In what is always one of the highest-profile events at France’s Annecy Animation Festival, Disney held their yearly presentation on Tuesday night, detailing their upcoming slate of new and returning programs, highlighted by the announcement of the new EMEA series “Vikingskool,” and early looks at U.S. series “The Owl House” and “The Rocketeer.”
This year’s presentation was fronted by SVP for Disney International Media EMEA Hélène Etzi; VP of Content for Animation, Digital and Acquisitions EMEA Orion Ross; and Nancy Kanter, EVP, Content and Creative Strategy, Disney Channels Worldwide, and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide.
Targeting 6-11 year-olds, “Vikingskool” had been on Disney’s radar for some time. Originally pitched towards more mature audiences, Ross was impressed and kept the proposed series in mind on the chance it could be adapted to Disney’s demographic.
The series is being produced by Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon (“The Secret of Kells,” “The Breadwinner”) and France’s Samka Productions (“Jamie’s Got Tentacles”) with post-production from Norwegian VFX company Storm Films. It’s this pedigree that prompted Ross to explain to Variety: “There is a substantial Viking history in Ireland and Northern France. As a co-production we can say it’s the only Viking show made by actual Vikings.”
The series will follow a group of young would-be Viking warriors in an elite Vikingskool. Ross described the alumni as being “Like freshmen in ‘Top Gun,’ but for Vikings.”
The group will embark on a series of humorous and exciting adventures in a mystical world. At the heart of the tale are three best friends: Erik, Arnie and Ilba, each with their own unique Viking strengths and weaknesses.
The series’ 26 half-hours are scheduled for broadcast at the end of 2019.
Last year’s presentation saw the announcement and first images for the new adaptation of a Disney classic, “101 Dalmatian Street.” This year Disney updated what TV audiences will see with new stills, animation and story details, which will be expanded on in a Works in Progress presentation on Thursday.
In the new adaptation, the dogs still live in Northern London, but gone are the dark, sketchy backgrounds of the classic feature, replaced with “Our take on North London with super rich backgrounds and the black and white puppies in front of it,” according to Ross.
One of the biggest challenges the team faced in this adaptation was naming all of the pups, especially under the mandate that each must start with the letter D.
“I’m trying to think about what sort of prize we could set,” said Ross, “for the first person who can tell all 101 names, get them in order and without repeating.”
From the U.S. Disney Studios, Kanter talked through three upcoming series: “The Owl House,” “The Rocketeer” and “Big City Greens.”
From “Gravity Falls” and “Duck Tales” veteran Dana Terrace, “The Owl House” is a 2D animated, horror-comedy following a teenage girl who discovers a portal to another realm where humans are not well-liked, and she must disguise herself in order to fit in at witch school.
“We loved the combination of magic and mystery in this other world,” Kanter told Variety, “But it also had a heart to it that can sometimes be missing in shows that go to other worlds of monsters and goblins. We really fell in love with the main character Luz.”
Luz partners with a witch named Eda and her diminutive side-kick, King, who was indeed once a king, and is searching for a way to restore his titles and glory. A “Next time on…” clip was screened which showed Luz and her magical friends struggling to help the novice witch learn the ways of magic. Some friends are more helpful than others. The series is in pre-production, looking to launch in 2020.
A new “Rocketeer” project had been rumored for the past two years, but confirmed in February when Disney announced that the 1930s-set comics are being reimagined for the 2-5 year-old audience for Disney Jr.
The 3D, CGI series will be set in the contemporary world and, according to Kanter, depart substantially from the original comics “But it’s a piece of IP that is very alive at Disney,” she explained, “and we imagined who could be the Rocketeer for this generation of kids.”
An early animation test was screened for the audience who got to see the series lead, six-year-old Kit Seacourt, trying out her new gear, which ended with a line that seems likely to be repeated, “Never fear, I’m the Rocketeer!”
“Big City Greens” from creators Chris and Shane Houghton, will launch later this summer. The series follows a family who make the switch from a rural, Midwestern town to the big city. It’s reflective of the creator’s own lives and will look at the struggles and surprises that a family may face when making such a drastic change of scenery.
Disney also announced that fourth seasons for Disney Jr’s “PJ Masks” and “Miraculous – Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir” are now in development. Other series for which clips screened were: “Fancy Nancy,” “Claude,” and “Paprika” and “Furiki Wheels,” the latter two are in the TV competition at this year’s Annecy Festival.