We talked to the executive producers about the horror-comedy TV series that's the perfect Halloween watch
The iconic Goosebumps book series has come alive on the big screen.
The best-selling horror anthology, which has haunted generations of young readers with its thrilling tales since the ‘90s, has been resurrected as a TV series on Disney+ and Hulu for the Halloween season.
The series, which draws from the R.L. Stine-authored books, follows the journey of five high school students as they embark on a “shadowy and twisted journey” to investigate a decades-long tragedy of a teen’s death. The students also uncover dark secrets from their parents’ past along the way.
While adapting the series, executive producers Conor Welch and Pavun Shetty drew from their own childhood memories as fans of the books.
“My sister was three years older than me, so she had all of the Goosebumps books on her bookshelf,” Shetty recalled. “I used to sneak in her room and steal the books and read them.”
Welch cultivated his love for the spine-chilling tales from his days circling faves in the Scholastic Book Fair catalogs in elementary school.
“I think ‘Go Eat Worms’ is the first one I can remember being viscerally scared by,” Welch said of the book. “I haven’t looked at a bowl of cereal or spaghetti the same way quite since.”
Given the popularity of the book series and previous TV series adaptations, both producers felt the pressure of producing a new TV series that would live up to the legend. To honor “what people love so much,” they brought in Stine to ensure each episode's authenticity.
“[He was] a presence that was looming the whole time,” Welch said of the author. “He read some of our drafts and watched some of our cuts, so he set the bar super high. We wanted to make sure that we delivered for him, for the fans and for people who hopefully now become fans because of this series.”
Despite being inspired by the book series, the producers still wanted to make the TV series their own.
"We wanted to take what people love so much and preserve that, but also add new elements to it,” Shetty explained of the plot. “I think the real challenge was walking the line between honoring what people really liked, but then also doing a new version of it that we thought people would like as well.”
One priority was to make the TV adaptation a family-friendly show that anyone of all ages could enjoy.
“It’s the first show I’ve worked on where my friends can watch it with their kids at the same time,” Shetty said. “Everything’s been way too adult, so it’s nice to see pictures of them watching with their family."
Both producers also wanted to preserve the element of surprise throughout the 10-episode series, which premiered on Oct. 13.
“We wanted folks who were expecting scares to get laughs and expecting laughs to get scares! And to feel like this was really an elevated take that deserves to exist, as opposed to treading on territory that had already been tread on before,” Welch said of expanding the Goosebumps universe.
The producers went through the "really tough” process of choosing which books to draw from — not only the “most popular ones,” but also books where the central story “tied directly into the central issue that each kid was having themselves.”
“We tried to line up exactly what was happening in the books with the character,” Shetty added.
However, one key difference lies in how the show’s storyline continuously unfolds across each episode as opposed to the first TV series adaptation, which is just a collection of standalone stories.
“It was important to us to elevate that and to create a series that would keep you on the edge of your seat, that would want you wondering what’s happening next,” Welch said. “Also, the ability to get a little deeper into the characters and the dynamics between them as opposed to what you could do in just one hour-long episode.”
One of the characters that viewers can look forward to encountering is Slappy the Dummy – an iconic villain of the book series that “everyone loves.” Viewers can also be on the lookout for a scene in which the character of Mr. Bratt, played by Justin Long, is possessed by the ghost of a 16-year-old boy.
“There’s one scene further along where [the character is] literally fighting himself to get this possession out of him,” Welch teased. “And so Justin Long throwing himself on the ground, slapping himself, fighting himself for literal hours, was a pretty hilarious sight.”
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The producers have been excited to hear the reaction from viewers as new episodes roll out weekly.
“We've worked on the show for so long that it's exciting that it's out there — and so far, the reaction's been pretty great,” Shetty said. “I think people really love the book series and they really love the ‘90s [TV] series, so there was a lot of cynicism going into it, but people seemed to really enjoy what we did and we're excited for them to see the rest of the season too.”
However, just one season might not be quite enough for the troves of bone-chilling horror stories the producer duo has in mind.
“There’s so many more Goosebumps books that we personally love, that fans would like to see in there,” Shetty said. “And we lucked out with such a great cast – they have such good chemistry together and there’s plenty more high school stories to tell with them. So, if we’re lucky enough to get more seasons, we have a lot to do.”
You can tune in on the thrilling horror adventure too – Goosebumps is now available on Disney+ and Hulu, with new episodes dropping weekly on Fridays.
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