the Barry Sonnenfeld version of “Fantasy Island” and continued on to the Ryan Murphy drama “Popular,” which aired on the WB but was produced at Disney.
It took Horowitz and Kitsis nearly a decade to see their idea for “Once” — putting a new spin on classic Disney characters such as Snow White — to completion. They first came up with the concept for “Once” while working on the WB drama “Felicity” and kept it alive through six seasons together on another ABC hit, “Lost,” where they served as exec producers.
It was on “Lost” where the duo — under exec producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse — received their showrunning tutorial. The lesson: The job has no days off, with practically no down time in between seasons.
Said Horowitz: “What we learned from Damon and Carlton is that it’s about commitment to the vision, and that becomes your life. We took those lessons to heart. We knew what intellectually what the job is about but you don’t know what it’s like until you do it.”
Added Kitsis: “It’s not a job but a lifestyle. When we wrote the pilot, we didn’t think it would get picked up, and then it debuted vs. the World Series and NFL football. If it got canceled, we could say we did it the way we wanted.”
Kitsis and Horowitz have also pitched in on Disney’s theatrical side as screenwriters of “Tron: Legacy” and are attached as exec producers for animated spinoff “Tron: Uprising” on Disney XD, though they have handed off writing duties on that project. They’ve also penned “Ouija,” the Universal pic based on the Hasbro property.
Their new deal will allow them to continue working across platforms at Disney, but the immediate plan is to remain focused on “Once.” They each understand the pressure of keeping the bar high.
Said Kitsis: “That’s what keeps us up at night. We want to make the show better than season one.”
Kitsis and Horowitz are repped by WME and attorney Jared Levine from Morris, Yorn, Barnes, Levine, Krintzman, Rubenstein & Kohner.