“Vampirina,” inspired by Disney Publishing’s popular children’s book series “Vampirina Ballerina,” tells the story of a young vampire girl who faces the joys and trials of being the new kid in town when her family moves from Transylvania to Pennsylvania.
Vampirina is going to be a huge hit on Disney Junior when it comes out and we got to talk to the author, Anne Marie Pace, about the upcoming show.
BSCKids:Anne Marie Pace
I want to preface this interview to say that this is absolutely one of my daughter’s favorite book series and the excited squeal she had when she found out there was a show coming was just the best.
Thank you! That is so great to hear.
So tell us how you got the inspiration for the books in the Vampirina Ballerina series? Why a Ballerina?
I was playing around with opposites and thought of vampires and ballerinas, which aren’t true opposites, but they are very different. I started brainstorming the problems a vampire would have taking a ballet class (not being able to see herself in mirrors, for example), and the story developed from there.
Were you a dancer?
My mom enrolled me in a parks and rec ballet class that was taught in my elementary school gym. I only lasted one session. I have the feeling that I wasn’t a good listener. Later, I started taking Irish dancing, back in the days before Riverdance, when Irish dancing was a pretty unusual pastime for a kid in the United States. I spent quite a few St. Patrick’s Days traveling between Irish pubs with my classmates, performing for the patrons. It was tremendous fun, but very different from what Vampirina learns from Madame Sang.
How did you get approached to make a television show based on the books? How is it working with Chris Nee and the Doc McStuffins team? That is a pretty good team to have producing the show. Had you watched the Doc McStuffins show before working with them?
Everything regarding the television option and eventual deal was handled by my agent Linda Pratt and film agent Eddie Gamarra. It was a very long process—several years in fact—from the time Disney Jr. first approached us until the show was actually announced. I had to keep my lips zipped through most of it. Actually, my only communication with Chris Nee is through Twitter, and it’s very casual. I happily retweet everything she posts about Vampirina. As far as Doc McStuffins goes, I don’t know it well since my kids are teenagers and young adults, but I know enough to understand why it deserves its many accolades. I’m tremendously excited to know that Chris is at the helm of Vampirina, working with Brown Bag Films, the studio in charge of the animation.
Do you have any input on the animation or any of the voice actors? Are they what you pictured and heard in your head when you wrote the Vampirina Ballerina Series?
No, I don’t have any input into the animation or voice actors. I imagine the dad’s voice sounding a bit like Boris Karloff, or more likely Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s imitation of Boris Karloff, but alas, neither Boris nor Bobby are available for the show, for obvious reasons.
Who comes up with the stories for the series? Can you tell us a bit about one of your favorite animated scenes from the show from what you have seen so far?
LeUyen Pham and I do our thing for the book series; and Chris and her folks will do their thing for the show. So the Vampirina staff at Disney Jr. comes up with the stories for the series. Think of the books and the show inhabiting parallel universes—they have some commonalities but they will also diverge quite a lot. While LeUyen and I created Vampirina, the Disney Jr. people have the freedom to develop her however they need to for the many stories they’ll be. LeUyen and I will continue to tell our Vampirina’s story in the book series. In fact, Book 3 is coming out next spring; Vampirina is headed to the beach, and I can’t wait to see what Uyen does with the underwater scenes. As for the show, I have total confidence that I’ll be pleased with what Chris does. Chris is known as a powerhouse storyteller with a marvelous way of speaking to the heart of the preschool experience, and she and her writers will put out something wonderful for the kids.
The animated show is only the beginning of the Vampirina Ballerina movement. I am sure they are also already working on the toy line. Have you seen any of the upcoming toys yet?
Actually, I haven’t heard much about merchandise. However, you might be interested in a podcast I recently heard from Cathal Gaffney and Darragh O’Connell of Brown Bag Films, which is doing the animation for the series. The podcast is called An Irishman Abroad, and among many things, they touched on the subject of toys and other merchandise (though to be clear they were not specifically speaking about Vampirina). (http://www.brownbagfilms.com/labs/entry/an-irishman-abroad-interview-with-cathal-gaffney-and-darragh-oconnell-podca)
What resonated with me was that in their experience kids aren’t interested in television-related toys if they don’t also like the stories. So the stories come first, and then the kids want to reenact the stories they know and create their own stories, using the toys. Story reigns supreme. That warmed my writer’s heart. If there are going to be toys and other merchandise (and I don’t know that there will be) I’m quite positive Disney will do their usual excellent job of it.
How are you preparing for the amount of fame that is about to come your way once this show airs?
What I would love would be if the show gives me more chances to interact with my readers. I adore doing school visits and book festivals. I dress the parents up in tutus, which is always good for a lot of laughter from the little ones.
Can you tell us something special about Vampirina that came about during the show that you had not really planned for in the books? Do you have a background on Vampirina like her birthday and favorite things?
The show is taking a really interesting tack with the setting. In the books, Vampirina and her family live in a haunted castle. In the show, her family will have recently moved from Transylvania to Pennsylvania. I think she’ll be living in a brownstone—very urban setting. I think that’s a super-interesting premise for the show’s writers to explore. But again, that’s for the show. In the books, Vampirina still lives in her castle. And Vampirina’s favorite things are dancing, drawing, and spending time with friends.
Vampirina is a story with a great teaching moment. Will the show have those as well?
Good stories generally have take-aways, though they aren’t necessarily explicit; and since Chris Nee writes good stories, I’m guessing yes. But we’ll see together when the shows air.
Can you let our audience know where they can find you on social media?
Of course. LeUyen and I run a Vampirina Ballerina page on Facebook, which is http://www.facebook.com/VampirinaBallerina/; and I’m on Twitter at @annemariepace. My website is http://www.annemariepace.com. It’s going to be updated this summer, so feel free to check it out now and come back later to see what’s new.
What else are you working on that you could tell us about?
I’m gearing up for the release of a new book called PIGLOO, coming in October from Henry Holt. Lorna Hussey did the illustrations and they are incredibly charming and sweet. It’s really a book of my heart—I wrote the original story way back in first grade, so you could say it took me 44 years to get it right. I have the third Vampirina book coming out in April, 2017, and then two more picture books in 2018. And of course, just as Vampirina says to practice, practice, practice, I’m always writing, writing, writing!
We would like to thank Anne Marie Pace for taking the time to talk about Vampirina Ballerina and the new show Vampirina coming to Disney Junior. Make sure to check out the books if you have not already and also take a look at her new book series coming soon, who knows maybe that will become a show as well.