Disney Plus to Ramp Up Original Production in Latin America

John Hopewell
·4-min read

Disney Plus, which launches Tuesday across Latin America, will see the U.S. streaming giant dive into local production, ramping up its already muscular original production output in the region, Disney Latin American executives said at a MipCancun Online panel on Tuesday.

Concurrently, Disney Kids’ young adult and family programming looks set to add slightly edgier shows to its world-beating lineup, and National Geographic will continue to sport more contemporary shows in Latin America, the executives added.

The global streaming platform already has 70 original shows in development in Latin America — Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, its four biggest markets — Disney Plus said in a press statement on Tuesday.

That, however, may only be a beginning. Disney rests on three pillars: General entertainment, targeting adults; kids, young adults and family; and factual entertainment, said Leonardo Aranguibel, head of production operations and strategy at Walt Disney Company, Latin America, in the MipCancun keynote panel “Disney Plus: Branded and Non-Branded Content Objectives.”

For kids, young adults and families, “We need contents more than ever,” said Cecilia Mendoza, head of content development. “Disney obviously has a spectacular library, which we’re very proud to launch with. However, we will have to increase the quantity of original contents, especially local Latin American content,” she added, commenting that one reason for the ramp-up is that “people want to see content that represents their own lives and culture.”

In the past, Disney moved waves in Latin America by acquiring or producing series such as “Violetta” and “Soy Luna.” Both generated huge audiences, spin-offs, music publishing deals, merchandising and even live concerts. Their seasons ran with 80 episodes.

“The reality now is that seasons shouldn’t run to much more than 10 episodes with a ceiling of about 12, so we’ll have to be much more agile in the sense of producing more contents which are shorter, whose arcs develop quicker and with a potential for multiple seasons,” Mendonca said.

Will Disney Latin America’s young adult shows also explore more adult fare, in the line of Guillermo del Toro’s “Tales of Arcadia”?

“Totally,” said Mendonca. The global platform launch also means “expanding the target,” she added, referring to Kids, Young Adults & Family. “We call it aging up internally. Some shows can be a bit more realist, adolescents a bit more complicated, stories a bit — it’s a dangerous word — edgier. But they won’t stop being Disney. The result has to have a degree of optimism and be bright,” she concluded.

Under Sementazo, over the last three years, National Geographic has already diversified in Latin America from its classic formats into more cutting edge shows, such as “Bios” — with doc portraits of Argentine rock greats Charly García and Luis Alberto Spinetta — and “Posso Explicar,” National Geographic’s first late-night talk show in Brazil. It will continue in the same direction as part of Disney Plus, said Sementazo. “The themes are the same — technology, the environment, journeys, biographies — but we’d like to be slightly more entertaining in how we approach them, more contemporary and relevant, but with something which National Geographic can never lack: inside access — getting cameras to places they’ve never been before, having information nobody’s else has,” said Sementazo.

Continuing this line, Aranguibel is also helping National Geographic develop fact-based fiction content, he added.

National Geographic will “look for more opportunities in Latin America,” he confirmed.

Equally, with Disney Plus now a reality in Latin America, Disney’s general entertainment division, overseen by Araguibel, also looks set to ramp up production output, while maintaining series’ craft.

How will he produce? Aranguibel made a splash in Latin America, teaming with producers Somos TV and BTF Media on smash hit bioseries “Until I Met You,” distributed by Disney Media Distribution Latin America, and then producing two “true-life fiction” series, as Aranguibel describes them: “Selena’s Secret,” with BTF Media again, and “Monzón,” with Argentina’s Pampa Films.

Disney Plus will continue to look to collaborate with “Latin America’s extraordinary directors and producers,” Aranguibel said on the MipCancun panel. “We count on them for our new productions,” he said, adding that Disney has “signed deals with great creatives, technical teams and producers” in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia.

“We’ll be generating more content so we’ll have to work with more people. We’re open to working with third parties, not just producers but auteurs, always with the idea that we own the IP, but we’re open to working with talent from the whole region,” Aranguibel concluded.

What elements should be in place for a successful pitch? “A story and a good idea. Not just a good idea, but a sense of what you mean to say with the story, where its arcs will take it,” Mendonca said.

“I can only repeat what I say to young directors and screenwriters at every market,” Aranguibel added. “The most important thing about the story is that you really feel it and really believe in it. In that case, the pitch is always far more impactful and the story more authentic.”

The Disney Plus panel was moderated by Variety’s John Hopewell.

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