Artist, animator and executive producer Dana Terrace talks to TV Kids about Disney’s new animated fantasy comedy The Owl House.
The Owl House, set to debut tonight, is the brainchild of artist, animator and executive producer Dana Terrace (DuckTales), who imagined a world that looks quite different than most in the kids’ cartoon space. “I started looking back at old art history books,” she tells TV Kids, “And I rediscovered the works of Hieronymus Bosch, Remedios Varo and John Bauer, three artists who really influenced me as a young artist, and I wanted to make a cartoon that looked like that.” Terrace, alongside art director Ricky Cometa (Steven Universe) and voice actors Alex Hirsch (Gravity Falls) and Sarah-Nicole Robles (The Boss Baby: Back in Business), spearheaded a passion project that spins a world of demons, witchcraft and nightmarish hellscapes—and made it all for the Disney Channel audience. “This is probably the only show that has a giant human-faced caterpillar monster trying to eat a witch in its theme song,” Hirsch says. “This is Dana’s weird demon baby.”
The series follows Luz (Robles), a 14-year-old girl whose wild and unusual imagination lets her conjure up fantastic stories that take her to magical places—until one day she stumbles upon an actual portal to an enchanted realm. There she befriends Eda (Wendie Malick; American Housewife), a witch with a giant personality, and her tiny warrior friend King (Hirsch). “Half or more than half of Luz comes from my old roommate Luz, and at the time that I was developing the character, a lot of her personality spun out from the stories we would tell each other about how when we were in high school, we were both just gigantic dorks,” says Terrace. “And now [the real] Luz is on the show as a storyboard artist and our ‘witch consultant,’ and she gives tarot readings.” Eventually, cartoon Luz becomes Eda’s apprentice, moves into The Owl House, and together with King, they explore the magical demon-filled realm, with Luz ultimately finding an unlikely family.
Terrace prides herself on fostering an environment where everyone from the writers to the storyboard artists has a voice and full creative freedom. “Dana’s amazing in that she trusts a lot of us to do what we have to do best—and same thing with all the other artists,” says Cometa. “We trust that this is why we want to work with [them]. They’re amazing artists, and we want them to put themselves in it.” Hirsch adds, “There are a lot of really talented people putting a lot of love into it. This is not a day job for anybody; everyone wants to make something that we would love to watch.”
The Owl House is only the fourth show to be created by a woman for the Disney Channel. “How that feels for me is, I’m just here to make cartoons, I’m glad I could make cartoons for women by a lot of women on the crew and, of course, non-binary folks as well,” Terrace says. Robles nods to the fact that she gets to play a strong Latina character: “She’s funny and brave, and I dare you to find another cartoon like that.” Hirsch adds, “Also, I dare you to find another cartoon with a really cool badass older female mentor character. It’s a role we don’t see a lot. Elements of this show are such a love letter to awesome female characters in Dana’s life.”
The series also emerged as a sort of love letter to the “found family” of self-identified misfits that Terrace built in her own life. “If you don’t quite feel accepted or you feel a little bit out of place where you are, there are people out there who are like you, and you just need to find them,” she says. There’s also the message of following your dreams but still keeping your feet on the ground. Luz can never become a true witch because she’s a human but, over the course of the season, she finds her own way to become a witch and even rewrites the definition of what it means to be a witch. “I relate to that a lot in that people always told me, you’ll never be an artist, you’ll never be this, you’ll never be that, and I found my own way to be an artist,” Terrace says.
In November, Disney ordered a second season of the show ahead of tonight’s season one premiere, so there’s certainly more to come from this vibrant and unique creative team. “I think the show is worth checking out for fans of animation, fans of fantasy, fans of adventure, fans of comedy,” Hirsch says. “Come for the weird world full of strange creatures you’ve never seen before and stay for these really loveable characters.”