Vampirina is about a little girl who’s just relocated from Transylvania to Pennsylvania, and just so happens to be a vampire. She wants to fit in but will her new community accept her and her family’s strange ways?
Brand new, it is airing on Disney Junior, with each episode split into two 11-minute stories and featuring original songs. Vampirina also boasts major stars – with voices provided by the likes of James Van Der Beek, Lauren Graham and Wanda Sykes, just to name a few.
We sat down with the creators of Disney Junior’s brand-new show Vampirina from their Dublin-based animation studio Brown Bag Films to talk about what makes it so unique.
It’s Twilight for pre-schoolers
With the Twilight phenomenon and shows like Midnight Texas and True Blood, it is fair to say that vampires are a mainstay in pop culture. But vampires for young kids? That’s the challenge the makers of Vampirina were set, co-executive producer Norton Virgien told us.
“Twilight for pre-schoolers? I love that. What happens when you combine vampires with cuteness? We made the big eyes, skippy step, a cute little dog that turns into a werewolf,” Norton said.
It’s fun, not scary
Another challenge was to take the vampire appeal to the age 3-7 market, so it couldn't be too scary. Vampirina director Nicky Phelan said he was able to achieve this by making vampires fun and spooky as opposed to the blood-sucking villains they’re typically portrayed as.
“They turn into bats. They have super sensitive hearing. They have super speed, but instead of sucking blood they eat sandwiches filled with spiders and scareberry pie!”
It has a relatable message
Vampirina just wants to make friends. In one episode she sings “What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t fit in?” when she’s faced with joining a new school filled with non-vampire humans. Norton says this is an issue everyone has to face many times in their lives and he hopes Vampirina will help kids with their self-confidence.
“Whether you’re in a new school, new neighbourhood, new job – all through our lives things change and you have to have the confidence to project yourself into the new world and embrace and this is what the show is about," said Virgien.
"It would be a funny world if we all stayed at home! There are a lot of people that need encouragement to let their talent show and be themselves. Be comfortable in who you are - that’s what Vampirina is really all about!” he added.
It has Broadway-inspired music
“I can’t think of any other pre-school kids show that features Broadway-style music,” Norton noted. Indeed, Vampirina has incredibly high-quality tunes which could be just at home in a full Disney movie.
And you may be surprised to learn that all of the stars also provide their own singing.
“As animators we get so much of our inspiration from the voice actors – they’re all celebrities and brilliant – and they all do their own singing as well. Many people don’t know that in addition to acting, Lauren Graham and James Van Der Beek are also talented singers.”
It's got jokes for kids and adults
Vampirina really is suitable for the whole family, thanks for a strong comedic influence. It even features award-winning American stand-up comic and actress Wanda Sykes, who voices the hilarious gargoyle Demi, a permanent resident in Vampirina’s haunted house.
And the humour isn’t just for kids, as the creators say they’ve deliberately tried to add some jokes and influences in that the parents will get too:
“We want adults to like it too. So we put in little references, like an Orange is the New Black reference. This goes straight over the kids' heads but hopefully the parents will love it. We feature a record player, of course kids won’t know what it is, but parents will and will be like 'Oh yeah, we used to have those!',” said Norton.
It could lead to a Disney movie
So could Vampirina step off the small screen and make it as a full-blown Disney movie?
“Absolutely! We kept on thinking while making this - Wow this could be in a movie, this is good enough to put on the big screen!” said VP of Production Gillian Higgins.
With big things expected for the show, we may even be seeing some Vampirina-themed events at Disney's theme parks – especially next Halloween.
“Definitely something for Vampirina will be at Disney for next Halloween. It would be great if, at the end of Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride, you see Vampirina!” Norton said.