Any child of the early 2000’s remembers the whimsically magical cartoon, Winx Club. While the show’s fabulous adventures of fairy schoolgirls held a whopping longevity of 17 years, it’s most recent Netflix remake, Fate: A Winx Saga failed to capture that same spark.
Contrary to marginally common belief, Winx Club was originally animated in Italy — not America. Dubbed as the ‘”Walt Disney of Italy,” Iginio Straffi founded the legendary animation studio, Rainbow SPA in 1995. After the short-lived successes of quality children’s entertainment such as Tommy e Oscar (2000) and Prezzemolo (2002), Winx Club was brought to life on the Rai 2 Network in January 2004.
Viewers were immediately transfixed by the wholesome, simple story of new-girl-in-town, Bloom (originally voiced by Letizia Ciampa) as she navigated fighting evil with her newfound Dragon Flame powers, boys, and dorm life at the Alfea College for Fairies. There, she befriends an eclectic group of fairies, all from distant worlds with their own special abilities.
Whether it’s the wave morphing, Princess of Andros, Aisha (Laura Lenghi), Stella (Perla Liberatori), the Fairy of the Shining Sun or any of the other five amazing main characters, there’s a fairy in this show for everyone. So much so, in the midst of Winx airing in more than 100 countries by the end of the 2000’s, media mogul Viacom purchased 30% of Rainbow SPA in 2009. With this, the show began hitting tv sets on Nickelodeon all over the USA for the first time. Collaborating with Straffi, Nickelodeon produced four specials to recap the plot of the show and a revival series that’s still ongoing. Straffi speaks highly of his time working alongside the company in a 2019 TV Kids interview, “They have great chemistry…the know-how of Rainbow and the know-how of Nickelodeon are very complementary,” she said.
Since its premiere 17 years ago, Winx has seen eight television seasons, three animated films, and roughly 6,000 pieces of merchandise – all with a sizable amount of positive reception. This leads one to wonder why Netflix’s Fate: The Winx Saga stands as the one outlier in the franchise to receive so much backlash.
From the first seconds of the trailer for Brian Young’s polarizing remake, which began streaming on January 22nd, viewers were immediately taken back by the differing artistic risks the show took. While the endless cycle of Hollywood remakes has certainly made audiences accustomed to creators straying away from original source material, Young’s attempts at targeting edgy, young adults felt more like a slap in the face than a meaningful adaptation to fans. The energetic, bubblegum energy of Winx Club is completely non-existent in Fate. This can be seen from the once eccentrically majestic castle of Alfea looking more like a dreary private school to the main characters of Fate dawning unappealing, pedestrian clothing as opposed to the dazzling costumes of their cartoon counterparts.
What was more egregious than the aesthetic falters were the falters in casting. One of the major praises Winx Club received during its conception was the stellar execution of promoting racial diversity within its characters. This was revolutionary for children’s television of its time, spreading messages of inclusion to young, impressionable audiences. Fans were more than vocal on social media after seeing Netflix’s immediately noticeable failure to implement the same diversity.
While one of the show’s most beloved fairies, the music powered Musa (Erika Iacono) was originally depicted as Chinese, she’s portrayed in Fate: A Winx Saga by a white-passing actor, Elisha Applebaum. Applebaum took to Digital Spy to discuss the show’s controversial casting flounder, “It’s really sad to see that fans were upset with the casting. I wasn’t involved in the casting, but I hope that what they’ve seen and how I’ve portrayed Musa was to their liking.”
A similar fate was met by the character of Latinx, nature fairy, Flora (Ilaria Latini) who didn’t even appear in the remake. Instead, she was replaced by a Netflix original character, Terra – played by white actor, Eliot Salt.
Precious Mustapha is the only POC Winx fairy who was not whitewashed as she played the fairy of water, Aisha. She talked to Digital Spy to recount her plight with the lack of representation in mainstream media, “I’ve always been someone who always looked for people who look like me on-screen. That’s few and far between,” she said.
While Netflix’s attempt at catching Winx Club’s charming lighting in a bottle, fans seemingly unanimously discard the show for artist negligence of its source material. Aside from its starkly underwhelming changes and half-baked rehashing of young adult show tropes, it’s Fate: A Winx Saga’s blatant dismissal of representation that ultimately stirred fans of the beloved fairy cartoon away.
‘Fate: A Winx’s Saga’ can be streamed on Netflix.
By Omar Letson