Its creators, Rob Letterman and Nicholas Stoller, talk to us about the change in tone of Goosebumps 2023, but also about its potential sequel.
Launched a little before Halloween on Disney+, the series Goosebumps 2.0 ends today, with the broadcast of the 10th episode of season 1. Waiting for the rest? We tried to pull the worms out of the nose of Rob Letterman (already behind the 2005 film with Jack Black) and Nicholas Stoller (Without Sarah nothing works, Bros…), its two showrunners, but they were careful not to divulge anything. By superstition? By writing scary stories, perhaps they feared bad luck by saying too much?
The duo, however, spoke to us in detail about the multiple changes in this rereading of RL Stine’s novels, which does not really resemble the 1990s series.
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Because if Goosebumps was until now a literary series for pre-teens (hundreds of stories have appeared since the beginning of the 1990s), then entertainment intended primarily for children aged 8-10, this new version turns this concept on its head.
Goosebumps 2023 is in fact aimed at spectators over 12 years old (the series is even not recommended for under 14s in the United States). No more anthology show with a monster or a curse attacking different kids in each episode! A handful of intrigues had the right to sequels, to be divided into two parts, but this one is made up of one and the same story.
She still draws inspiration from Stine’s most memorable books (Dangerous Photos, The Haunted Mask, The Night of the Puppet…), but no longer systematically ends with a cliffhanger to change plot and actors in the next episode. Here, we find his same students throughout the story, as well as their mysterious professor, played with a certain panache by Justin Long. A great regular in horror productions (Jeepers Creepers, To Hell, Barbarian…) and American comedies (Galaxy Quest, Idiocracy…).
Why did the duo want to shake things up like this? Goosebumps ? Here are their explanations.
When Ryan Gosling starred in Goosebumps as a teenager
Premiere: So that’s it, the first season ends and…
Rob Letterman: Shh!
Don’t you want to tease the sequel?
RL: We wanted to dive deep into the mythology of Slappy. That, I can tell you!
Nicholas Stoller: Yes, that’s why we did this false ending to episode 8. With this impression that everything is fine. It was a lot of fun to play with this new way of telling a story.
So the short teaser at the end of the episode announces episodes 9 and 10, not season 2?
RL: Exactly. For the simple reason that we don’t yet know if we will be renewed. We hope to do a season 2, let’s be clear! We have plenty of ideas anyway. If we ever get the green light, we have plenty to do.
Let’s talk about the change in concept, then?
RL: Downright ! When we started working on Goosebumps, there was of course this old series, and there were the films, on which I personally worked. We immediately wanted to bring something new. When we thought of this way of telling the same story, we went for it because it allowed us to delve more into the mythology. While developing these characters more deeply, since we were going to spend a lot of time with them. We found it interesting to stay in continuity for an entire season.
NS: Which doesn’t stop us from creating twists, from ending an episode on a huge cliffhangerto make surprises…
RL: On the contrary, we liked this new way of playing with spectator expectations. While obviously taking inspiration from the novels: we took ideas, objects or monsters directly from the world of RL Stine. Halfway through writing, we noticed that it worked well to combine them like this, that these stories fit together perfectly, so we went for it.
NS: I must also say that I am personally a rather lazy spectator. Even though I love TV series, I must admit that if I have to meet new characters every half hour to completely change the story, it can quickly bore me.
LR: To answer your first question: it is also by building a bigger mythology, a solid base, that we can continue to expand our history. No, I haven’t announced season 2! But you get the idea: we love our characters, we gave them in-depth personalities, and we would like to see them again.
NS: So there is hope (laughs). We also left plenty of avenues open for a potential sequel. There would be plenty to do with other seasons.
Yes, you make lots of nods to pop culture, X Files to Marvel via Stephen King. And you slip in elements from other Stine novels here and there…
RL: It must be said that there are so many books. About 200, right? RL Stine has imagined many good starting points for interesting stories. We had a lot of fun in the first season and it’s true that we would like to continue. Quiet ! We won’t say anything more so as not to spoil the fun for the spectators.
And actors? Can we talk about the actors?
RL: Yes, I can tell you that we were lucky in finding these kids. When you choose young actors, they are almost always unknown. Only Miles (McKenna, who plays James, editor’s note) was famous in the United States. For his YouTube channel, not for his acting skills. We wanted at all costs for things to ring true between them, for them to know how to play comedy, as well as dramatic scenes, but above all for the group chemistry to work. Besides, we rewrote a lot for them. Once cast, when we saw how these five young people interacted on set, we added personality traits, jokes and emotions to them.
NS: One of the coolest things about this experience was seeing them become friends in real life, while filming.
RL: And then there were the parents, who were better known and who undoubtedly saw the opportunity to let loose.
NS: Justin Long was really the ideal casting. He came up with so many things, he never stopped surprising us. Of course, we knew that he loved horror films and that he would be comfortable in comedy, that he had some flair, but not that he would give as much of it. He was awesome!
RL: Physically speaking, he was so involved that it was scary. With this character, he had to play two personalities in one, as if his left hand were attacking his right hand. And he did it with such ease. We end up having empathy for him too, and it is thanks to the actor’s performance that this bond can be created with the spectator.
NS: I think he had a lot of fun and it shows on screen.
I have a question about Slappy…
RL: Who doesn’t spoil anything?
About his change of look. We see it in the trailers, so I would say no?
RL: I will try to answer you very carefully. There’s a good reason why Slappy has changed appearance – and voice – from his previous appearances. You will only understand it by watching the series until the end. When I did the movie with Jack Black, the appearance of the puppet had to fit with his own style of play. There, there is this same kind of idea with Chris (Geere, who lends his voice to Slappy and whom Letterman knows well from having cast him in Pokémon: Detective Pikachueditor’s note). We delved into books to create ‘OUR’ Slappy. An antagonist who is different, surprising, and at the same time close to what Stine created. We took the time to increase the tension, to flesh out the threat. Besides, remember the first book in which he appears: we barely saw him in action!
NS: It’s a bit easy to scare with a puppet, in the sense that you don’t need a scary design per se for it to be scary. These things, these ventriloquist shows, are disturbing… They give off a vibe quite gloomy with their “skin” made of wood, their eyes disproportionate for technical reasons, their real human hair…. We simply drew on the history of this type of show, which has truly existed for over 100 years.
Slappy, the evil puppet, is finally back in Goosebumps
The other big change in your series is that it is prohibited for children under 12 years old. This is a major evolution compared to the original concept of novels, through which pre-teens discover horror literature. There, you are addressing spectators who have already seen horror films.
NS: Yes, we wanted to address a more mature audience, it’s true. We therefore chose these 17-year-old characters, and we proposed quite graphic monsters and visual nightmares, which can be frightening for children under 12 years old. Nothing incredibly violent either, that said… In fact, what we said to ourselves is that the kids who grew up with the series Goosebumps of the 1990s are adults today. Maybe they have children now too? Who would they like to discover this new show with? We could afford to be a little scarier, while being more realistic, too. By plunging our characters into existential crises or difficult situations for them emotionally. I think it was also a way of being honest with ourselves, as we both have teenagers at home…
RL: Yes, for example, my teenager, who is 16 years old, is no longer necessarily very interested in the stories of 12 year olds, it must be admitted. We took this dynamic into account, it’s true.
NS: We look at the world through their eyes now. And it’s crazy what they’re witnessing, there’s so much crazy going on in the real world. It’s almost more worrying to send your child to school than to see him be possessed by a demonic force. Well, I’m exaggerating a little, but our series is there “just” to scare yourself. It’s good fear, you know?
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