Curses!, a spooky animated series, debuted last Friday on Apple TV+ and received an enthusiastic feature review in The New York Times: “This Kids’ Show Is ‘Indiana Jones in Reverse.’”
The 13-episode series, about an archaeologist’s family that deals with the consequences of looted artifacts, is the creation of two Pacific Palisades dads, Jeff Dixon and Jim Cooper, who serve as co-executive producers.
The two met at Palisades Elementary when their children were students there. Cooper, who has triplets (two girls and a boy) and Dixon, who has two daughters, now have college-aged children.
Cooper told Circling the News, “Anna is at UC Santa Barbara, Eli is at UC Irvine and Kerry is at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Right now, Kerry’s on a study abroad semester in Cuba.”
He added, “Jeff and I actually started working on our series idea while walking home from Pali Elementary and building sets for Theatre Palisades.”
They told the Times that they have filled the series with personal references. And on Dixon’s Facebook page, he notes that Curses! is not a SAG/AFTRA-strike project and can be promoted in full.”
Kathy McGoff, Jim’s wife added extra insight by email on November 6.
“Our daughter Kerry and Jeff’s daughter Bella were in school plays together at Pali Elementary, Paul Revere and Pali High School. Jim and Jeff often volunteered to build sets for these productions (and for Theatre Palisades).”
She added that many years ago they had also helped construct one of the Halloween “spooky houses” at the Palisades Recreation Center. “You can see how these experiences, along with their love of writing bonded them and kind of dovetailed them into this kind of horror theme for their show,” McGoff said.
The story revolves around the Vanderhouven family. The father, Alex, is an archaeologist; the mother, Sky, is an art conservator and their two children are Pandora, 12, and Russ, 15. Every story line focuses on a looted treasure.
The father suspects that a family curse is based on an ancestor’s looting, which is proved in the season premiere when he suddenly turns to stone. Mom and the kids have to figure out how to undo the sorcery.
Still, the Vanderhouven home has numerous hidden relics that become living breathing menaces. For example, “a snarling golden baboon head, robbed from Congo, unleashes a reign of terror.”
Curses! is meant to scare, but in a good way. Some of the artifacts are not bad, but more like E.T., they just want to go home. The relics are also inspired by pieces that an archaeologist might actually find.
CTN readers may remember watching Jim Cooper earn $17,000 on Jeopardy in 2021. Afterwards he told viewers that his triplets were seniors at Palisades High School and the winnings would certainly help with college plans.
Dixon, who graduated from the University of Utah film school, moved to Los Angeles in 2000, landing his first film job with Danny DeVito’s company, Jersey Films. After working there, and on the production side for a while, he began devoting himself full-time to writing.
The Times article noted that “Dixon and Cooper hope their show will engage parents, as well as viewers from elementary through high school. Cooper recalled that some children’s TV bored him when his own triplets were growing up, but a more exciting series would lead to adult conversation. ‘You’d meet another parent,’ he said, ‘and he’s like, ‘Did you see that episode?’”
“You know, we want to make that show,” Cooper told the Times, “where every one of the family is excited that it’s on.”