Netflix continues its remarkable charge into animation production with a fresh slate of original preschool series. Of the seven newly announced projects, five are animated. They include a new installment in the How to Train Your Dragon franchise and an adaptation of P.D. Eastman’s much-loved 1961 book Go, Dog. Go!
The animated series are all cg and aimed at children aged 2-6, but there is otherwise little that unites them. They range across genres like high fantasy, superhero adventure, and educational. Some are based on existing properties, others on original concepts. To create them, Netflix is partnering with animation production companies that include Dreamworks, Vancouver’s Atomic Cartoons, and the multi-national Kickstart Entertainment. The SVOD giant describes the series as follows:
Dreamworks Dragons Rescue Riders (2019)
A cg animated comedy adventure series that opens a brand new chapter in Dreamworks Animation’s Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning How to Train Your Dragon franchise (images at top and below). The all-new series is about twins, Dak and Leyla, who — because they were raised by dragons — share a unique ability to communicate with them. The brother and sister lead a team of five young dragons that spend their days rescuing other dragons, and helping the people in their adopted town of Huttsgalor.
Executive Producers: Jack Thomas (Dragons: Race to the Edge, The Fairly OddParents) as executive producer and Brian K. Roberts (Veggietales in the House) as co-executive producer.
Director: TJ Sullivan (Barnyard, Beware the Batman)
Hello Ninja (2019)
For Wesley and his best friend Georgie, every day is an adventure. When Wesley puts his hands together, bows to his reflection and says the words “Hello, Ninja,” his surroundings instantly transform into an enchanting Ninja world. From Atomic Cartoons, a Thunderbird Company, this cg animated series is based on the picture book of the same name from author N.D. Wilson.
Executive Producer: N.D. Wilson
EP/Showrunner: Mark Palmer (Treehouse Detectives, Kim Possible)
Story Editor: Susan Kim (Wonder Pets, Handy Manny)
Director: Michael Dowding (Slugterra, Reboot)
Zoey is excited to tackle second grade, but when danger beckons, she sneaks away and — with her signature call out “It’s time to shine!” — transforms into Starbeam, the speediest, most powerful, and most enthusiastic superhero to ever sip from a juicebox. Starbeam is a cg animated series produced by Kickstart Entertainment.
Executive Producers: Jason Netter (Preacher), Loris Kramer Lunsford (Johnny Test), and Heather Puttock (Ready Jet Go!)
Head Writer: Noelle Wright (Doc McStuffins, Super Monsters)
DreamWorks Go, Dog. Go! (2020)
A cg animated series produced by Dreamworks Animation and DHX Media, based on the beloved, classic children’s book by P.D. Eastman, published by Random House Children’s Books. Every dog wants to go! Go fast, go far, go to a big dog party in a tree. The series follows young pup Tag Barker and her adventures in Pawston, a colorful community of dogs on the go.
Showrunner/Executive Producer: Adam Peltzman (Odd Squad, Wallykazam)
A team of adventurous and lovable young creatures play, grow, laugh, learn, and sing together in this cg animated series that teaches young viewers “what to do” in everyday social experiences and firsts. Created by Art Spigel and Hannah Kole, the series is produced by creative production company 7ate9 Entertainment.
Story Editor: Doug Wood (Molly of Denali, Bob the Builder)
The live-action offerings are Emily’s Wonder Lab, which introduces viewers to scientific experiments and related activities, and Izzy Bee’s Koala World, a non-fiction series about an 11-year-old who rehabilitates koalas, produced in partnership with The Dodo and Nomadica Films.
“With high-quality, age-appropriate programming for kids at every age and stage, we want to help young people find and connect with the stories and characters they love on Netflix,” said Melissa Cobb, vice president of original animation at Netflix, in a statement. “We are also here to empower parents to find the shows that are just right for their families during whatever time they feel is appropriate to enjoy entertainment.”
This slate is a statement of intent from Netflix, which has turbocharged its investment in both animation and kids’ programming in recent years. The company currently has over 151 million subscribers worldwide; in November, it revealed that 60% of those accounts watch family content monthly (as Variety reported). But as the SVOD titan approaches saturation in the U.S., its executives are looking for shows that will appeal to overseas markets. Animation, which is easily dubbed and travels well, makes for an obvious focus area.
Meanwhile, rival streaming platforms are set to launch later in the year, reducing the pool of licensable content. Disney Plus will come with a particularly rich catalog of family movies and series. To compete, Netflix is well aware that it needs to develop its own brand in this area. The quantity and sheer variety of its recent commissions prove that it has the ambition to do so.