Annecy: Netflix Reveals First Footage From Ricky Gervais' 'The Willoughbys'

Courtesy of Netflix
'The Willoughbys'

In a sprawling session, the streamer also unveiled images from its series in development: Malenga Mulendema's 'Mama K's Team 4,' Hitoshi Mogi's 'Dino Girl Gauko' and Elizabeth Ito's 'City of Ghosts.'

Netflix on Wednesday unveiled the first look at The Willoughbys, executive produced and narrated by Ricky Gervais, at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in Annecy, France. The family comedy, the streamer's second animated feature, is set to debut next spring.

Director Kris Pearn (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2) was on hand to debut the never-before-seen footage from the film, which is adapted from Lois Lowry's 2010 book of the same name.

The scenes showed the Willoughby children visiting a candy factory and its elderly owner. “It's Willy Wonka meets Citizen Kane meets Ronald McDonald,” said Pearn. The kids then hatch a plan to send their parents on a trip to Switzerland, which leaves them under the care of a new nanny (voiced by Maya Rudolph).

The children, nanny and factory owner begin to form bonds and create a family unit, but the kids also set out to be reunited with their parents. They harness the rainbow power from the factory and turn it into a “joy-powered zeppelin” to find their parents, who are stranded on a snowy Swiss mountaintop. The scenes are acid-colored brights, which Pearn compared to a storybook style.

“I was attracted to the absurd audacity of the humor" of the story, said Pearn, who added that it's a bit “subversive” and “weird.” After all, the twins in the film are modeled after the classic horror tale The Shining.

During its sprawling Annecy session, Netflix also unveiled images from its other series in development: Malenga Mulendema's Mama K's Team 4, Hitoshi Mogi's Dino Girl Gauko and Elizabeth Ito's City of Ghosts.

Dino Girl Gauko was enthusiastically received, with its quirky old-school graphics, which Mogi had envisioned for 10 years without having anyone to back the project's development.

Mama K's Team 4 is the streamer's first series from Africa, developed with South Africa's Triggerfish. "I was hungry for female characters who had strong personalities and their own ambitions," said Mulendema, a first-time creator. "The only time I'd ever seen that growing up was groups like the Spice Girls or TLC.” She wanted to bring more empowered girls to the small screen for African children. The series also addresses the idea of inequality on the continent as the heroes have to fight crime “on a budget,” said Mulendema.

City of Ghosts is a hybrid series, with animation layered over photos of real-life Los Angeles, which has never been done before.

Netflix also revealed a first image from Glen Keane's upcoming Over the Moon featuring the heroine Fei Fei, a co-production with Pearl Studio, which is set to be released theatrically in 2020.