Musician and author Andrew Peterson leads DreamWorks alums and Angel Studios to produce ‘The Wingfeather Saga’ as an animated action-adventure TV series.
This week, fantasy quadrilogy “The Wingfeather Saga” became an overnight success following 15 years of world-building by the author and a decade of engagement from its devoted fans.
On Wednesday, in the final minutes of a three-hour livestream, Andrew Peterson — series producer and author of the four-book series — and former DreamWorks filmmaker Chris Wall watched as online investment hit $5 million to fully fund season one of their animated action-adventure television series. “We are going to work hard to make this as awesome as we can,” Peterson proclaimed to supporters, as family members cheered in the background.
Hitting its ambitious goal in only 20 days, “The Wingfeather Saga” becomes the biggest-ever crowdfunded children’s entertainment project — a title held only months ago by “The Tuttle Twins,” another series distributed by Angel Studios. The Utah-based, family-values-focused studio recently pioneered innovative marketing and distribution strategies that upend Hollywood business models. Angel has had early success with “Dry Bar Comedy” and the gospel-inspired series “The Chosen.”
“The cool thing about Angel Studios is that, when our thousands of readers invest, they become part owners of this thing,” said Peterson in a phone interview from his Nashville home. “People aren’t just giving us money and getting some little gift in return like Kickstarter. As partners with us now, these families get to participate in success when this builds.”
For producer Wall, who worked on more than 15 “VeggieTales” short films, infusing entertainment with truths comes naturally. He laments, however, that most values-based series can’t hold the interest of younger viewers.
“Like every producer in the world, our job is to entertain,” said Wall in a phone interview. “If we create engaging stories, robust characters, eye-catching visuals, and memorable songs where appropriate, we can earn kids saying: ‘I want to watch this.’ Then we’ve really won.”
He lists “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” as examplesof the sort of serialized action-adventure series they want to create. It’s not empty talk. With 20-plus years in the animation industry, Wall is assembling a team of animators who’ve been at Disney, DreamWorks, and all the majors, some of whom will work remotely on the upcoming series. These independent producers are thinking big — which they’ve been doing for years.
Small Beginnings, Immense Dragons
Known worldwide for his Christian radio hits, including “Is He Worthy” and “Lay Me Down,” Peterson has long been eager for fantasy fiction to define the second leg of his creative career.
Fifteen years ago, when his three children were still at home, the singer-songwriter recalls being continuously on tour. “I thought, ‘I don’t want to be doing this when I’m 60. I love music, but this is going to wear me down.’ I could picture myself as a grandpa who wrote nerdy fantasy novels, but not as one touring the country doing shows.”
Indeed, when I asked how well he knows Michael W. Smith, who lives nearby in the Nashville area when not packing concert venues nationwide at age 63, Peterson laughed heartily. “I don’t know how he does it! We call him the Gandalf of Christian music.”
Peterson invested years in honing his craft at fiction writing, off-the-cuff citing theses on creative inspiration from scholars Madeleine L’Engle and G.K. Chesterton. Still, back when they barely knew each other a decade ago, producer Wall recalls when the folk artist gifted Wall a copy of his first novel. “I said, ‘Oh, you’re a fantasy writer. I’m sure it’s … great.’ I was really hesitant!”
In the saga, three siblings embark on a quest, although Wall noticed it differs from many popular myths today. “Often in a child protagonist story, you have parents who are either detached, deceased, or outright against the kid,” said Wall. “In this story, the kids actually do much better when they’re with their families. At times when they do get broken up, they struggle. They need each other’s support.” A father of six kids, Wall and his family were quickly swept up in the drama.