A brain trust of executive producers involved with such projects as “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Amazing Race” and “Queer Eye” are behind the new Disney+ reality competition series, “The Quest.” The program, slated to launch on the streaming service starting May 11, is “Game of Thrones” meets “Survivor.”
“The Quest” is an immersive, hybrid competition series that drops eight teenagers (known in the series as Paladins) into the fictional world of Everealm where they must save a kingdom by fulfilling an ancient prophecy. They will face challenges in a fantasy world that come to life including a castle, royals, ethereal fates, all forms of mystical creatures and a sorceress intent on destruction and power.
Elise Doganieri, who created “The Amazing Race” with her husband and fellow “Quest” executive producer Bertram van Munster, is one of the members of the team behind the series. She points out that the settings and creatures are not just a backdrop for the challenges but the competitors will have to interact with those who populate Everealm if they hope to have a chance of winning.
Being part of a show that features actors in costumes to special effects to the creation of moments of magic is a big change for Doganieri. “The Amazing Race” unfolds in real locations around the globe filled with local residents.
Going from the stark reality of “The Amazing Race” to the fantasy world of “The Quest” was a challenge that Doganieri happily accepted.
“I want to be part of something new and groundbreaking. That’s how ‘Amazing Race’ was in 2000 when that show first came on,” Doganieri says. “That was groundbreaking because it had never been done before. People thought it couldn’t be done.
“For me, doing ‘The Quest’ is fresh and new all over again. I love the challenge of how these scripted characters engage with the reality contestants and make them feel like part of the storyline.”
Technically, “The Quest” is really a continuation of the fantasy competition show ABC aired for one season in 2014. Both productions are set in Everealm but the stories are completely different.
The biggest difference between the first and new version “Quest” is that the new production features competitors who are all teenagers. This makes it a good fit for the programming aimed at younger viewers on Disney+.
Doganieri points out that many or those involved with the series – including herself – have teenage children. She is convinced that has given everyone an idea of “how those wild minds work.”
She adds, “We were prepared for that and wanted to make this a very immersive experience. We wanted them to be open to this world of fantasy and this epic adventure. These kids really love this world.”
The one thing Doganieri saw with each step of the competition was the excitement in the faces of the contestants. She never saw the kind of jaded moments that would have come with older contestants.
Doganieri adds, “What makes ‘The Quest’ so unique is that it’s a true hybrid of scripted and reality. It’s a groundbreaking new genre where we place real teenagers in a reality competition and bring them into a fully realized fantasy world that is built on a scripted mythology of intrigue and adventure played out alongside actors for a completely immersive experience.”
Getting “The Quest” to the final stage was a real quest. The team started working on this “Quest” years ago and continued the process through the pandemic with strict protocols in place. Because of restrictions, all of the casting – that includes contestants from New York to California – was done virtually. That meant personalities were a big part of the selection process.
Doganieri is certain all her years of working on “Amazing Race” have given a strong instinct to pick the competitors. She hasn’t developed the same prowess when it comes to predicting who will win.
“I’m always off,” Doganieri says. “The only thing I can predict is that we have tested something and we know that challenge is going to work. You just never know (with the contestants) sometimes – even on ‘The Amazing Race’ – the underdog rises to the top.
“I don’t think I have ever predicted the person so I don’t even try anymore. I just try to just enjoy what I am watching.”
The contestants would have nothing to do on “The Quest” because the story is so vital. Once the team had what they knew was an engaging story, the writers worked with the people creating the challenges and the art department to make sure there were organic tasks so there would be no disruption in the tale.
Great care was made to make sure that none of the challenges gave anyone an unfair advantage in terms of physical abilities or puzzle solving skills. One of the big lessons Doganieri brought to “The Quest” from all of her years on “The Amazing Race” is that fairness is the most important part of the competition.