FISM News, Bethany Roberts
“The Wingfeather Saga,” a new faith-based animated series, is one of the largest crowdfunded projects in history, raising the annual limit of $5 million for its first season. The show — which debuted on Friday, Dec. 2, and has since earned high praise — is based on best-selling books of the same name and carefully approaches topics rooted in Christianity.
Written by Andrew Peterson, a Christian author/songwriter, the series follows a trio of young children on a fantastical journey that encompasses several traditionally faith-based ideas mingled with magic.
Peterson is listed as the executive producer of the animated series, made possible by Christian production company Angel Studios. The show is offered for free at angel.com and on the Angel Studios app.
The series carries the same feeling as other Christian-authored books such as “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis and “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien, two series that inspired Peterson throughout his writing process. “The Wingfeather Saga” is not an inherently Christian series, necessarily, but it reflects Peterson’s Christian background.
While J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were classical students, Peterson found the most enthralling story in his church.
“[For me] I would say that I wasn’t reading the classics, I didn’t have anything close to a classical education, but the Bible was always there,” Peterson told Mere Orthodoxy. “So Scripture was the epic that I was reading.”
The show (and books) reference “The Maker,” an all-good being that created Aerwiar, the mythical backdrop. The three children the story follows often call on the Maker for help, and receive it when needed. The story also shows the first couple being created and the free will decision to sin.
The story explains magic as something that is a mystery of sorts, instead of the typical witchcraft seen in children’s novels. Peterson has the mom, Nia, explain how something may seem “magical,” but in reality, it is something people cannot fully understand and explain it away as magic. The series does not include any spells, potions, or witchcraft disguised as “good” magic.
Peterson, in anticipation of parental skepticism, made sure to write a note to the parents of children who may read the book.
“I wanted to let you know, in case you’re wary of these books, I’m not one of those writers churning out stories for money, or to push a political agenda, and I’m not writing fantasy just because I have a thing for swords and dragons, and I don’t want to corrupt your kids with shady philosophy or trick them into practicing witchcraft,” Peterson writes. “I don’t want to expose them to words or situations I wouldn’t want my own children exposed to.”
The series portrays many good tropes while still showing darkness in the world. A healthy family life full of love and loyalty is one of the core themes of the show —rarely seen on television now. The parents are involved and deeply care for the kids and actively listen to them.
“So, in this story, I wanted to make the parents actual parents, who actually loved and liked their kids. And would listen to them if they needed to tell them something,” Peterson also told Mere Orthodoxy. “So, it was tricky, but part of the goal was to make it clear that this family works best when they’re together.”
The three siblings in the story, Leeli, Janner, and Kalmer, conquer jealousy and resentment to keep their close bond. The oldest sibling is faced with self-preservation or saving his siblings more than once. He learns to not be selfish and take care of his family.
The redemption arc is also seen throughout the story, from the children to the ultimate “bad guy.” Though the bad guy (spoiler alert) does not become good, he finds his humanity in the end. The Wingfeathers reflect many principles of God’s Word in their decisions and actions.
The show offers great storytelling true to the books as well as a star-studded cast. Big-name actors and voice actors such as Jodi Benson (voice of Ariel in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”), Henry Ian Cusick (“The 100” and “Lost”), and Kevin McNally (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) are a few of the voices you may recognize in the show.
“Once I found out who the team was and that they’re a faith-based organization and a company based on these beautiful stories, I was so excited when I got cast. It’s been really lovely and a really fun experience,” Benson said.
The series showrunner, Chris Wall, brings the experience to the team. Known for his works “Veggie Tales” and “The Slugs & Bugs Show,” he brings the Christian perspective to life. He told Christian Headlines the saga includes “solid messages about identity, family, and purpose.”
The show is set for seven seasons, done in a chapter-by-chapter style. Angel Studios raised $5 million in just 20 days, which allowed production to begin. The show is still accepting funds for the coming seasons.