Netflix has pulled the plug on several animated projects, including “Wings of Fire,” from executive producer Ava DuVernay; “Antiracist Baby,” a series aimed at preschoolers; and “With Kind Regards From Kindergarten,” a film tailored to youngsters.
The streaming service also scrapped “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You,” a documentary intended to serve as a companion piece to “Stamped From the Beginning, which is a hybrid documentary and scripted feature that delves into race in the United States. “Stamped From the Beginning” is still moving forward and is currently in post-production.
Sources at Netflix stress the decisions not to move forward with these projects were creative rather than cost related, meaning they would have taken place regardless of the company’s slower revenue growth. Insiders also note that animation has a longer gestation period than live-action. Given the comparatively drawn-out timeline, it’s less unusual for movies or television shows to go back into development or part ways entirely over creative decisions.
That may be the case, but the news comes as Netflix has laid off about 150 staffers (roughly 2% of its workforce), in an attempt to cut costs after a weak start to 2022. In the first quarter of this year, the company reported a net loss of 200,000 streaming customers, its first decline in a decade. Shortly after announcing a dip in subscribers last month, Netflix pink slipped approximately 25 employees in its marketing group, several of whom worked on the Tudum fan-focused content team.
Netflix announced in April 2021 that “Wings of Fire,” based on Tui T. Sutherland’s children’s books, would be adapted into an animated 10-episode series. DuVernay was set to executive produce the show, a fantasy series about dragon tribes at war in a generations-long battle over a lost treasure.
A film version of “With Kind Regards From Kindergarten,” a darker children’s book about two young friends who drift as one of them loses his imagination, had not been publicly announced before the animated title was scrapped.
“Antiracist Baby,” based on antiracist scholar Dr. Ibram X. Kendi children’s book of the same name, was imagined as a series of animated vignettes set to music for preschoolers. Kendi also wrote “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You,” which will no longer run in tandem with the adult-skewed “Stamped From the Beginning.” Those three projects were being made to examine racism for audiences of all ages.
Netflix is still investing heavily in animation, with “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous,” “Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight,” “My Dad the Bounty Hunter” and “Gabby’s Dollhouse” among the film and television shows in the works. The studio recently released “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” and plans to unveil director Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion animation version of “Pinocchio” later this year.