In December 2019, Netflix released its first feature-length animation film, Klaus. As Netflix looks to compete head-to-head with Disney, it is planning to debut "several big animated feature films" per year.
Netflix's animation studio
Netflix has spent the last few years setting up an animation studio that includes former employees of Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, and Illumination. The goal is to produce animated content for kids and adults.
- "Over the past several years, we’ve been developing an animation studio within Netflix to produce a wide array of animated content for kids, adults and families. We have amazing creators with pedigree from Disney Animation, Pixar, DreamWorks Animation and Illumination now working at Netflix on their next big projects," said Netflix.
Disney has a strong leadership position in animation through its own animation studio as well as Pixar that it acquired in 2006, and animated content is one of the pillars underpinning Disney+. However, DreamWorks and more recently Illumination (Minions, The Secret Life of Pets) have also achieved succes in the space as viewers appear to have a big appetite for animated films.
Can Netflix become a major player in animated films? If its first animated feature film Klaus is indicative, it is certainly on the right path. Klaus was watched by over 40 million households in its first 28 days, according to the company's own accounts. It recently picked up the Annie Award for best animated feature film and is also an Oscar nominee for best animated feature film alongside films such as Toy Story 4 and Missing Link.
A $17 billion content budget
Netflix will up its content spending from $15 billion in 2019 to around $17 billion in 2020, according to a forecast by BMO Capital. The budget covers everything from original TV series and films to licensed content from other studios. Netflix's budget is expected to reach $26 billion by 2028.
For comparison, Disney had an estimated content budget of $27.8 billion in 2019 if you include all of its studios, including sports, according to an estimate by Credit Suisse. Disney's budget covers everthing from theatrical to broadcast content. However, only $1 billion is earmarked for Disney+ originals in 2020.
The new kid on the block is not quite ready to reveal all of its cards yet but Netflix did reveal a few details. Later this year, Netflix will debut Over The Moon, described as an ambitious project from legendary animator Glen Keane, as well as The Willoughbys. It has also confirmed Pinocchio, which will be Guillermo del Toro's first animated feature film. It is also planning an animated feature film based in the The Witcher universe about Geralt's mentor Vesemir.
And eventually Netflix will release several big animated films per year. Disney (including Pixar) typically releases 2-4 big animated films per year.
- "Later in 2020, we’ll premiere the ambitious Over The Moon, from legendary animator Glen Keane, followed by a schedule that builds to several big animated feature films per year," said Netflix.
In the table below we have included some of the confirmed projects from Netflix's animation studio. Besides feature films, it also includes upcoming animated TV series.
Netflix - animated feature films & series
TV series based on Roald Dahl's books: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The BFG, The Twits, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, George’s Marvellous Medicine, Boy – Tales of Childhood, Going Solo, The Enormous Crocodile, The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, Henry Sugar, Billy and the Minpins, The Magic Finger, Esio Trot, Dirty Beasts og Rhyme Stew.
MAYA AND THE THREE (2021) is an animated limited series created, written, and directed by Jorge Gutierrez (The Book of Life, El Tigre). Set in a mythical Mesoamerican inspired world, a warrior princess embarks on a quest to recruit three legendary fighters to help save the world of men and gods. Silvia Olivas (Elena of Avalor) is co-writer and co-executive producer, Jeff Ranjo (Moana) is head of story, and Paul Sullivan (Book of Life) is production designer.
MY FATHER’S DRAGON (2021) is a 2D animated family feature film from director Nora Twomey (The Secret of Kells, The Breadwinner) and written by Meg LeFauve (Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur), with story by Meg LeFauve and John Morgan, who are also executive producers. Bonnie Curtis and Julie Lynn of Mockingbird Pictures are producing together with Paul Young of Cartoon Saloon (The Secret of Kells, The Breadwinner) and Tomm Moore. Based on the Newbery Honored children's novels by Ruth Stiles Gannett, My Father’s Dragon tells the story of young run-away Elmer Elevator, who searches for a captive Dragon on Wild Island and finds much more than he could ever have anticipated. Alan Moloney and Ruth Coady of Parallel Films will also serve as executive producers alongside Gerry Shirren.
KID COSMIC (2020) is an animated series in production from Craig McCracken (The Powerpuff Girls, Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends). This is a show about a young boy who dreams of becoming a hero, and when he stumbles across some cosmic stones of power his dreams appear to have come true! Unfortunately the reality of being a hero vs. the fantasy of being a hero are completely different and this challenge becomes the biggest battle he has to face. The Kid may be the good guy, but he's really bad at it!
TRASH TRUCK (2020) is an animated series in production from Max Keane (Dear Basketball). Hank is a free-range, dirt-covered 6 year old boy with a big imagination and an even bigger best pal… a giant honking, snorting trash truck. From learning to fly to going to the dentist, there is no adventure too big or too small for these two best friends. Glen Keane (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast) and Gennie Rim (Dear Basketball) serve as executive producers alongside Max Keane.
THE WILLOUGHBYS (2020) is a highly stylized CG animated feature film currently in production with BRON Animation in Vancouver from writer/director Kris Pearn (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2). When the four Willoughby children are abandoned by their selfish parents, they must learn how to adapt their old-fashioned values to the contemporary world in order to create a new and modern family. Based on the book by Newbery Award-winning author, Lois Lowry. Starring Ricky Gervais, Maya Rudolph, Will Forte, Martin Short, Alessia Cara and Jane Krakowski.
JACOB AND THE SEA BEAST (2022) is a CG animated feature film written and directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker Chris Williams (Moana, Big Hero 6, Bolt). Jacob and the Sea Beast tells the epic story of a charming seafarer who sails into uncharted waters and discovers an unlikely ally in a sea monster.
KLAUS (out now) is a 2D animated family feature film from writer/director Sergio Pablos, co-creator of Despicable Me. When a selfish young postman is assigned to a remote Scandinavian town, his unlikely friendship with a reclusive toymaker leads to the origin story of Santa Claus. This timeless story is visualised through a unique combination of classical hand drawn animation and cutting edge digital technology. The world features volumetric lighting and texturing typically seen in CG animated films. Voice actors include Jason Schwartzman, Rashida Jones, JK Simmons and Joan Cusack. Written by Pablos, Zach Lewis and Jim Mahoney, the screenplay is based on an original story by Pablos. Matthew Teevan, Gustavo Ferrada and Marisa Roman are producers, and Jinko Gotoh (The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, The Little Prince) is executive producer. Sergio Pablos’ SPA Studios is producing the film in Madrid, Spain, with Atresmedia Cine, with Toon Boom as a technological partner.
MIGHTY LITTLE BHEEM (2019) is an animated preschool series in production in India from Director Rajiv Chilaka (Chhota Bheem). Mighty Little Bheem will be the first preschool series of the popular Bheem franchise. It is a non-verbal slapstick adventure comedy in which its ultra strong, brave and intelligent hero, Mighty Little Bheem travels through his hometown on crazy adventures, often in search of ladoos (his favorite treat).
MOTOWN MAGIC (Nov. 20, 2018) is a family-friendly animated series from Josh Wakely (Beat Bugs) that brings together 52 newly recorded versions of classic Motown hits from such musicians as The Jackson 5, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and Smokey Robinson, who serves as executive music producer. The series follows Ben, a wide-eyed 8-year-old with a big heart and an amazing imagination, who uses a magic paintbrush to bring the street art in Motown to life.
OVER THE MOON (2020) is a CG musical adventure about a girl who builds a rocket ship to travel to the moon in order to prove to her father that a legendary Moon Goddess really exists. When she gets to the “other side” she unexpectedly discovers a whimsical world filled with fantastical creatures - some of whom threaten her and others who ultimately help her find her way home. Directed by Glen Keane (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast), written by Audrey Wells (Under the Tuscan Sun, George of the Jungle), produced by Gennie Rim (Dear Basketball), and executive produced by Janet Yang (Joy Luck Club). Songs written by Christopher Curtis, Marjorie Duffield, and Helen Park. Co-production with Pearl Studio.
PINOCCHIO (2021) is the animated feature film directorial debut of Academy Award winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water). Pinocchio is his lifelong passion project, which he will also write and produce as a stop motion musical. Del Toro has set his retelling of the classic tale of Pinocchio in Italy during the 1930s. Pinocchio is a production of Guillermo del Toro, The Jim Henson Company (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance), and ShadowMachine (Bojack Horseman), which will house the stop-motion animation production. Alongside del Toro, Lisa Henson, ShadowMachine’s Alex Bulkley, Corey Campodonico, and Gary Ungar of Exile Entertainment will produce. Blanca Lista will co-produce. Also alongside del Toro, Patrick McHale (Over The Garden Wall) will co-write the script, Mark Gustafson (Fantastic Mr. Fox) will co-direct, and Guy Davis will serve as co-production designer, taking inspiration from Gris Grimly’s original design for the Pinocchio character. The film’s puppets will be built by Mackinnon and Saunders (Corpse Bride).
WENDELL & WILD (2021) is an animated feature film from writer/director Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline) and writer Jordan Peele (Key & Peele, Get Out) with Monkeypaw Productions. Two demon brothers (voiced by Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele) escape the Underworld and find themselves in a town where they must evade a demon-duster teenager, Kat, who is trying to destroy them. Peele is also producing through his Monkeypaw company along with Selick and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein from the Gotham Group. Sarah Serata will co-produce. Executive producers are Win Rosenfeld for Monkeypaw, Peter Principato and Joel Zadak for Principato-Young, Lindsay Williams and Eddie Gamarra for The Gotham Group. Argentinian artist Pablo Lobato will design the characters.