Disney Plus has announced its first wave of local content commissions and acquisitions for streaming service Disney Plus in Australia.
The announcement includes nine Australian originals launching throughout 2022 and 2023.
There will be three scripted dramas – “The Clearing”, “The Artful Dodger” and “Last Days of the Space Age”.
In addition, Disney Plus has commissioned four documentaries “Shipwreck Hunters Australia”, “Chasing Waves”, “Fearless: The Inside Story of the AFLW” and the previously announced documentary about Australia’s national football team the Matidlas, now titled “Matildas: World at Our Feet”.
In lifestyle and factual entertainment, Disney Plus will be offering “Donna Hay Christmas” and “What’s Your Toy Story?”
“What’s Your Toy Story?” was developed with veteran TV host and producer Rove McManus, who is also behind “The Project” on Channel 10.
The series is a competition format, hosted by McManus, which will see teams of children and adults show off their creativity, innovation and storytelling as they bring their own toy stories to life.
Disney said it will boast an “epic, Pixar-inspired set and embrace everything the world loves” about the “Toy Story” movie franchise.
It was developed with Guesswork Television and Roving Enterprises.
“Donna Hay Christmas”, meanwhile, will be a four-episode series produced and hosted by local food icon Donna Hay.
It will focus on simple recipes for “a truly magical Australian Christmas”.
The series will be directed by Benjamin Jones against the backdrop of Avalon Beach on Sydney’s northern beaches.
The show is from Donna Hay Productions.
In scripted, “The Clearing” is an Event Series adapted from J.P. Pomare’s novel “In The Clearing”.
The story is inspired by the real-life Australian cult The Family and its founder Anne Hamilton-Byrne.
The eight-part psychological thriller is produced by Wooden Horse’s Jude Troy in association with Egeria.
It will feature famous faces including Teresa Palmer, Miranda Otto and Guy Pearce.
Filming will commence on “The Clearing” in Victoria in the coming months.
Disney Plus billed its other scripted offering “The Artful Dodger” as “an international premium character drama”, which will be set in 1850s Australia.
It will take on the well-known story and character of Charles Dickens’ famous prince of thieves and offer it up with a twist.
The series is set 15 years on from the events of “Oliver Twist” and will include high-octane heists, life-and-death surgeries, glittering parties and colourful streets.
It is a co-production with Sony and is produced by Beach Road Pictures and Curio Pictures. Jeffrey Walker is serving as director.
“Last Days of the Space Age” will be an eight-part dramedy series set in 1979 Western Australia as a power strike threatens to plunge the region into darkness.
It’s set against the backdrop of international cultural and political events and shifts – including the Miss Universe pageant and a US space station, Skylab, crashing just beyond the city’s suburbs.
It is produced by Princess Pictures and directed by Bharat Nalluri.
The cast includes Radha Mitchell, Jesse Spencer, Deborah Mailman and Lin-Dan Pham.
Filming will take place throughout Sydney and Perth.
In the final genre, documentaries, “Shipwreck Hunters Australia” will follow a group of highly skilled divers and underwater filmmakers across six episodes.
In each episode, the team will embark on an expedition to a remote location off the coast of Western Australia to uncover long-lost shipwreck secrets.
The series is produced by VAM Media and Terra Australis Productions in association with Barking Mad Productions.
It is directed and produced by Brendan Hutchens, with Steve Bibb as executive producer and Katherine Barrett as series producer.
“Chasing Waves” will explore the surf culture in Japan across eight episodes. It will chronicle the lives of both trendsetters and traditionalists.
The series is already in post-production, having been produced by Boardwalk Pictures with Jason Baffa as director and Christopher G. Cowen as executive producer.
“Fearless: The Inside Story of the AFL” will do what it says in the title, offering a world-first look into the AFL Women’s competition.
The six-part series will spotlight four clubs – Adelaide Crows, Collingwood, GWS Giants and Western Bulldogs – and celebrate diversity, inclusion and redefining gender norms.
It is produced by JAM TV Australia with production already underway capturing the action from the AFLW competition. Michael Venables is director, Anne-Maree Sparkman is executive producer and Beckly Taylor acts as series producer.
Finally, the previously announced Matildas documentary, now given the full title “Matildas: The World at Our Feet” will run across six episodes as the team prepares for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 on home soil and in neighbouring New Zealand.
Production is being led by Bibb (also EP of “Shipwreck Hunters Australia”) as executive producer from Barking Mad Productions, along with Cowen (also working on “Chasing Waves”) of Station 10 Media. Katie Bender Wynn is director, and Fremantle and Boardwalk Pictures are lending services on the global production.
Kylie Watson-Wheeler, senior VP and managing director of The Walt Disney Company in Australia and New Zealand, said the company is making a significant investment in Australian and New Zealand local commissions.
“The Walt Disney Company is thrilled to be bringing home-grown, premium Australian originals with familiar faces and places – not only to Aussie screens, and those across the ditch – but also to the world stage that is Disney Plus.
“Coming to Disney Plus this year and next, our first wave of local content spans scripted drama, documentaries, lifestyle and factual entertainment genres. We’re leveraging the talents of renowned actors, prominent directors, producers and writers – more than 100 in total, before counting the additional cast, crew, extras and other local jobs and activity we’ll generate across the Australian production sector,” she said.
Plus, she said, there’s even more local content on the horizon.
“Disney is undoubtedly the world’s most creative storytelling engine, and in this wave of local productions, we’ve fuelled up our creative processes in partnership with Australian production companies. Our storytelling and commissioning approach is unique and overlays local culture, mindset and humour – adding to the deep emotional connection that The Walt Disney Company is renowned for and that our audiences expect.”
“Our second wave of local and loved content is taking great shape, with many more shows in various stages of development, including fabulous original concepts coming out of New Zealand.
“The opportunities are endless, particularly in young adult, comedy and rom coms, which our audiences can’t get enough of,” she said.