Netflix lets children call TV shots with interactive shows

Published on: 23rd June 2017

Children can decide which characters to interact with in Shrek spin-off Puss in Book.

Netflix is launching two interactive children’s TV shows that let audiences determine the on-screen action. The animated programmes ask youngsters to choose between two options at several points in their plots. The firm says the nature of its online streaming platform has allowed it to experiment with branching narrative tech in a way that would not be possible for traditional broadcasters, but it acknowledges that such shows are more costly to make than normal.

Doug Langdale, executive producer of the Puss in Book series, which was made in conjunction with Dreamworks Studios, commented: “It was actually a little bit more than twice as much animation as a typical episode. It was about 50 minutes [of footage] where it would normally be 22. Especially with computer animation, that’s tremendously more expensive. It’s not easy or cheap, but it’s the next thing, and we’ve got to try it.”

Netflix reported that it had about 100 million subscribers in April, and hopes children will want to watch the interactive shows many times to explore their different options. The programmes can be watched and controlled via smart TVs, games consoles and iOS devices, but cannot be downloaded and viewed offline.

In addition to the special episode of Puss in Book – subtitled Trapped in an Epic Tale – Netflix is making an interactive episode of the stop-motion series Buddy Thunderstruck available. The former has two possible endings and the latter four, but in both programmes there are several ways that viewers can steer the stories to their conclusions.

It has taken two years to bring the shows to screen, with part of the challenge being trying to ensure their plots remain logical and compelling whatever choices are made.

A third child’s show, based on the superhero Stretch Armstrong, is planned for 2018, but at present Netflix has no plans for adult-themed choice-based shows, nor has it committed itself to making further examples for children.


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