ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with executive producer and showrunner Scott Kreamer about the upcoming interactive animated special Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous: Hidden Adventure, which is out November 15 on Netflix. Kreamer discussed mixing a series with interactive elements and the challenges that come with that.
“In a stand-alone interactive adventure, the campers, desperate for food, work together to find a hidden stockpile,” reads the special’s synopsis. “They must risk everything to uncover clues in search of its location, ultimately exposing previously unknown secrets of Isla Nublar.”
Tyler Treese: Dreamworks has been at the forefront of these interactive specials; –Boss Baby: Get That Baby!, Spirit Riding Free, Puss in Book — so what kind of lessons has the studio learned from these past endeavors that they were able to put in place here?
Scott Kreamer: Well, I can’t speak for the studio, but I talked to all those showrunners, and they said, “Man, this is hard, especially while you’re also producing the TV show.” So I think the smartest thing we did is we hired someone who was on the Netflix interactive team, a really smart writer [and] producer, Julius Harper. So he helped us a lot, as far as avoiding common pitfalls as far as telling a story with appropriate scope, There’s enough content in here for three episodes, which seems like a lot, but then when you start really putting together ideas … at a certain point, the whole thing becomes unwieldy. So there was a learning curve, but having Julius help us really made a huge difference.
How intensive are these specials? The voice actors are reading more lines, you’ve got to consider all these different factors, like when to branch and when not the branch. How much extra work is it all around?
So much extra work — and I’ll tell you — just making it even more difficult, it took our entire writing staff to write this while we were also writing the series finale for Camp Cretaceous. So this was tacked on to the end of our regular production schedule. So it took every one of our writers, all three of our board teams, all three of our episodic directors … it took our entire crew to pull this off, all while we were also trying to land the plane on the Camp Cretaceous series finale. Then you throw on top of that, some of the assets weren’t going to be ready until that third episode slot, so we can’t just divide it up by act. It was a real high-wire act. Thankfully, we have the team that we do, and everyone just put it out there. [I’m] really proud of the work we did.
It’s a fun, different perspective. You’re putting players in the shoes of Darius, and it was smart how the other kids suggest things and he has to be the leader and choose between these different ideas. How was it, having these choices but still staying true to the characters?
That was fun. What was fun is we really love these characters. We have this sprawling adventure tale that we’re telling back on Nublar, but also we get to spend some time with the flavor that each of these characters brings to it. Just like the show, we always approach things from character first. So while this was a little different way of telling a story, the characters still have to feel like the characters, and this being the last time we’re going to visit them at Camp Cretaceous, we wanted to do them justice.
The first time I went through the special, I went with the choices that I thought would help with survival, but then upon replay, you can go for the more out there and wilder choices, and sometimes they’re even more effective than you might think. Can you speak to the replayability of it all the branching?
Oh, I’m glad to hear that. Yeah, you want to make sure that it feels like the players/the viewers are making an impact on the story. You may not know that a choice you made in the first act is actually going to pay off [in] a little scene at the end, but we didn’t want there to be a clear-cut right and wrong answer for any of these many choice points in it. We wanted to approach it like we did any story on Camp Cretaceous where there’s more shades of gray. It’s not always entirely obvious what the right thing to do is. Putting the viewer into Darius’ shoes as he has to make these difficult decisions where, sometimes, there isn’t a clear-cut right answer … that seemed [like] that’d be a cool way to expand this immersive experience.
I like how it handles an end choice, where if it goes wrong, it’s very quick to get you back into the action and isn’t a game over — you’re right back into different choices. Can you talk about just your approach to that, especially since a lot of kids are going to be playing this.
Yeah, and again, Julius was instrumental in all this, as was the whole Netflix team. They got a whole team of people of really smart people over there too. They’ve done a bunch of these, so you want to learn from them too. It’s like anyone who’s played video games, you don’t want to make a wrong choice here and then have to go back 20 minutes and replay something that you’ve already done. So we were really trying to be mindful of the viewer experience of it, and, okay, maybe that didn’t go so well, but now you’ve got a chance, and let’s let’s see where this new path takes you.
Camp Cretaceous has been such a successful spinoff. You mentioned the finale; what has been most special about being with this iconic IP and getting to play with dinosaurs? What has resonated the most with you?
So many things. It was an amazing experience, but it’s really the fan reception. This show’s meant a lot to a lot of people, and what else can you ask for as a creator or a writer, or any kind of artist? It’s meant a lot. We took a lot of pride in it, but when we started this journey four years ago — or more than that now — you don’t know how people are going to respond. You don’t know if they’re going to instantly hate it because [of] the internet. But at the end of the day, it seems like people enjoyed it. Our whole crew is a crew full of fans, and you want to do justice to this IP that’s meant a lot to a lot of people. So all in all, I think and I hope we got the job done.
One of the writers on my staff is a huge Jurassic Park fan and he’s really enjoyed watching the series with his kids. He gets to pass along that joy and love of the IP to the younger generation, so it’s really been successful in that regard.
That’s what you hope for, you know? I’ve got kids and it’s nice when you have the ones that you can watch together and not the ones that bore into your head, and it’s like, “I just don’t want to watch this anymore.” But I think, hopefully, there’s enough for everyone in our show.
It’s interesting we’re seeing more interactive animation and it’s in this fundamental place between a video game, where you have even more control, and a traditional TV series. What do you find most exciting about adding this layer to these shows? Do you think there’s much more to be done? They can kind of blur the line between genre and medium.
Some of the best storytelling out there is in video games now. So it’s exciting. I’ve always approached this like … it’s hard being a kid and we’re trying to give kids an escape from their everyday life by watching Camp Cretaceous and imagining they were one of the camp family. So this is just the next step up. Now you get to make decisions. You get to hear what Sammy has to say, and you get to hear what Ben has to say, and now you’ve got tp decide. We’re trying to entertain kids and we’re lucky that it seems like some older folks don’t seem to mind it too much either.