Among the exciting announcements made during Annecy last week is that Netflix will develop Fernanda Frick’s Raise the Bar! into an animated series. It could become the first animated series that Netflix picks up from the country of Chile.

Fernanda Frick.

The slice-of-life/sports series, written by Frick and Glenn Lazo, follows Sam, a female high school student who works toward her dream of becoming an world-champion weightlifter. “But the odds are against her,” Frick explained at Annecy. “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.”

The pitch for the sports-themed series, geared towards kids 9-14, won the tv competition last fall at the Ventana Sur film market in Argentina.

Frick has risen quickly in the animation industry. Shortly after finishing school, she worked on Bear Story (Historia de un oso), the Oscar-winning animated short from Chile, before writing and directing her own short film, Here’s the Plan (2017), which premiered online last October as part of Cartoon Brew’s CB Fest shorts program.

During the Netflix session at Annecy, Frick explained how Raise the Bar! was discovered last year at the Pixelatl Festival in Mexico. Credit belongs to Netflix exec Aram Yacoubian, director of content, kids & family international originals, who recognized potential in the concept. Yacoubian was attracted to the show’s protagonist, who defies gender stereotypes, and other unique elements in Frick’s pitch, like the diversity of characters in the weightlifting training center, including a trans character.

Frick also discussed her motivations for creating the series, which was rooted in how frustrating it is to produce high-level work while living in Latin America, where resources and conditions aren’t as developed as more advanced animation regions. In many ways, the underdog story of Raise the Bar!, about a character rising to the top against all odds, mirrors her own experiences as an animation creator in Chile.

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