On Sept. 11, Netflix will premiere its first Spanish-produced original anime series “The Idhun Chronicles,” adapted from “The Resistance,” the first volumes of bestselling YA novels from writers Laura Gallego and Andrés Carrión.
Turning on a group of resistance fighters exiled from their home world where dragons and unicorns are commonplace and magic is the law of the land, the group must bounce between Earth, Idhun and a mystical DMZ called Limbhad, while avoiding dangerous assassins and attempting to overthrow a despotic necromancer.
Animation was led from the northern Spanish city of Vitoria-Gasteiz in the Basque Country by a team of professionals led by Spain’s First Lady of animation Maite Ruiz de Austri, a two-time Spanish Academy Goya Award winner for best animated feature. The team worked for nearly two and a half years bringing the books to life.
“The Idhun Chronicles” is produced by Zeppelin, a Banijay Group company which is carving a niche for itself after recently producing Movistar Plus’ first original anime series “Virtual Hero,” based on an IP from popular Madrid-based influencer Rubius.
Variety met with Ruiz de Austria and producer Pilar Blasco ahead of the series’ Sept. 10 premiere.
This is Netflix’s first anime series from Spain, but were there other countries involved?
Blasco: This has been a collaboration between studios, as is often the case here in Spain where we don’t have the large industrial facilities to animate so many major productions. The series originated in Vitoria which has long had a working relationship with companies around the world, made all the more important with the pandemic. For this production we had people working in Barcelona, Valencia, Singapore, Los Angeles, Japan, Korea and Canada.
Organizing a team in so many countries must have been a unique and I assume difficult proposition for you Maite.
Ruiz: It’s been two years and four months of hard work but rewarding work. We always had to plan things in our day around other time zones. It has been a wonderful experience, and above I appreciated the opportunity to work with so many wonderful professionals. I learned so much, and for me that was enormously satisfying.
Your story is international, your animation teams were international, and the series is premiering on one of the world’s farthest-reaching streaming platforms. Did that influence your creative decisions? Were you thinking about a global audience when working on this series?
Ruiz: When I first read “The Idhun Chronicles” years ago, I fell in love with it. On the series I was lucky to work with Laura Gallego, which as a fan was like a dream come true. That’s a long way of saying that first and foremost, we made this for the fans of “Idhun.”
However, although the books are a huge phenomenon in Spain and several other countries, there are even more people who will be exposed to the story for the first time through the series. So we always had those new fans in mind. This is an honest story with very human characters that we believe anyone, anywhere can enjoy.
Blasco: And just to add to what Maite is saying, this is a story about bravery, that couldn’t be more current. It’s all about young people fighting against totalitarianism and fighting to save the diversity of their world that is threatened by a dictatorial regime.
So fans of the books can trust the series will stick to the stories?
Ruiz: The story is absolutely true to the books. And thank goodness we did this as a series because we would have had to cut a lot if it had been a film. Having Laura Gallego writing for us really kept everything faithful. Although I will say that she added some Easter eggs to the scripts so that fans of the books will be surprised. But all the characters and all the plots that appear in the book and in the comic are also in the show.
A lot has been made of this being Netflix’s first Spanish anime production and first animated series. What did that mean on the production side? How was the experience of making a series for Netflix and did it differ from what you have done in the past?
Blasco: Netflix has a wonderful catalog of anime production, and I believe it’s the only global platform right now that clearly bets on anime, which is a rising genre in all countries, certainly Europe and Spanish-speaking countries. And the experience of working with Netflix as a partner has been wonderful. They’re respectful of how we do things and always available for discussion. From the beginning, they were so open when we proposed an anime adaptation of this IP. John Derderian gambled on us, but from minute one was 100% on board from Tokyo. We owe a great deal to him, to Takeo Takahasi, our Netflix production director in Japan, and to Arturo Díaz and Diego Avalos, our Netflix producers in Spain.
Ruiz: From my point of view, it was all very organic and just felt natural. It never felt like Big Brother looking over us all day, but rather that all of us were one team, helping, sharing opinions and all trying to make the best product.