Preschool series Mighty Little Bheem isn’t taking baby steps as it makes its way to international audiences. Netflix has renewed the comedy-adventure show, its first kids original from India, for a third season (15 x six minutes) on the heels of its second season launch (28 x six mins), which bows today. The show’s creator, and CEO of Indian prodco Green Gold Animation, Rajiv Chilaka breaks down how the studio made a series about India, which could appeal to a broad global audience and captured Netflix’s attention.
A spin-off of the popular Indian series Chhotta Bheem, which premiered on WarnerMedia’s Pogo in 2008 and ran for more than 200 episodes, Mighty Little Bheem follows the titular character in a non-dialogue series. The aged-down show follows the super-strong baby Bheem as he adventures around his village in India.
Despite the success of Chhotta Bheem with six- to 11-year-olds in India, Green Gold Animation tried for years to get a foothold with a global audience, says Chilaka. It wasn’t until 2016 when Netflix began to seek out shows from the country and grow its global presence that the studio got a meeting with the SVOD giant.
“I pitched them the idea of aging down the nine-year-old character, and we landed on the idea of making the show non-dialogue, to give it more global appeal,” says Chilaka. “They asked to know how episodes would play out and to see animatics and roughly a year later we had the series figured out.”
To capture the feel of India in Mighty Little Bheem the characters needed to look and dress as they would in a small Indian village, and that the village itself needed to reflect the reality of what the country looks like. This approach lets viewers learn about India, its people and its culture, says Chilaka.
“I knew the quality of the show had to be top-notch, and we originally reached out to American and European writers. But we found they weren’t telling stories about India,”says Chilaka. “We decided to write the show in-house so we didn’t lose that [authenticity]. We turned it into a storyboard-driven show where our storyboard artists have the freedom to express themselves, which ultimately made the show better.”
The first season launched April 12, and while Netflix doesn’t release viewership numbers, Chilaka is encouraged by the high number of views the show has got on YouTube. Some high-performing videos released in April include “Bheem with a Beat,” which has more than 24 million views, and “Adventure for a Flower,” with 9.1 million views.
Season three will be in development for at least another six months, says Chilaka, and the studio is also working on a few specials focusing on Indian festivals and monuments.
Down the line, he even sees the potential for a film. It would be a real challenge to create a film that didn’t have any dialogue, Chilaka says, but after the studio learns what viewers think of the new season, he thinks it could be the next big step for the mighty little baby.