The Hildafolk graphic novel series by U.K.-based cartoonist Luke Pearson is making a big leap to the small screen as a Netflix original series, to air beginning in fall 2018. The series, which is produced by Silvergate Media and Mercury Filmworks, makes its world premiere at the New York International Children’s Film Festival on February 25.
Pearson’s graphic novels take place in what Pearson describes as “a semi-fantastical, vaguely Scandinavian world that isn’t too different from ours, but is home to trolls, elves, giants and other mysterious creatures and characters.” The books star the eponymous Hilda, who has a penchant for meeting and often befriending these mythical beings. Speaking with PW, Pearson referred to Hilda as “a girl who’s grown up amongst the mountains with her single Mum and pet deerfox, who is reluctantly relocated to the city of Trolberg. The show follows her adventures and those of the friends she picks up along the way.”
In a 2016 New Yorker article, Pearson described the origins of his Hilda character, saying that she was inspired in part by a vacation his family took to Norway when he was a child, and that Hilda first came to him as a “curious image” of a child with blue hair. Other influences he has mentioned include Tove Jansson’s Moomin series and Icelandic (as well as other) folktales.
There are now five Hilda books, all published by Nobrow: Hilda and the Troll, Hilda and the Midnight Giant, Hilda and the Bird Parade, Hilda and the Black Hound, and Hilda and the Stone Forest. Pearson’s other work includes a comic for adults, Everything We Miss (Nobrow) and several short form projects. He also writes and creates storyboards for the animated TV series Adventure Time. But despite this behind-the-scenes experience with animation, having his own books being adapted to the screen is very new and exciting, Pearson said. “Just getting to see and learn how something like this comes together has been endlessly interesting in itself.”
He has worked closely with the writers on the project, drafting two scripts and providing input on all of the others. He admitted, “It’s quite strange seeing the finished episodes as they come in, as it’s visually a lot closer to my drawing style than I ever expected it to be. It’s weird being able to see your hand in things you haven’t actually drawn.”
The original Hilda stories from the books are being expanded for the show and many new adventures are in store for Pearson’s heroine. “All the stories and characters from the books are present in some form,” he said, “some parts sticking extremely close to the books, others less so.” While the show will likely draw an audience of viewers who may not be familiar with the graphic novels, he added, “I certainly hope it means more people discover the books!”