DreamWorks Animation Television is currently the best in the business when it comes to bringing original animated series and adaptations of their hit movies to the small screen, hands down. Netflix has been a major partner in their success as the exclusive home to shows like DreamWorks Dragons, Voltron Legendary Defender, Trollhunters and Dinotrux to name a few. And of course, there’s the multiple Emmy award-winning series All Hail King Julien, a prequel series spun off from the Madagascar films, that arrives on the streaming platform today for its overall sixth and final season.
Executive producer and showrunner Mitch Watson has been there from the beginning of All Hail King Julien, and the fact that the show is coming to an end is a bittersweet one for him. We chatted about the final season, available today on Netflix, and what’s ahead for fans in these last 13 episodes. Watson also looked back on the run of All Hail King Julien, described how politics and the news cycle has influenced the show in surprising ways over the years, and remarked on how compromises and surprise moments in production actually made the series stronger and such a joy to work on.
Now’s as great a time as any to get caught up on the show, but if you haven’t watched All Hail King Julien, here’s what the series is all about:
Mitch Watson: It’s a tricky one, but I’ve always appreciated that Julien from the movies is a very myopic character, myopic in the sense that he sees something shiny in front of him and he gets excited and that’s really all he cares about. He’s not a mean guy, he’s not a malicious guy, he doesn’t have bad intentions, it’s just a large part of him is all id. So the way I’ve always described it to people is a show about a guy trying to figure out how to be a ruler and contain his own childish ambitions of essentially just having fun and enjoying himself, all while having this responsibility.
The other aspect of the show I usually like to talk about is that we satirize a lot of stuff. The mandate we were given from the very, very beginning was, “We want this show to reflect society in many ways. We want you guys, if you see subject matter in the news that you find interesting and you think would make a good story, go for it. We’ll pull you back if we have to.” And we ran with that idea. Even though we did 78 episodes on a fairly truncated schedule, it was never very hard to come up with storylines for it. A lot of them were simply [that] we saw something in the news we found very entertaining. We said, “Okay, how can we now look at it through the lens of this world?” The world we tried to create for Julien was like a small town … except with a bunch of lemurs and they live in the jungle.
And here’s just a teaser for what’s in store in the new season:
Watson: In the very first episode of the final season, “Julien 2.0″, it’s all about Julien wanting to make a kingdom that’s inclusive to everyone; it’s not just about his ego and what he wants, it’s what everybody wants. The whole episode was predicated upon the fact that myself and all the writers had a real problem with “trigger warnings” and all the stuff that’s going on in colleges, things like that, and we just think it’s ridiculous. So we said, “Let’s just do a whole episode on that.” So Julien tries to create this world where nobody’s feelings get hurt, where there’s no conflict whatsoever, and then we see how that completely unravels and goes awry.
We get another one which is all about the school system. My older daughter goes to public school and we deal with Common Core. A lot of it’s based on tests, not so much critical thinking, but simply, “Can you memorize things and repeat them back, so we get a good score and get more funding?” We decided to do a whole episode on this. We concocted an episode about Julien discovering that the lemur kids have been going to a charter school that has been teaching them completely wrong. They have to figure out how they can compete in an inter-school competition. Julien’s idea is, “We’ll just cheat.” We had a lot of fun with that one. It pokes fun at what we all thought was the hypocrisy of what the school system is becoming.
What is the audience breakdown like after four seasons and a seasonal spin-off?
Watson: We have a lot of adults who actually like to watch this show as much as the kids like to watch it. And that’s always the goal, because it’s not like most shows that adults might watch: There’s no swearing, there’s no sexual stuff, or anything like that. So to be able to hook in adults and kids at the same time without being able to rely on that stuff is not that easy. It’s very satisfying when we can get them interested.