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Immersed in Movies: The Return of ‘All Hail King Julien’ on Netflix

Immersed in Movies: The Return of 'All Hail King Julien' on Netflix

Netflix will offer five new episodes of All Hail King Julien from DreamWorks Animation beginning tomorrow, coinciding with five Daytime Emmy Award nominations this week: Outstanding Children’s Animated Program, Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program (Danny Jacobs), Outstanding Casting for an Animated Series or Special (Ania O’Hare), Outstanding Directing in an Animated Program (Christo Stromboliev), and Outstanding Original Song/Main Title & Promo (“Who’s Da King”). I spoke with exec producer Mitch Watson about the challenges of putting the spotlight on the wild and crazy lemur (Danny Jacobs).

Bill Desowitz: What’s been the great advantage of being on Netflix?
Mitch Watson: Scheduling. The last couple of shows have suffered because of scheduling. They get put on at a ridiculous time or they’re taken off the schedule for a special. And after a while, if that happens several times, you just skip it, which I know as a TV watcher. But with Netflix they can watch whatever they want and don’t have to worry. The other thing is, when we watch these shows here on our monitors or computers, they’re so pretty with color saturation. And my experience in broadcast TV is that they’re compressed and they lose blacks and highlights and the sound even goes down. But what comes across Netflix is virtually what we’re seeing.
BD: But now you have to build the world around Julien, Maurice, and Mort and flesh out Julien.
MW: Yes, they were used as comic relief and they were funny but we didn’t know a lot about them. And the mandate we were given was to create this world as a prequel to the movie. So the series begins right when Julien becomes king. They said we want to see a show following this guy’s trajectory going from party animal prince to actually having some true responsibility for all these people. 
They also said because we are dealing with a fictional kingdom, we want to throw in as much social satire as we can with the way people treat one another and politics, which is not something you’re normally asked to do. Usually they want you to steer away from it. In fact, I was having a conversation with someone involved with The LEGO Movie and we talking about a time when you could make more social satires, especially in live-action, but it doesn’t seem as often, but we’ve been able to do it in an animated form and people will accept it. They won’t go, “That would never happen” or “That’s weird.” So what we did was find annoying things on Facebook that we could satirize.
One of my favorite episodes that’s coming up in the next batch is when Julien decides to take on child-rearing because he desperately wants a child. And since I had just had a child and many people on staff have kids, we were all familiar with some of the insanity that goes on with child-rearing with all the books out there, we had the perfect platform to satirize this. It’s stuff like that: cultural norms.
BD: What about what’s in this batch of episodes?
MW: Of the five, the first episode, “Viva Mort,” is basically Julien realizing that he’s grown up being a prince and there are all these people out there, which he refers to as the common people whose life he knows nothing about. So he infiltrates them and in the process ends up overthrowing himself as king. He realizes that he sucks and is a terrible person.
The next one, “He Blinded Me With Science,” is where we argue science vs. mysticism or nature. I hesitate to say religion because I don’t want people to freak out, but one of the things that we’re having fun with is: Does it have to be either or?
BD: So what’s it like playing with Julien as the central character?
MW: Julien is the funniest character on the show and that makes our job all the easier. The archetypes for the show are Bilco and Arthur and, the one I like to use, Peter O’Toole from My Favorite Year. Good natured but myopic characters who tend to get excited about something to the detriment of everyone else around them.

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