Trevor Pryce, two-time Super Bowl champ with the Denver Broncos and all-pro defensive end, has launched a post-NFL career based on his childhood angst about frogs getting flattened on the roads of Florida.
Netflix last year bought the rights to “Kulipari: An Army of Frogs,” based on his book triology published by Abrams, about superhero frogs fighting hordes of scorpions and spiders in the Australian outback. The show’s 13 22-minute episodes are set to debut worldwide on Netflix Sept. 2, as part of a fall wave of original kids’ programming coming to the service.
Pryce funded the production of the animated series himself, teaming with production company Splash Entertainment. Originally envisioned as three feature-length animated specials, the project was distilled into a single season for Netflix — after the streamer jumped to acquire the rights to “Kulipari.”
“Netflix said ‘yes’ the quickest,” said Pryce, who also shopped “Kulipari” to two traditional TV networks (which he declined to identify). He signed the deal with Netflix before even pitching it to Hulu or Amazon.
The series follows Darel, a young frog who dreams of joining the Kulipari army to become the warrior of his dreams and fight the forces of the evil Spider Queen Jarrah and Lord Marmoo, the leader of the vicious Scorpion Army.
Pryce declined to specify the budget for “Kulipari: An Army of Frogs,” but said “I spent a lot of money on it. It didn’t cost as much as ‘House of Cards,’ but we spent more per episode than Marvel has spent on some of their TV shows. My thing was, the quality had to be so superior — because I don’t have a track record (in TV).”
With the show greenlit, Pryce and his partners at Splash signed on Canadian animation studio Cartoon Conrad Productions, and tapped as director Tad Stones, a former Disney animator whose credits with the Mouse House include “Darkwing Duck” and who also worked on the animated “Hellboy” movies.
“I had a certain idea of how I wanted it to look,” Pryce said. But he discovered the realities of animation required certain changes. For example, in the books the spider queen, Jarrah, has human legs with a spider body; but that was changed for the show to give her spider legs, because it looked better in animated sequences.
The origins of the “Kulipari” story date back to when Pryce was growing up in Florida. “In Florida, whenever it rains the frogs come out, on my street there were all these smushed frogs. It freaked me out,” he said. He melded the idea of superhero frogs with elements of Aboriginal Australian folklore, along with the fable of “The Scorpion and the Frog” in writing the Kulipari stories. (Undoubtedly, other anthropomorphic superheroes ranging from Rocket Raccoon to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also served as an inspiration in some way.)
Now Pryce is extending the frog franchise into merchandise, which has included a line of Kulipari T-shirts with Under Armour, and comic books with “Kulipari: Heritage,” a four-issue series that is being released this week.
And he’s planning to make additional seasons of “Kulipari” that continue the story, and possibly even a feature-length movie — regardless of whether Netflix opts to pick them up. “I am making a season two, and a three and four and five,” he said.