Commissioner Conversation: Disney – Report

Posted on: Friday 04 July 2014 11:11am by Danny Stack


Fresh, different, distinctive ideas are always going to stand out and be appealing. Shows that are suitable to brand are vital but the eagerness to make something new and original is always there. ‘Edge’ is not necessarily a buzzword as Disney shows tend to be more emotionally grounded but there is a need to push boundaries of comedy (especially to make boys laugh!). Bottom line, they’re open for ideas!

Session Details

After Tim Patterson from Nickelodeon & Patricia Hildalgo from Turner had their individual Q&As, four Disney execs took to the stage to talk about their commissioning process. Louise Bucknole started by saying that even though Disney specialises in global content, it quite often deals with local UK productions/acquisitions such as ‘The Hive’ or ‘Zou’. Short-form content is sometimes developed in-house, such as ‘Furry Friends’. One of their new shows, ‘Wildlife Jack’, came about after CMC last year, and that also had a Kickstarter (crowd funding) campaign, so projects can develop and get commissioned regardless of UK setting, subject or theme. A show like ‘Goalmouth’ now in its 4th series, was developed in-house but some elements are now made by independent producers (also, ‘Goalmouth’ is the exception rather than the rule in terms of developing new shows). They’re really keen and open to different formats and genres: sitcom, drama, game shows etc.

Disney Junior

Beth Gardiner spoke about Henry Hugglemonster, which came about via Walker Books and author Niamh Sharkey. It was unlike any other character they had every seen, like a pre-school Ferris Bueller! It felt different, and it’s been commissioned for a second series. One of the new shows, ‘Nina Needs To Go’ was pitched by producer Sarah Cox, inspired by her daughter’s need to go to the toilet at inconvenient times! Different and fun, and when you add a spy grandmother to the mix, what’s not to like?!

Disney XD

Orion Ross and David Levine remarked that XD is more of a thrill ride, a roller coaster of outrageous adventure! Laughter and adrenaline the key factors, with a strong comedy emphasis. They’re focused on boys but don’t exclude girls from their target audience. They played a clip from new show ‘Boyster’ (which premieres this Saturday!). Half boy. Half oyster. YES! Orion loved it because there was nothing else like it so it matched their programming needs. They love character-driven comedies which are strongly creator-led.

David highlighted the upcoming four-part mini-series ‘Evermore’, a drama mystery set in the UK but it compliments the US/global pipeline for the channel. It’s got a US/Brit family, a creepy old manor and a whole array of secrets and mysteries. In some markets, the series will play as a movie.

Best/Worst Pitch?

All of the panel agreed that creators need to be stubborn to make the shows they want to make but Disney do also encourage and nurture young creatives who display real talent or interesting ideas. The best pitches come from conversations with the creators/producers. And the worst pitches? Don’t bring out a boombox and start singing in the middle of the pitch. Or, dressed up as the main character.

Damn, I asked them not to include my recent pitch attempts…

For full details of the speakers, check out the Session Guide here.

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Danny Stack

About the author

Danny Stack

Nelson Nutmeg Pictures, Screenwriter

Danny’s writing credits include 'Octonauts', CBBC’s 'Roy', and the new 'Thunderbirds' for CITV. He also writes/directs, and is in pre-production for a live-action children's film called Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? Danny is known for his popular blog, Scriptwriting In The UK, which inspired him to set up the Red Planet Prize (a… Read more