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Netflix Fires Up Growing Roster of Animation Projects

Steve Anderson

There are a surprising number of animated series on Netflix right now. From the increasingly impressive like “Disenchanted” to the how-is-this-allowed-anywhere like “Big Mouth,” there are options here for just about everybody. Netflix’s internal operation is putting together quite a bit on its own, so let’s take a closer look inside Netflix Animation and figure out where it’s going.

Much of Netflix’s animated content comes from third parties. Much of it was actually generated by Dreamworks Animation Television back when it started up around 2013. In 2018, though, it started to shift into internal development as well, bringing out a few properties like feature release “The Willoughbys” and the “Kid Cosmic” series.

A quick look at the Netflix Animation jobs page reveals some properties currently in development. One is already sufficiently well known to have its own Wikipedia page: “Wendell & Wild.” “Wendell & Wild” is described as an “…American stop-motion animated fantasy horror comedy film” with a script developed by no less than Key and Peele, among others. Keegan Michael-Key is perhaps best known for his comedic work, while Jordan Peele won an Academy Award after branching into horror with films like “Get Out” and “Us.”

However, there are two other positions on the Netflix Animation jobs page worth pointing out. One will be familiar for gamers out there: “The Cuphead Show!” “Cuphead” is an old-school side-scrolling shooter that featured gameplay sufficiently hard to leave some players struggling with the tutorial. The game followed two brothers, Cuphead and Mugman, who find themselves employed by the devil after losing at craps. The other title, “Blue Eye Samurai,” features “…a mixed-race master of the sword who lives a life in disguise while questing for revenge in Edo-period Japan.”

Several other titles have also been rumored to follow, including a “Tomb Raider” series featuring the video game character Lara Croft, voiced by “Agent Carter” star Hayley Atwell. Also on tap is the return of “Redwall,” the Brian Jacques novel series featuring animals who live approximately like humans do, to the point where some of them have formed the titular “Redwall,” an abbey of an indeterminate religious sect that’s largely monastic. Yes, you read that right: animal monks.

While Netflix Animation doesn’t have a large number of titles to its credit yet, it’s certainly working to bring some of them out. Some are pushing the envelope of traditional animation topics. “City of Ghosts,” features a non-binary seven-year-old who prefers to be addressed as “they/them.” There’s an animated series coming connected to Will Smith’s “Bright” that will feature police in a kind of urban fantasy featuring orcs and humans living together in Los Angeles. “Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas” is an anime-style prequel series to another popular Netflix live-action film.

There are also upcoming Netflix animated series dedicated to popular icons like Sonic the Hedgehog and the card game, Magic: The Gathering. Its recent “Masters of the Universe” and “She-Ra” cartoons show a willingness to lean into existing intellectual property as well.

Give Netflix Animation due credit for trying pretty much everything; they’ve got action series, they’ve got comedy, a little horror…pretty much a little something for everyone. While nothing on the slate will likely appeal to everyone, a platform like Netflix probably shouldn’t. Netflix allows shows to be separated by type or genre to present slates of options for everyone looking in that vein. Its diversity is its strength. And based on the sheer range of options in the pipeline or merely rumored about so far, Netflix should ultimately succeed at offering a little something to everyone.

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