The Quest gets a second chance at finding an audience on May 11th with a Disney+ reboot of the 2014 ABC fantasy competition series. In the works since before the streamer launched, fans at WonderCon got a first look at the series. In speaking with the producorial team, it was shared that Disney+ executive Rick Straussbinge watched the original series with his son (it’s available on Hulu) and saw it as a perfect fit for Disney+, giving the reboot a green light. After 8 years, fans of the original can join a whole new audience in discovering Everrealm.
One of the big changes this time around is the age of the contestants, switching from adults to teenagers. “You see these kids, they don't always succeed at everything, but because there's no eliminations, the support that they get from the other contestants is really wonderful to watch,” explained Elise Doganieri, an executive producer for The New Media Collective who’s no stranger to designing challenges for competitions as a co-creator of The Amazing Race. “They're all there for a common purpose. There is a winner, there is a one true hero in the end, but you see them all supporting each other. And it's really amazing. In a time when everything is so divisive and crazy, it's nice to see a group coming together. There's hope for our future with these kids. Because they all just want to do the right thing. People want to do the right thing. Right? And they want to be their best self, and they find themselves in that.”
The Quest combines elements of a competition with a scripted fantasy world, immersing the contestants in EverRealm. The creative team had planned on reusing a privately owned castle in Austria that served as the setting of the first series, but the pandemic threw a wrench in those plans.”I had previously looked at Castello di Amorosa, which is owned by one guy who bought the winery he built it,” executive producer Michael Williams from Scout Productions shared, adding that it even came with its own catacombs. “The biggest difference was at the castle in Austria, they lived there, there was room to live there. They were more immersed than our teens were because they slept in these rooms that haven't been slept in over a hundred years and they lived there and ate there and they stayed there the entire time. They didn't have to go to school and it was just a little more immersion. But I think with what we benefit of the kids, okay, we're going to going in the game now. They instantly went there in their head. You weren't acting.”
The contestants may not have needed to act to buy into the fantasy world, but they did need to be cast just like the scripted actors in the show. “We had an amazing casting team who went all over the country and went from thousands of people to hundreds,” Jane Fleming shared, who brought to the production her intimate knowledge of the fantasy genre after working on The Lord of the Rings films with Peter Jackson. “They're all amazing, amazing kids. And we've talked about it, the first sort of deep love of the genre and love of fantasy and that would be probably the first step in. And then it was getting to know them and sort of seeing whether or not we felt that they brought certain attributes of the one true hero to the table. And we've found a great group who, all of them were, for teenagers, incredibly centered. They made us look immature sometimes.”
Set in the Kingdom of Aura, contestants are referred to as Paladins and when they arrive, they find King Silas taking care of three siblings, whose own kingdom of Saenctum is under siege from a sorceress named Tavora and her team of Ferals. “One of the things that's great about Tavora, which we'll discover, is like all great villains or antagonists, she has reasons that she feels are incredibly reasonable,” added Mark Ordesky, Jane’s producing partner at Court Five. “It's more interesting that way.” As a general rule, characters in Everrealm are never purely good or purely evil, adding realism to this magical kingdom.
“We worked on that script for almost a year,” Elise Doganieri revealed, with challenges intricately linked to story moments. “All involved from the very beginning, reading and reading and reading and revising and saying, ‘Okay, I don't think we're going to be able to do this challenge with anybody in the world.’ Sometimes big ideas, you want to go big because then you can pull back, you start big and then we whittle away to see what's manageable, what's doable, what's safe. And that's when we move forward with filming everything.”
While some elements of The Quest are scripted, viewers can rest assured that what they’re seeing on screen really happened before the paladins eyes. “They were well-rehearsed and they got one take to do it,” Michael Williams shared about the scripted actors. “The kids saw everything. I don't think we ever had a mistake. Like there was no moment where somebody said a name wrong, or somebody didn't have the right, where to go to or what part of the story.” There were, however, a few moments where dialogue was redone after the contestants moved on. “We just enhanced it with a better take because there was a fireplace behind and we wanted to chop it. Like it was stuff like that. They were awesome. The actors were amazing in this.”
“We reach a global audience in a minute,” Elise Doganieri said of the opportunity to launch this new iteration of The Quest on Disney+. “When this gets released, you can watch this anywhere in the world on Disney+. Also, because of the fantasy world, the mythology, it just fit. This is just the perfect fit because of all their IP, all their Disney characters. It is immersion, it's Disneyland. You're bringing Disneyland to life. Every time you go to Disneyland you go into a different world. That's what this is.”
Immerse yourself in the magic of Everrealm with The Quest, with all ten episodes streaming on Wednesday, May 11th on Disney+.