Welcome to the first of a series of six articles that look at Netflix and its efforts in the competitive space of children’s programming. In this first post, Emily Horgan, an independent media analyst with a background in television for kids’ IP will assert her opinion on Julie and the Phantoms being Netflix’s biggest shot yet at having a big franchise in the kids space.
Check out the Netflix family socials and you will see that they are pretty excited about Julie and the Phantoms, and why shouldn’t they be? This series is the first showrunner to leave the Disney Channel stable. Kenny Ortega, the series director and choreographer, was the driving force behind Disney Channel’s High School Musical and Descendants. He’s working alongside David Lawrence, the composer who brought these franchises musically to life. Finally, throw in producers David Hoge and Dan Cross and you’ve got a team that has outputted a serious volume of successful children’s programming.
This series hits a variety of sweet spots for this audience. The series combines mystery and music with high school humor. The laughter track has become a frustrating feature of these shows. However, the show will include a variety of role models, and play to some 90s culture and fashion nostalgia. It is powerful music, played well and with an unforgettable moment near the end of Episode 1 that melts granite. Looking at the Netflix Futures YouTube channel you’ll see they have the Disney Channel playbook in hand here too, where all the songs are available in multiple formats, giving the audience a chance to get into the music before they’re even into the show. Given the target audience it’s a puzzler why they haven’t gone heavier on TikTok also.
The formula seems to be working though, with Julie and the Phantoms consistently cutting through in the top 10 Netflix series since it’s September 10th launch, including ranking for Australia, Canada and the US. It's not an ordinary achievement for a children show on Netflix. It may have been due to Julie e os Fantasmas, the Brazilian origin DNA that led to its broad appeal in more than 30 countries. These series deliver a larger-than-life drama in a variety of settings, which makes them a great choice for Netflix.
What’s upcoming for the series will be interesting to see. Kenny Ortega spoke about the plans for season 2, which was reinforced by the end of the last episode. He’s also spoken about a live musical experience that would blow the IP status up to franchise levels. Although he certainly has the potential to do this, it is safe to assume that any future plans are currently on hold. There’s been no word on any licensing deals seen to date either which would mean that a hardline doll or toy ambition isn’t in the offing. This would most likely lead to the series being too early, but if there is continued success, we may see an unexpected clothing deal by Primark or Walmart.