September 25, 2023

Watch Next Talks ‘Dungeons & Kittens’ and the Magic of Non-Linear Storytelling


Riding the rapidly growing wave of non-linear story consumption in France, Watch Next – one of France’s leading studios dedicated to the production and distribution of animated content such as Nate is Late and Hello Kitty: Super Style! – recently announced the development of its first serialized animated series, Dungeons & Kittens. The series, created by French artist Clément De Ruyter and Ladybug & Cat Noir’s Mélanie Duval, will consist of 13 x 22-minute episodes, aimed at children aged 6 and up, with the support of France Télévisions.

The trailer for Dungeons & Kittens debuts at Cartoon Forum in Toulouse on Tuesday, September 19, going global on YouTube the next day. 

As the story goes, Dungeons & Kittens follows the adventures of four (you guessed it) kittens – Fib, Precious, Suds, and Ruffles – who’ve been banished from the Kingdom of Cats. In search of a treasure that will be their ticket home, they find themselves plunged into a dark and mysterious world, where each step presents its own set of challenges. Faced with countless dangers, they will need to show cunning and bravery, but most importantly, learn to work together.

In parallel to the series’ development, De Ruyter is creating a table-top role-playing game (RPG) of the same name. Successfully funded through crowdfunding, it’s a playful extension of the Dungeons & Kittens’ fantastical universe, filled with “meowgic,” dangers, and secrets, drawing inspiration from role-playing game tropes while tailoring them to a child’s perspective.

AWN chatted with Watch Next founder Philippe Alessandri, head of development Sylvain Huchet, and De Ruyter about the origins of Dungeons & Kittens, why the project enticed the company to deviate from its usual stand-alone-episode investments, and how magical underdog cats (excuse the irony) could be the big hit France has been waiting for to launch the country’s animation industry into a new realm of storytelling. 

Victoria Davis: Clément, where did this story come from? Tell me about the origins of Dungeons & Kittens.  

Clément De Ruyter: I’ve always loved initiation stories, where characters who are far too small for their fate are pushed by fate to brave dangers. There’s undoubtedly a bit of “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit,” and “Okilélé” (a French children’s book by Claude Ponti) that have been constant sources of inspiration. 

At the very beginning, I was thinking about a sci-fi project with cats in space, but after a while, I realized that I wanted to explore the “genesis” of this universe through the lens of young adventurers, and that became Dungeons & Kittens. And quite quickly, I wanted to make it into a role-playing game to “test” my stories and my universe with my friends. I wanted to create a contrasting universe that speaks of childhood and beautiful friendship but also of wandering and danger, a bittersweet fable, and that’s when the unfair quest of King Walter appeared to me. And then, as time went by, Watch Next saw the drafts of the game, and here we are!

VD: Philippe, why did Dungeons & Kittens seem like the right project for Watch Next’s first serialized animated series?

Philippe Alessandri & Sylvain Huchet: We were convinced that the charm of Clement’s artwork would attract broadcasters despite their reluctance for serialized shows. Furthermore, the genre of the project – an animated version of “The Lord of the Rings” for kids – is clearly appropriate for serialized storytelling. We also got a sense of the strong appeal of the project from the animation community itself, which for years has expressed a desire to see Clement’s art turned into a series.

VD: Explain to me the comeback of serialized series in animation, especially as it pertains to the animation industry in France. Where have you seen this comeback? How do you think it will influence the evolution of animated series moving forward?

PA & SH: We’re coming from a situation where the kids’ market consisted only in series of self-contained episodes. Fortunately, streamers have emerged over the last few years, and broadcasters have begun to launch non-linear projects and platforms. They are aware of the fast-growing non-linear audience and have become more interested in serialized content. In Europe, France Televisions, Canal+, CBBC, RTS, and ZDF have already commissioned these kinds of series. When Dungeons & Kittens is delivered in 2025, children in France will predominantly be watching on-demand content.     

We’re at this point where all it could take to precipitate the return of serialized animated series is one big hit, which would convince broadcasters (linear and non-linear) that the unparalleled level of engagement the audience can have with a serialized show offsets the higher risk they sometimes represent. Hopefully, Dungeons & Kittens will be that hit!

VD: What made you want to deviate from non-linear storytelling in the first place? What makes it more engaging than the animated series kids have been fed previously?

PA: With self-contained episodes, you can’t show the evolution of the protagonists, and you can’t tell a quest with a beginning, an end, and cliffhangers in between. With Dungeons & Kittens being about four kittens turning progressively into heroes through their journey, a story arc was essential to the project.

VD: Clément, was this also your first dive into creating an epic saga?

CR: In an animation project, yes. And it’s amazing! But I did a lot of very epic adventures in tabletop role-playing game campaigns with my friends. Dungeons & Kittens is reminiscent of that experience and bringing these worlds together!

VD: What kind of challenges did this pose, merging your worlds of art and gaming?

CR: The biggest challenge was that the world of Dungeons & Kittens as it exists in the game is very open, precisely because players need to be given some freedom to live the stories they imagine. But the world of the series requires a more specific set of rules and the creation of a unique lore. It’s been a process of simplification that we’re still going through as we write the first episodes. Ultimately, we need to keep in mind that this is all about the characters, and not so much the world they live in, as whimsical and colorful as it might be.

VD: This is the first time, to your knowledge, that an RPG and a serialized animated series has been developed in parallel with the other. How did you go about this? What was the writing process like?

CR: I wanted the two projects to be like siblings; they share many traits, but they remain unique with their own peculiarities. I always feel that a strict adaptation from one medium to another leads to lukewarm choices. And both projects were in their early stages, so much was left to be built and imagined. 

For instance, magic is not approached in the same way in the series and in the TTRPG (tabletop role-playing game). In the series, magic is rare and frightening, while it’s more common in the game. It was a narrative choice for the animation which makes the wizards more mysterious and unsettling, and a game design choice for the game which makes gameplay more interesting during sessions. In short, we wanted to give our best for each of the projects while accepting that slight variations exist. It’s as if this story is a distant legend told around a campfire; it changes and evolves with the storytellers.

You want the approach and perspective to be insightful and make it clear that you’ve thought deeply about how to adapt the core ideas to best fit each medium, ensuring that both projects have their unique strengths while sharing a common foundation.

VD: Is this kind of project something you guys would like to do more of?

PA: We have more series with self-contained episodes than serialized shows in development, but we will certainly take advantage of our experience on Dungeons & Kittens to explore further the serialized form. We also see the opportunity to introduce some light serialization in a couple of our new projects.

VD: I know the trailer and all the details for Dungeons & Kittens will be presented during Cartoon Forum on Tuesday this week. Will you both be in attendance?

PA: I will present the series with Sylvain, as well as the series’ Head Writer Melanie Duval, and Clément will appear on video.

VD: Any final notes on things you’d like people to know about Dungeons & Kittens and/or Watch Next?

SH: Dungeons & Kittens will be a unique series that will subvert the classic tropes of heroic fantasy. We will do our best to keep the audience surprised until the end! It’s also a show that will have a lot of contrast: small kittens in a big world, cuteness and hardship, comedy, and epic tension! We believe kids and adults watch animation to experience a wide array of emotions, and that is what Dungeons & Kittens will provide.

Victoria Davis's picture

Victoria Davis is a full-time, freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She’s reported on numerous stories from activist news to entertainment. Find more about her work at

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