Following Netflix’s bad earnings call and stock freefall, the company is in full slash-and-burn mode, axing programming left and right and no one is safe, not even the Duchess of Sussex. Archewell Productions has a development deal with Netflix, through which Meghan Markle was developing an animated series aimed at children called Pearl. It was to be centered on a girl called Pearl who was “on a journey of self-discovery as tries to overcome life’s daily challenges” according to the duchess. Pearl would go on the journey by interacting with important figures in women’s history, which kind of sounds like an animated version of the Little Feminist books. I am using the past tense, though, because Pearl was one of the series cancelled during Netflix’s chopping spree.
OF COURSE we’re in for a round of “Netflix hates Meghan Markle so they cancelled her show” from the usual suspects around the media, so just brace yourself for that. But it’s important to note that Netflix actually fired their animation chief, Phil Rynda, along with a chunk of his staff, almost two weeks ago, signaling a major overhaul in that department. They have also cancelled many other animated series in the works, including an adaptation of Jeff Smith’s beloved cult comic, Bone. Under Rynda, the animus for animation was to provide something for everyone, but post-stock fall, the new direction seems to be “make more Boss Baby”, as the Boss Baby show is practically the only original animation left right now—it’s less “niches for all” and more “monoculture hits”. I’m just glad Castlevania wrapped up already, or it would be Santa Clarita Diet all over again, for sure.
Though they closed down Pearl along with the other animated series, Netflix is still working with Archewell Productions on live action stuff, including a documentary on the Invictus Games called Heart of Invictus. As much as some people will try to make this about how everyone hates Meghan Markle, it’s, well, just business as Netflix reprioritizes and reorganizes after their fiscal wakeup call. The days of rubber-stamp green lights and A-list payouts for even the most niche of pitches are over, and even their highest profile creatives won’t escape scrutiny as they reexamine their bottom line, which makes you wonder how many of their high profile, high dollar development deals will get re-upped as contracts start to expire. Pearl is just one of many casualties in the animation department, but Netflix’s overall deal with Archewell lives on, for now.
Meanwhile, it was business as usual for Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan over the weekend, as Harry participated in a polo match with Meghan there to cheer him on. I’m sure the cancellation of Pearl wasn’t great news to get, but Meghan’s been in the industry a while. She’s heard “no” before. She doesn’t look super bothered about hearing “no” now.