Puss in Boots and Buddy Thunderstruck

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PussInBook_Touchscreen


Netflix


When

Netflix
approached Dreamworks Animation to launch a “choose your own adventure” style show, “Le Chat Botté” writer-producer Doug Langdale agreed before he even finished the pitch.

“They came and started explaining the possibilities,” Langdale told Business Insider. “I don’t think they understood the word ‘interactive’ until I said ‘yes’.”

Dreamworks had already created a few seasons of “The Adventures of Puss in Boots” and Langdale welcomed the new challenge of creating multiple paths for children to explore. (Making a TV show season after season can get a little monotonous, he admitted.)

For Netflix, it was an opportunity to set its children’s content apart from the competition and highlight how Netflix can use technology to open up new forms.

Netflix’s programming for kids has quietly become a juggernaut, but competitors like HBO, Amazon and

Hulu
also fiercely attack the market. There’s a good reason: Half of Netflix subscribers watch shows for kids and families every month, according to Carla Engelbrecht Fisher, Netflix’s head of product innovation for the category.

Fisher said that Netflix launched the idea of ​​creating “branch” shows for most of her three years with the business, and that her first title, “Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale,” took off. took two years to materialize. Netflix released it on June 20 and will be releasing another one, “Buddy Thunderstruck: The Stack Maybe, ” the 14th of July.

PussInBook_BoxArt


Netflix


A simple choice

A “branched” Netflix show works much the same as an adventure book of choice. You watch a TV show unfold and eventually come to a virtual fork in the road, where you choose one of two options. Then the story continues.

Here is an example of the “Puss in Book” demo given to Business Insider. The Puss in Boots presents himself in a house populated by bears. Then the viewer is offered a choice. Either the bears are “friendly” when the puss in boots enters, or “angry”. In our demo, it was simple and intuitive. All you had to do was press one of the two onscreen buttons, either with the remote if you’re watching TV, or with your finger if you’re watching on a tablet. Then you are back on the path of history.

BuddyThunderstruck_ChoicePoint

A choice point in “Buddy Thunderstruck”

Netflix


18 minutes or 39 minutes

While navigating each story choice is easy, setting up the story is anything but simple, Langdale told Business Insider.

“It’s a bit more like writing a skit,” he said. “It’s more modular. The story has to be able to branch off and recombine, otherwise Dreamworks would create an insane amount of storylines. And it can cause big story headaches, Langdale said.

For the most part, the plot of “Puss in Boots” is Puss in Boots trying to get out of a book he’s trapped in. And the emotional arc is usually one of growing frustration, Langdale said. It’s hard to get anything more specific, as your journey through the book can take 18 minutes, 39 minutes, or something in between.

The constraints of the story also meant that when Langdale wrote down a specific problem to deal with Puss in Boots, it was sometimes difficult to know how to get him to react. In one specific instance, Langdale had to delete a returning character in the narrative, as it wasn’t clear if Puss in Boots could say “Oh, you again”. Had he seen it before? Throughout the process, Langdale said he’s the only one who really has an overall narrative structure in mind. He gave others pieces to write, which he would then put together.

By creating a story that wasn’t too bland and that wasn’t too confusing, it helped Langdale to be able to build on a previously created “Puss in Boots” universe, both in story and with GGI models (which saved resources).

Technical considerations

Regarding technical constraints, Netflix said that for buffering reasons, no “pick” can last less than two minutes, and that there must be two picks in each brand, Fisher said. (However, in the future, Netflix would like to experiment with more than two choices.)

To help kids figure out what’s going on initially, there’s also a brief explanation of how to navigate the story at the start of the narrative, which in the Puss in Boots demo has been skillfully incorporated into the storyline. Early in development, Netflix created a make-your-own prototype show by cutting out previous episodes from “The Adventures of the Puss in Boots.” While the kids immediately understood what they were supposed to do on iPad, on a TV, they continued to talk on the screen, Fisher said. So Netflix decided to guide children towards using the remote control.

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Netflix


The future

The big question is how much traction Netflix will get with these types of stories. The books of your own adventure never really developed outside the realm of children and young adults, and remain a niche. But conversely, video games have continued to build increasingly compelling storylines and approach that choice-driven cinematic experience from the other side.

Yet even though the ‘hookup’ story isn’t a huge success for Netflix, it does show that one day Netflix might want to experiment with things like virtual reality, or even augmented reality (which overlays virtual objects to the real world), because it all gives the company the chance to prove that it can bring ideas to life that its traditional television competitors cannot.


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