The Owl House is the latest experimental kids animated series coming to the Disney Channel, with creator Dana Terrace taking inspiration from her previous show, Gravity Falls—only, in this case, replacing Americana horror with good old-fashioned medieval mysticism and magic. But is it something that will also resonate with kids?
We chatted with Terrace and The Owl House star Alex Hirsch, who also created Gravity Falls, earlier this year at New York Comic Con to get their thoughts on how they approach all-ages horror. Terrace also talked about how religious iconography from the medieval and Renaissance periods inspired her series, even giving us a peek at one of her tattoos inspired by one of the most prominent moralist painters of the 15th century.
The Owl House debuts on Disney Channel January 10, and it’s already been renewed for a second season. You can watch our video interview above; we’ve also provided a transcript below.
Dana Terrace, show creator: One thing I learned from working on shows like Gravity Falls and DuckTales is if you like something, just go for it.
I was brought up in a Catholic household, I was surrounded by this kind of artwork like for my entire life, this grim, tortured artwork of monsters and demons torturing the damned. I even, yeah, I even have a Hieronymus Bosch tattoo. So when I had the opportunity to make my own cartoon, I just had to fall into what influenced me the most because I would be working on this for the next God knows how many years of my life. I had to be able to work from something I loved.
I’ve always been a huge fantasy nerd. I’ve always loved, you know, Ursula [K.] Le Guin books and books about witches and the kind of spells they do, like real witches, like sprinkling salt in a circle and put a twig leaf and that’s supposed to make someone fall in love with you? That stuff is wild. So I think it was only natural for me to fall into that kind of genre.
Alex Hirsch, voice of King/Gravity Falls show creator: You know, originally stories for kids didn’t shy away from monsters, from death, from gore, from stakes, and I think that as media has grown and particularly become sort of commercialized, we’ve tried to place it in all these categories and all these genres. And companies will say, “Oh, well what is safe for kids?” And it’s actually kind of a false thing that we’ve injected into the conversation.
I think kids have very active imaginations, and they are living with demons and they are living with dinosaurs and they’re living with outer space aliens and they’re living with witches. This is real to them, and I think media that plays to fears as well as hopes, that plays to wish fulfillment as well as real villains, I think that engages audiences of all ages, and I think kids really fall in love with it. So I definitely think, you know, when I was on Gravity [Falls], I did everything I could to try to represent storytelling that didn’t talk down to kids and it’s been really exciting to be on The Owl House, which really, I feel, continues that idea.
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