Iginio Straffi, creator of the magical “Winx Club” TV franchise and founder of its Rainbow S.p.A production company, was a bit surprised that Netflix cancelled the live-action “Fate: The Winx Saga” after two seasons. But he also sees it as an opportunity.
“I still have to hear what Netflix has to say officially,” Straffi said in an exclusive interview with Variety after he learned from showrunner Brian Young that the series was axed. “I will be talking to Netflix to fully understand what happened.”
The “Winx Saga” cancellation means that contractually Straffi, who created the six trendy fairies that have become a global IP, can now forge ahead with a long-planned, live-action “Winx” movie budgeted at more than $100 million. It’s “probably the most important project of my entire career,” he said.
For its creator, turning “Winx” into a live-action movie franchise is a culmination of the saga’s journey.
“We started with the TV series, which had a more accessible budget and was a bit easier to finance. Netflix believed in it and I think they got a good return,” he said.
Now, after holding firm for years, during which Straffi says he had many opportunities to make a live-action “Winx” movie on a “low budget,” he thinks the time has come to make a big-budget feature film with “all the strong elements it needs.”
“These will comprise not just the characters’ relationships in school — which are what the Rainbow animation TV series revolves around — but the franchise’s more epic fantasy aspect: transformations, battles with witches, the Trix,” said Straffi, alluding to the trio of witches who act as the fairies’ main antagonists. He is now looking to make “something more similar to ‘Harry Potter’ or superhero movies,” than Rainbow’s previous “Winx” products.
“The audience I’m seeking to tap into comprises those who, just like the audience for the Netflix series, are nostalgic for the original animation series 20 years ago, and also families who want to go to the movies with children aged 10 and up,” Straffi said. “The Netflix series drew heavily on the existing characters, but also created a mood that is a bit darker.”
He added, “There will be dark shades, but the mood will be closer to the DNA of the animation series — especially the bad guys, The Trix, [whom] everybody was waiting for in the third installment of the Netflix series.”
Straffi will be traveling to L.A. next week to shop the big-budget feature film to U.S. studios, but it will be a “Winx” film, not a “Fate” film, he said.
Meanwhile, a ninth installment of the “Winx Club” animated TV series that originally bewitched teen girls around the world, is also in the works, produced by Rainbow with Italy’s RAI Ragazzi product unit, with plans for a 2024 completion date. Straffi called the new animated series “a very important reboot” that, “while maintaining the ‘Winx’ DNA, is written in a style that is more congenial to today’s youths.”
“It’s very carefully thought out. The language and the rhythm, it will be very original, with a type of storytelling that is a bit more similar to live-action,” he said.
As for why Netflix decided not to make a third season of “Fate: The Winx Saga,” Straffi said he was surprised because the second season “was a top Netflix show in top all the top territories around the world, at least before the ‘Dahmer’ phenomenon dropped.”
“We are talking about millions of viewers,” he said. “The numbers were a bit lower than the first season, but that’s also due to the competition that was different from two years ago. From what we are given to understand, there were several considerations that Netflix made. They ranged from economic ones, of course, given that the third season would have cost more than the preceding ones due to rising talent costs, and the fact that there was a drop in numbers. But I don’t really know.”
Straffi also cited the fact that Rainbow had negotiated the rights’ licensing, the choice of showrunner and produced the first season of “Fate: The Winx Saga” with the Netflix headquarters in the U.S. Due to the streamer’s own reorganization, the Netflix U.K. team was put in charge of the second season of “Fate,” which was shot in Ireland. “I think this may have made a difference. They had less of a sense of ownership toward this show,” he said.
But he pointed out that contractually he is now free to pursue his live-action “Winx” movie ambitions: “The fact that Netflix did not renew the third season gives me an advantage, because I can now make other live-action products.”
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