The new Goosebumps is both everything 90s kids wanted and everything 2020s kids have been expecting, a very difficult balance that the cast and crew of the new adaptation somehow manage to nail. Fangirlish had a chance to sit down with Executive Producers Rob Letterman and Nicholas Stoller to discuss why this is the right moment for a Goosebumps adaptation and how they tried to balance making it accessible for casual fans.
“We felt that we could tell a new version of it by telling a serialized story in a TV show, which hadn’t really been done before with these stories,” Stoller said, adding that they felt that would be breaking new ground. “And also, by setting it currently, contemporary time, not trying to do a 90s thing, but set it now with our tone, which is both funny and kind of matches the tone of the original books.”
“Both of us have teenagers,” Letterman added, “and just kind of seeing what they’re going through now, growing up in this time, just having something out there that is a fun show and a fun spectacle and has all the horror and the comedy, but really has an authentic voice to teenagers is really unique.” But that’s not all, for him, it was “a great opportunity as well, to be able to tell stories that are reflective of not the supernatural stuff, but just the high school stuff of what my teenagers are going through, I think was inspiring to write towards.”
OG Goosebumps fans are, of course, R.L. Stine fans, and everyone’s got a favorite Goosebumps book – and that, of course, includes the people behind the show. Since we are cruel, cruel people, we asked them to pick their favorites, and they rose to the challenge. Letterman, for one, told us that the answer wasn’t even that hard, because “in a weird way, we ended up with our top threes already in the show. So, but, you know, I think for me, just outside of our series, Night of the Living Dummy is always sort of a standout. Go Eat Worms! Say Cheese and Die! Those are, I guess, the top three for me in terms that aren’t in the show. But I did read to my kids and thought it was amazing. Welcome to Dead House, which is actually the first Goosebumps book that R.L. Stine wrote.”
Stoller, meanwhile, also has a clear answer. “I mean, I really like The Haunted Mask. There’s something really primal about that story. It’s the kind of story that’s been told in many different iterations, and I just really like it. And it’s, I don’t know, it’s very relatable and it was very fun to adapt that one. And it’s also very spooky.”
This is also something that can be said about the show in general – and one thing Stoller shared Disney was very much on board with from the beginning, to their surprise. “I mean, we kept double-checking with them. They were great about that and pushing us to make it, you know, not more scary, but more mature and keep elevating the material and keep trying to lean into the drama of the characters. And I think as a result of making that better and more realistic, it just amplifies the scares anyway. Once the characters are believable and you care about them, when you put them in a situation, you get worried for them.”
“I remember early on,” Letterman added, “we suddenly were like, oh, this isn’t scary enough, and we needed to add. But I think what I remember discovering is the reason it wasn’t scary enough is there wasn’t enough story. So, it all kind of fits together. When it’s not scary enough, that means there’s not enough story. And when it’s too scary, that was more by degrees, like how gory do we want to get? And that was actually one of the few conversations that was more visual effects oriented than like about the story.”
“You know, like how detailed do we want this to be? And we always wanted this to be legitimately scary, but I have a six-year-old, and a 10, six-year old’s not going to watch this, but I have a 10-year-old, I want the 10-year-old to be able to watch this without coming and waking me up in the middle of the night. So that was the barometer that I used, will my 10-year-old wake me up?”
We’ve watched the new Goosebumps and we’re still not too sure we believe in this barometer – either this or these kids are way braver than we are, but one thing is for sure, if you love things that go bump in the night, this show is just the thing for you.
The first five episodes of Goosebumps are now available to stream on Disney+. New episodes are set to stream weekly on Fridays.