R. L. Stine created the Goosebumps books as standalone stores designed to scare the living daylights out of young people. The task that faced the team behind the creation of the new Disney+ series based on his work was turning single stories into a 10-part series.
Their efforts can be seen starting Oct. 13 on the streaming service with the launch of the new “Goosebumps.” The first five episodes will be available that day as part of Disney+’s “Hallowstream” and Hulu’s “Huluween” celebrations, with subsequent new episodes being available weekly.
Executive producer Conor Welsh explains that in this era of streaming television, it was critical that viewers be able to find more than one episode with the launch. By changing the design from single stories to a continuing series, there is more of a lure to keep watching.
“For that reason, we decided to create a series arc where the first five episodes are based on five different books built around each of our five main characters who are in the same high school but not friends,” Welsh says. “Each land in the pilot episode at a Halloween party at the haunted Biddle House.
“There they cross paths with five totems from the five different, most popular books from the series.”
The five high schoolers embark on a shadowy and twisted journey to investigate the tragic passing three decades earlier of a teen named Harold Biddle. Their sleuthing results in the unearthing of dark secrets from their parents’ past.
“Goosebumps” stars Justin Long (“Barbarian”), Rachael Harris (“Lucifer”), Zack Morris (“EastEnders”), Isa Briones (“Star Trek: Picard”), Miles McKenna (“Guilty Party”), Ana Yi Puig (“Gossip Girl”) and Will Price (“The Equalizer”).
One of the trademarks of Stine’s books is that he often creates scares through objects that don’t immediately suggest terror from earthworms to clocks. The scares are often delivered with a light comic edge.
Welsh points out that Long was the right actor for the series because he was able to handle both the comedy and the scary moments in the tale. That was extremely important in the first episode because Long’s character becomes possessed by the ghost of a 13-year-old boy. Welsh praises the way Long was able to handle the physical comedy of that moment.
“What we tried to do with most of the casting was to find actors who could fluidly traverse both genres,” Welsh says.
Equally important was finding the right place to film the series. The creative team went to Vancouver where they created the fictional town of Port Lawrence. Shetty describes the filming location as being spooky at times while also having the appearance of being an ideal place to live.
“We really liked the location of being really spooky but beautiful at the same time because we do go back and forth between tones in the show,” Shetty says.
The creative team had plenty of material to use in creating the series. “Goosebumps” is one of the bestselling book series of all time with more than 400 million books in print in 32 languages. The new television series draws on “Say Cheese and Die!,” “The Haunted Mask,” “The Cuckoo Clock of Doom,” “Go Eat Worms!” and “Night of the Living Dummy.”
With all the source material available, executive producer Pavun Shetty says Easter eggs are plentiful.
“We were lucky enough to have access to all the Goosebumps books because of R.L. Stine and Scholastic and so it was difficult picking which ones we were going to base the first episodes on,” Shetty says. “We picked the most popular ones but throughout the season you really are going to see Easter eggs and characters from all the Goosebumps books.
“While it is not anthological like the originals ‘90s series, there are some self-contained stories for the first five episodes that come together, and you are going to see things from all the books.”
Ayo Davis, president, Disney Branded Television, points out that Stine’s Goosebumps franchise is a pop culture phenomenon that holds a special place in the hearts of people of all ages. The immense popularity of the books meant the creative team had to find a way to maintain the essence of the book but be original enough to entertain those who already know the stories.
The task was made easier because the books already deliver on both scariness and comedy. All the team had to do was elevate those elements to give their series a fresh approach.
Both producers grew up reading the Stine books and have a nostalgic connection to them. They also know the Goosebumps books are finding a new young audience all the time. Shetty stresses that’s why it was important that the series appeals to both young viewers and adults.