Annecy: Netflix Renews ‘B: the Beginning,’ Dates ‘Hilda,’ Announces ‘Raise the Bar,’ plus Jorge Gutiérrez ‘Epic Show’

Netflix’s talks up diversity, boldness, personal vision as core values in animation lineup

ANNECY, France — At its first Annecy presentation ever, Netflix announced that it has renewed anime series “B: the Beginning” for a second season, development on Chilean Fernando Frick’s “Raise the Bar” and a debut date for Andy Coyle’s “Hilda.”

As an Easter Egg, Netflix also played a final clip of a Mexican masked animator, which most of the room will have taken to be Jorge Gutiérrez, director of “Book of Life” and a popular legend at Annecy, announcing that he couldn’t announce anything about his “new epic series” with Netflix.

One of the most anticipated of presentations at this year’s Annecy, the Netflix panel – during which you could hear a pin  drop – was hosted by Melissa Cobb, vice president of Kids & Family, and Aram Yacoubian, director of international originals, Kids & Family.

Both “B: the Beginning” and “Hilda” screen in Annecy’s TV series competition. Directed by Yoshinobu Yamakawa and Kazuto Nakazawa, who gained instant fame directing the animation on “Kill Bill: Volume 1,” “B: the Beginning” marks Nakazawa’s debut as a series creator.

Starring a voice cast of Hiroaki Hirata and Yuki Kaji, it is set in a futuristic world of advanced technology and crime, where the series’ heroes attempt to halt the horrific murders of a serial murderer known as “Killer B.” Rui Kuroki produces.“B: the Beginning” is set up at Production I.G animation studio.

Yacoubian commented that much anime is based on already existing mangas, which anime directors can build on or interpret in their own way. But Nakazawa didn’t want to take the easy road for his first series, so created its original content.

Much-anticipated, based on the books of U.K, illustrator and author Luke Pearson, “Hilda” came across at the Netflix presentation as a dramedy for older kids, with horror beats and a tribute to the vivid imagination of kids. Shot in palettes and lighting which can be one moment warm and composed, and in another dark and sinister, it portrays how the fearless Hilda, a blue-haired girl who travels from her home in a vast magical wilderness full of elves and giants, to the big city of Trolberg, encounters new friends and mysterious and dangerous creators.

“Game of Thrones’” Bella Ramsey leads what looks like an excellent young voice cast. Silvergate Media produces, animation studio is Mercury Filmworks. Showrunner-writer is Stephanie Simpson.

“I wanted to really try and kick the doors down for another kind of appeal for television shows. Not everything has to be big, whacky broad comedy. Sometimes, things can be a little scary,” Coyle commented at Annecy.

Pitched at Ventana Sur’s Animation! last December, where it was one of there two winning TV series projects, “Raise the Bar” marks Frick’s follow-up to “Here’s the Plan,” a moving short and festival favorite, how a young couple’s life dream of opening a bakery unravels over time. In “Here’s the Plan,” Frick already stood out for her gift of psychological observance, which is likely to shine through in “Raise the Bar,” a stereotype-bucking tale of Sam, a female high-school student who wants to be an Olympics weight-lifter. She makes it to a high-performance center. “But the odds are against her. There’s no precedent, there’s no special coaches, and her family doesn’t understand why she’s doing it. This won’t stop her,” Frick commented during the panel.

She added that the series was inspired by her own frustrations at attempting to become an animator in Latin America. “The series is a love letter to the trials of all of us trying to do great stuff despite the problems,” she said.

The fact that one year ago almost to the day at Annecy, Jorge Gutiérrez and Reel FX Animation¡s Chuck Peil made a work in progress presentation of “Kung Fu Space Punch” – turning on an American Kung Fu space rebel and his motley wild bunch of outlaws, and announced as a movie which could also be a mini-series – will only fuel speculation that this could be the show now in development with Netflix. That, however, remains speculation.

The focus at Annecy, Netflix’s first presentation of the full spectrum of its animation types, was consistently on the diversity of its talent and shows, seen indeed in the panel of Chile’s Frick, Japan’s Nakazawa and Andy Coyle.

Netflix explores “possibilities of animation, breaking down the walls that creators face getting their content made, like language borders, length, format, style. We don’t have a house style, we embrace everybody’s personal vision for their products,” Cobb said in introductory remarks.

She added: “We set out to achieve our dreams, focus on a common goal, which is to deliver a diverse slate of powerful and timeless entertainment with global appeal.”

The animation Netflix is interested in are “stories that are unique, diverse, from Latin America, Asia, from and about women, reflecting diverse cultures and perspectives around us,” Cobb said.

CREDIT: Netflix

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