Here at Kidscreen, we spend a lot of time talking with buyers about what content they want. But it’s one thing to say you want to buy a certain type of show, and a whole other thing to go out and pick up a BIPOC-led comedy for six-year-olds that’s focused on climate change. So over the next five weeks, we’re cataloguing what the biggest broadcasters have actually acquired, commissioned, ordered and greenlit in 2021 in this new Who Bought What series.
Kicking things off is Netflix. The streamer has traditionally tried to have a little bit of everything on its platform—recognizing that a wide variety of audiences tune in each day. Its 2021 buying strategy seems to be delivering on that promise. Netflix has added an eclectic mix of content from established brands like My Little Pony and Barbie this year, as well as fresh new concepts like Industrial Brothers’ Daniel Spellbound. The platform has also acquired more film titles following a promise to launch six original animated movies each year, as well as infusing its growing kids and family slate with more celebrity cache.
February—Netflix picks up a new Sonic Prime spinoff series from WildBrain and SEGA Sonic the Hedgehog. Mattel and Nelvana give Thomas & Friends a 2D-animated makeover, which the SVOD is quick to snap up. It also adds the toyco’s new specials Barbie & Chelsea The Lost Birthday and Barbie: Big City, Big Dreams. For its part, Hasbro sells in its latest animated content for the Transformers and My Little Pony franchises; the streamer greenlights a 20-episode comedy inspired by the Transformers’ BotBots toy line, a CG-animated My Little Pony movie (pictured, produced by Entertainment One and Boulder Media), and series project My Little Pony G5. Netflix options all 23 of the Redwall fantasy books by Brian Jacques to develop into several TV shows and films; the first of these projects, an animated feature film, is already in the works and will be followed by what Netflix calls an “event series.”
March—Legende Films gets a greenlight for the first-ever 3D-animated series adaptation of Hachette’s Asterix comics that Netflix will drop in 2023.
April—The streamer acquires the first season of Genius Brands’ animated preschool series Rainbow Rangers in multiple territories.
May—Toyco MGA’s first feature film for L.O.L. Surprise gets picked up for an October debut.
July—For younger viewers, new preschool shows and specials based on Moonbug’s CoComelon and Little Baby Bum franchises get underway, including three seasons of CoComelon Lane and one season of Little Baby Bum: Music Time.
August—Silvergate delivers a new spinoff series called Octonauts: Above & Beyond, which sees the aquatic creatures explore new frontiers on dry land.
September—The streamer’s biggest story of the year is its acquisition of The Roald Dahl Story Company, including plans to create an entire Roald Dahl universe encompassing 19 projects already in development, and an animated series that—on its own—will cost US$1 billion.
November—Dwarf and San-X begin working on a new show based on popular animated character Rilakkuma; stop-motion anime series Rilakkuma’s Theme Park Adventure (eight x 15 minutes) will premiere next year. WildBrain also sold its new Strawberry Shortcake spinoff Berry in the Big City to the streamer for a 2022 premiere, as well as four upcoming CG-animated specials based on the brand.
January—Author and scholar Ibram X. Kendi’s popular children’s book Antiracist Baby is greenlit to be developed as a series of musical shorts for preschoolers by Kendi, with Chris Nee executive producing.
February—Former First Lady Michelle Obama tries her hand at kids content with new puppet series Waffles and Mochi; the first season premieres in March, followed by a holiday special that lands on the SVOD in November. Lupita Nyong’o’s bestselling book Sulwe goes into development as an animated musical focusing on themes of self-love and colorism.
March—Amy Poehler’s Paper Kite Productions announces a new animated musical comedy film based on the evil stepsisters from Cinderella, aptly named Steps.
April—Ava Duvernay brings her fantasy prowess to Netflix with an animated series (10 x 40 minutes) based on the Wings of Fire book franchise that will be produced through her ARRAY Filmworks studio with Warner Bros. Animation.
June—Chris Nee also gets to work on an animated project called We the People, designed to teach civics to kids; produced by Laughing Wild, the Obamas’ Higher Ground and Khalabo Ink Society, the series debuts on Netflix the following month.
July—Via her Archewell Productions shingle, Meghan Markle starts developing the animated series Pearl, inspired by influential women in history.
January—On the movie front, animated musical The Witch Boy, inspired by a graphic novel series, heads into production at Vertigo Entertainment, with rock band Haim writing the score and Minkyu Lee directing. Sony Pictures Animation releases its new movie The Mitchells vs. The Machines on Netflix rather than in theaters.
February—Netflix picks up a new limited CG-animated series called Daniel Spellbound (20 x 22 minutes), created by Matt Fernandes, from Boat Rocker Studios and Industrial Brothers. Werner Film Productions and ZDF Enterprises get a 10-episode order for their live-action surfing series for teens entitled Surviving Summer.
May—Comic book publisher BOOM! Studios starts developing CG-animated series Mech Cadets, based on a proprietary comic series written by Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa. Netflix greenlights Boons and Curses, created by Jaydeep Hasrajani, who will executive produce the 2D-animated series with Jake Goldman. Action-comedy film The Monkey King is announced, with Stephen Chow executive producing, and Pelin Chou and Kendra Haaland producing. Live-action movie True Spirit is in the works at Resonate and Sunstar Entertainment; the film is based on Jessica Watson’s record-setting global sailing trip around the world in 2010—when she was just 16.
June—The streamer picks up A Tale of Dark & Grimm, a CG-animated series produced in partnership with Boat Rocker Studios, Novo Media Group and Astro-Nomical Entertainment. Atomic Cartoons focuses on an intergalactic canine crew with Dogs in Space, a new 2D-animated series created by Jeremiah Cortez. The streamer also adds animated comedy Super Giant Robot Brothers, created by Victor Maldonago and Alfredo Torres and produced in partnership with Reel FX Originals.
August—Netflix greenlights a family film about synchronized swimming called Take the Ice, directed by Charles Randolph-Wright.
October—The streamer announces a number of new preschool series that will premiere in 2022. They include: Mattel Television’s new music-driven animated series Deepa & Anoop, which stars a seven-year-old and her color-changing elephant; OddBot’s Action Pack, created by Bill Harper and animated by ICON Creative Studios; The Creature Cases, produced by Silvergate Media and animated by TeamTO; and Big Tree City from Blue Zoo Animation.
November—Studio Ghibli’s first 3D-animated film, Earwig and the Witch, launches on Netflix internationally.