This is for DA's "Pitch a series" contest. I tried to cover all the points asked as briefly as I could. It wasn't easy. XD
Victor Harvey and his friends attend to magic school. It is not as whimsical as it sounds. Or, rather, it would be, if they were rich, white, pure human mages. Thanks goodness their optimism can survive that.
OK, the actual story:
Our Earth used to have magic users and magical creatures. When they started to be pursued and killed during the Middle Ages, they found a way to flee our planet by escaping to one of its ‘twins’, in a parallel reality, a world that they called “Gemini-2”. Phoenix Rising happens around the year 780 after the migration, which is roughly our 1930’s.
It is not the most cheerful time to be alive. The economy of the western world is in shambles, eugenic groups are blaming every non-human for that, nations are starting to talk again about war. If that is not enough, pieces of a dangerous mind-controlling artefact, the Pipe of Hamelin, were stolen from their resting places and God knows who has them.
During all this, Victor and his friends attend to the prestigious De Garoulés magic school. Each of them has their own reasons to become a mage, and each of them keeps a secret from society.
The series is comprised of mostly self-contained episodes with the adventures and misadventures of those unlucky friends. Occasionally, it will dabble in a plotline involving the mysteries around the founder of the school, who was the archmage that split the Pipe of Hamelin in pieces back in the day. Despite the harsh and cynical world in which the show happens, the stories are overall positive, in the sense that, even in defeat, you can see the characters growing stronger. The storylines will do their best to either deconstruct common fantasy tropes, or to go to unconventional resolutions (for instance, an episode about bullying would not be about defeating or pitying the bully, but about how social isolation leaves us open to threats, and the importance of looking for each other).
While Phoenix Rising should have a colourful ‘all-ages’ feel, without graphic violence or sex being explicitly shown, it’s primarily targeted towards older people and fans of fantasy cartoons that want something a bit more mature and challenging than the average.
Victor Harvey (student, 13 years old): At first glance, he would be the ideal student. Victor is quiet, nerdy, hardworking and comes from a very powerful lineage. He has the potential to be the De Garoulés poster boy. However, he also happens to be a walking bullying bingo card. Non-white? Check. Mom is a witch? Check. Family follows a non-tradition religion? Check. Non-attractive appearance? Check. Rumours of severe inbreeding in his family? A few slight disabilities that mean that the teachers have to dispense him some extra attention? Being as girly as a boy can be without using skirts? Check, check and check. It would be understandable if Victor was one of those ‘I just want to be normal’ protagonists, but he is completely in peace with what he is. His dream is to be a teacher and help making the world more open-minded. His character arc is about learning that being idealistic in an unsympathetic world can be a hard and thankless job, but that he has to persevere in his hard work to ever hope to make a difference.
Cristóvão “Chris” de Sá (student, 13 years old): Chris is the youngest son of two farmers and entered school to get a degree and qualify for jobs that are not as harsh as farming. He is lucky to be a magical white human male, and would never suffer any prejudice if his parents were not immigrants. Chris has lots of energy and loves a good prank, so he often gets in trouble with the teachers. On top of that, he is not a big fan of reading, always trying to get a copy of Victor or Nat’s homework. His character arc is about learning to be less self-absorbed and more sensitive towards his friends.
Natalie “Nat” C. Smith (student, 13 years old): Nat is a girl that seems to have it all: her father is rich, she is beautiful and smart, her grades are excellent. Under the surface, though, she is dissatisfied all the time. She is adventurous, but is discouraged from all career paths she wants because they are not ‘for ladies’. His father is very worried about the family reputation, to the point of divorcing her mother because he discovered that she is a vampire, not knowing that their daughter was already contaminated. Nat’s arc is about learning to accept that she cannot run away from the fact that she is a vampire, but she does not has to conform to what society expects from vampires (i.e., being completely amoral and overly sexualized). Plus, she will have to eventually tell the truth to her father.
Zico “Zee” Fernandez (student, 13 years old): Zee is second youngest in a big family. His father is a carpenter, and everyone in the house works with him in some way. Their poverty and vulnerability to police violence contributed to make the family wary at other people, always expecting that someone will scold them for something. When Zee opens up to people, you discover that he is actually sweet and kind. He is Chris’ partner-in-crime in his pranks and transgressions, because Chris’ confidence attracts Zee like a moth to the flame (with similar results). He can naturally turn into a wolf, but only tells it to close friends, because shape-shifters that turn into wolves are stereotyped as gang members in their society. His arc is about learning to trust people outside his family.
Mary Louise “Lou” Saint-Anne (student, 12 years old): Lou is the daughter of an important politician of their country, who also happens to be Victor’s godmother. Everyone pities Lou since her mother died for political reasons, especially since she is a girl so demure and well educated. Little they know about all secrets she is carrying. Differently from her friends, she does not have defined life goals, besides having a family in the future maybe. Her arc is about her learning to know herself and stop letting other people dictate her actions and dreams all the time.
It may look like Phoenix Rising is inspired by Harry Potter (magic school and all), but it is just partially the case. I mean, HP is a huge cultural phenomenon, of course there will be influences and references to it in the story, but the biggest inspirations in the storytelling are, believe it or not, Agatha Christie mystery books. That is why the story happens in a 1930-ish world, and why plot twists and deconstructed tropes are so prevalent in the series. Also, Agatha Christie used to spend a lot of time building the characters, with her detectives insisting that the key to solve mysteries is to know the people involved, more than looking for physical CSI-style clues (as important as they may be to frame the person and send them to trial).
I think that Phoenix Rising can have an appeal to the intended demographic because we live in a society that sees idealism and being positive as something naïve and childish, while cynicism and pessimism are seen as mature and adult, even if we do need ideals and that healthy bit of optimism in order to avoid a hopeless life. A cartoon series will not change the world, but people might like to remember that life do not have to be an endless stream of disappointment and failure, even if it looks like the world is out to get specifically them.
Bonus track: Quick guide to the inhabitants of Gemini-2:
1-porque parou de atualizar o blog BR(bram e vlad)???
2-bram e vlad acabou????
Now, onto to being serious. I like that you took an idea that's been done a bunch of times and made it unique. You have social ranks, which is a huge thing today, characters that range from shy to obnoxious - the latter usually being villains instead of protagonists, which is cool - and a lot of potential to work with.
I also like the idea that you substituted technology with magic, and that it can't fix everything. Removing the 'anything is possible' from magic makes it so that problems can occur, and thus the story is possible.
With that said, good luck in the contest!
The entries were great. I don't envy the judges. XD Good luck to us all.
About the 'cliché' thing, first I wanted to say, that I'm fine with what you said. It works in my favour, actually. Something that relies on plot twists have to look cliché in order to better yank your carpet when the moment is close.
I just want to add, in defense of everyone, that I think that very few entries in this contest actually revealed enough about the plot to allow us to see if they are cliché or not. I mean, lots of original things boil down to common concepts when explained briefly, so it might be premature to say anything.
This is NOTHING like Harry Potter and who claims otherwise is an idiot.
I don't think that people would mistake this story for Harry Potter when they read the premise; but when you say 'teens in a magic school', I understand perfectly that it's really hard not to think about Hogwarts. xD
I really like that you have this taking place in a world inspired by the '30s. That gives it a lot of style.
It's really cool that each of your characters has a big secret and such distinct personalities, as well as a separate arc for each. You put a lot of thought into this!
Thank you for entering!
This was a lot of fun to make. The hard part was not writing double the word count. xD
And yay, Victor stuff!