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How Mattel is breaking toy ties with Deepa & Anoop

Signalling an openness to concepts without a toy pedigree, Deepa & Anoop is Mattel TV's first series not based on a proprietary play brand.
February 24, 2022

With upcoming CG-animated Netflix series Deepa & Anoop, Mattel Television wants the industry to know that toys and consumer products aren’t prerequisites for the type of content it produces.

Created by Munjal Shroff, Lisa Goldman and Heather Kenyon, the music-driven series is Mattel TV’s first show not tied to an existing Mattel property.

Set to premiere globally in mid-2022, Deepa & Anoop follows along as a seven-year-old girl and her color-changing elephant friend tend to guests at her family’s bed and breakfast.

Mattel TV’s SVP of global content, Christopher Keenan, and SVP and GM Fred Soulie are executive producing the 18 x half-hour series. Vancouver-based Kickstart Entertainment, which worked with Mattel on Enchantimals, is the project’s animation service partner.

To date, the toyco’s television division has only produced shows tied to Mattel IPs, such as Masters of the Universe and Barbie. But with more than 30 series in development (and 20 in production), its pipeline is home to a number of properties that Mattel TV either optioned or created, says Soulie.

“We tend to focus on our existing brands, but we also want to be known as an original storytelling studio. So we’re always on the lookout for other projects we can pitch to buyers,” says Soulie. “Because we are a toy company, some folks come in and want to get a master toy partner attached—we see a lot of projects with that angle. But other times, studios and creators just want to co-produce with us.”

Keenan first discovered Deepa & Anoop four years ago, and was drawn to its authentic characters and cute aesthetics. “It usually takes a lot of time to option a show, but with Deepa it happened very fast,” says Soulie, who joined in 2018 after the project was acquired. “At the time, we were seeing a lot of original and authentic local content being produced, so it really fit with what the marketplace was doing.”

The show was ultimately picked up by Netflix last October. The streamer was a natural fit because of its commitment to diverse content and global growth, adds Soulie.

Once in production, Mattel TV extended the project’s focus on diversity by hiring voice actors of Indian descent. “We feel it’s important to show diversity on screen and behind the scenes,” says Soulie. And among the show’s 18 original songs are several large-scale musical numbers presented in the Bollywood tradition. In terms of marketing and discoverability, it has yet to be determined if any episodes or clips of the show will premiere on YouTube prior to the show’s main platform debut, but Soulie is open to the strategy to get more people interested in Deepa & Anoop.

Later this year, Mattel TV plans to continue its original storytelling strategy by announcing more animated and live-action shows not based on Mattel IPs, though Soulie declined to share details at this time.

“People tend to view us as a toyco first, so changing that mindset comes from creating great content that can stand on its own,” he says.

About The Author
Jeremy is the Features Editor of Kidscreen specializing in the content production, broadcasting and distribution aspects of the global children's entertainment industry. Contact Jeremy at jdickson@brunico.com.

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