1 of 5 | A new series based on R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” books premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Hulu/Disney+
NEW YORK, Oct. 13 (UPI) — Executive producers Pavun Shetty and Conor Welsh say they want their new Hulu/Disney+ series, Goosebumps, to stay true to the spirit of R.L. Stine’s children’s horror books, while also imbuing the tales with a 2023 sensibility.
Premiering Friday, the 10-part supernatural series follows a group of five high school students from different friend groups who reluctantly team up to investigate the mysterious death three decades earlier of a teen named Harold Biddle.
The adventure pits them against various mystical creatures and forces them to face some unexpected truths about the adults in their lives.
The cast includes Justin Long, Rachael Harris, Zack Morris, Isa Briones, Miles McKenna, Ana Yi Puig and Will Price.
“Conor and I both grew up on the Goosebumps books,” Shetty told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.
“We look back on them with a sense of nostalgia, while these kids are getting scared for the first time,” Shetty said. “We wanted to harness all of those feelings and put them into a show that really, genuinely appeals to both kids and adults equally. That was our main goal in revitalizing the franchise.”
Welsh’s daughter is currently working through the series, which includes dozens of books, and he kept her and her reactions to the stories in mind while he was helming the TV adaptation.
“We wanted to create a show that she could watch by herself, that we could watch together and that, similar to the books, is a little bit scarier and a little bit funnier than you might have guessed and something that feels like a youngster maybe shouldn’t be watching it, even though it is appropriate,” Welsh said.
Although the series is a thriller first, it also deals with a lot of issues teens might be facing in real life such as identity, insecurity, crushes and the pressure to succeed.
“A lot of the comedy comes from being an awkward teenager,” Shetty said.
“When we were developing the show, Freaks & Geeks was one of our [inspirations] for it. Obviously, we added a lot of frightening elements.”
The show also explores what the kids’ parents and teachers are dealing with.
“A lot of times those things are awkward and messy and we just wanted to make them feel super-real to anyone who’s watching this,” Shetty said.
Welsh added: “All of the hauntings and horrors are grounded in those very relatable, very real teenage and adult issues and then sort of elevated by the monsters and curses and mysterious happenings to make it feel bigger and more cinematic.”
Season 1 of the show tracks the same group of characters through adventures based on five different Stine books — Say Cheese and Die, The Haunted Mask, The Cuckoo Clock of Doom, Night of the Living Dummy and Go Eat Worms — but the perspectives of the narrative shifts depending on who is at the center of each story.
“Rob Letterman and Nick Stoller came up with this great structure where, for the first five episodes, we’re following a different character who is dealing with an issue from one of the books. Mid-season, they realize what’s going on and decide to take matters into their own hands,” Shetty said.
The Disney-owned streaming services have access to all of Stine’s books.
“There’s a lot of them, so, hopefully, we’ll have multiple seasons of this. So, you’ll get to see elements from all of them,” Shetty said. “There are Easter eggs and elements for Goosebumps fans throughout the entire season.”
When it came time to cast the series, the producers looked for actors who could effortlessly traverse the material’s comedic, dramatic and horror aspects.
Key to the casting was Long, known for his work in Galaxy Quest, the Jeepers Creepers franchise, Ed, Lady of the Manor and Mom.
“His performance is emblematic of what we hope for the entire series, which is just that it’s unexpected. He really goes to places that you don’t see coming,” Shetty said.
“At the end of the pilot, he is possessed by the ghost of Harold Biddle, who tragically passed away 30 years before our story picks up, and just to watch Justin Long grapple with that, as an adult possessed by a child and the physical comedy that comes with that.”
Although the show hasn’t been renewed yet, the producers envision future seasons would continue following the same characters, even though they will eventually age out of their roles.
“We have such a great cast. I think it would be a shame to lose any of them, but this is a real world where there are real stakes,” Shetty said, implying some characters might not survive the battles they face.
“The season comes to a really satisfying conclusion,” he said. “But there are still so many stories [to tell] with our own group. They are in high school and they are just getting to know each other.”
The teens’ differences and how they deal with each other in extraordinary circumstances make for compelling TV viewing.
“The idea was to set up a cast of five characters who really wouldn’t sit at the same lunch table in the cafeteria, but through the hauntings and the connection of what’s been happening to them, they have to sort of work together,” Welsh said.
“There are love triangles and fights and best friends becoming enemies and enemies becoming best friends,” he added. “We’ve established dynamics that would be fun to watch for many, many episodes.”