Jason Netter has seen the future, and it’s in the form of a pint-sized, superpowered preschooler.
After nearly 20 years of servicing hundreds of episodes of children’s content, including Mattel’s Enchantimals property, Wind Dancer Films’ Ready Jet Go! and Cheeky Little Media/Mighty Nice series Bottersnikes & Gumbles, the founder of Vancouver-based Kickstart Entertainment has landed his first Netflix original show. And StarBeam is far from ordinary.
Slated to air in 2020, the CG-animated series was created in house and follows a young girl who tackles the second grade (and various villains) using special superpowers, such as flying and shooting bubbles. “We have done and seen so much in the superhero world, from Batman to Superman, but not many show the earlier years and how they grew into these characters,” says Netter. “Many [young superhero] characters are animals, and few are young kids.”
The fact that StarBeam’s protagonist is a young girl is also meant to deliver a message to viewers. Netter has served as COO of The Bentonville Film Festival since 2015, working alongside the event’s founder Geena Davis to address the ongoing issue of female underrepresentation in television and film.
“We are a female-run studio, so it’s very top of mind for us, and we are always trying to create more programming that fulfills that mission,” says Netter, adding that he wants to create characters who are empowering from all standpoints, male and female alike. For example, StarBeam features a secondary character named Henry who has several gadgets and assists in missions (though the titular character is the only actual superhero).
In terms of creative empowerment, Netter says working with Netflix has been a liberating experience. “We have been doing service work for Netflix [projects] for awhile, and we were excited to pitch them StarBeam. They were receptive from the beginning and interested in building the brand,” says Netter. He adds that the commission is for 440 minutes of content comprised of episodes and specials, which will be co-executive produced by Loris Kramer Lunsford and Heather Puttock. Noelle Wright (Doc McStuffins, Super Monsters) serves as head writer.
“Netflix definitely gives creative freedom,” says Netter. “But they’re also supportive and willing to roll up their sleeves and dig in. And it seems like they’re looking to make a splash in the preschool space.”
To that end, StarBeam was one of seven preschool series commissioned by the SVOD in July alone. Additional Originals hitting the streamer this year and next include Atomic Cartoons’ CG-animated Hello Ninja, What-To-Doodles from 7ate9 Entertainment, live-action non-fiction series Izzy Bee’s Koala World from The Dodo and Nomadica Films, and Bunim Murray Productions’ live-action series Emily’s Wonder Lab.