Disney+ is making a significant push into nonfiction territory. Led by its revival of “The Quest” — a fantasy reality-competition show starring teen participants — the company announced a slew of other nonfiction projects at the RealScreen Summit in New Orleans Wednesday.
ABC’s original “The Quest” series aired one season in 2014. In its original format, the show featured a scripted storyline and had contestants interact with actors, but the competitive challenges were unscripted. Like the original series, the Disney+ “Quest” show will be filmed at a castle near Vienna, Austria and mix scripted fantasy elements with unscripted competitions.
The original “Quest” series’ production team is coming back for the Disney+ revival: The upcoming series will be executive produced by Court Five’s Mark Ordesky (“The Lord of the Rings”) and Jane Fleming; Scout Productions’ David Collins, Michael Williams, Rob Eric (“Queer Eye”); and New Media Collective’s Bertram van Munster, Elise Doganieri and Mark Dziak (“The Amazing Race”).
One way that Disney+ differs from the industry’s other key streaming services is its focus on family-friendly content, such as its large library of old Disney and Pixar films. Series executive producer Bertram van Munster told Variety that the revival leans into that focus by making the contestants teenagers, who were one of the original show’s key viewership demographics. Casting is currently underway for the revival, which does not have a release date.
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“The Quest” was among several nonfiction series that Disney unveiled Wednesday. Another upcoming Disney+ competition show is “The Maze,” which will center on five teams — each team will have an adult and a teenage relative — who must solve riddles and decipher clues that guide them throughout European cities and “fairytale villages.” Like the streaming service’s “The Quest” revival, “The Maze” is being executive produced by van Munster, Doganieri and Dziak.
Outside competition shows, Disney also announced “Meet the Chimps” from National Geographic and an untitled Pixar series during the RealScreen Summit. “Meet the Chimps” will explore the 200-acre “Chimp Haven” wildlife sanctuary in Louisiana, which is home to more than 300 chimpanzees. The six-part series will examine the daily lives of the chimpanzees, from their food squabbles and alliances to their emotional states. “Meet the Chimps” is produced by Blink Films (“Meet the Penguins,” Meet the Orangutans,” and “The Creative Brain”), with Justine Kershaw and Michael Welsh serving as executive producers and Virginia Quinn as series director.
The untitled Disney+ Pixar series will document Pixar’s SparkShorts program, where a select group of young Pixar employees are tasked with creating their own animated short film. The series, executive produced by Brian McGinn, Jason Sterman and David Gelb, bills itself as an immersive look at the next generation of Pixar filmmaker.
“These projects take people on epic adventures, immerse them in fantastical worlds and shine a light on extraordinary people and creatures, which are all important benchmarks of our Disney+ nonfiction content philosophy,” Agnes Chu, Disney+’s senior vice president of content, said in a statement. “We are thrilled that we get to bring the groundbreaking ‘The Quest’ back to life, and can’t wait for people to discover ‘The Maze,’ our special subjects in ‘Meet the Chimps’ and the innovation and wonder of making Pixar’s Sparkshorts.”