Winx Club is an Italian animated television series created, directed, and produced by Iginio Straffi. It is set in a magical universe that is inhabited by fairies, witches, and other mythical creatures. The show follows a fairy warrior named Bloom as she enrolls at Alfea College to train and hone her skills. The series is presented in a style that combines Japanese anime with Western animation. Common themes in Winx Club include romantic relationships and the transition to adulthood, which are juxtaposed with magical elements and action sequences.
|Created by||Iginio Straffi|
|Directed by||Iginio Straffi|
|Country of origin||Italy|
|No. of seasons||8|
|No. of episodes||183 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Joanne Lee|
Kay Wilson Stallings
|Running time||24 minutes|
|Distributor||Rainbow S.p.A. (Viacom)|
|Original network||Rai 2, Rai Gulp (Italy)|
|Picture format||NTSC: 480i (season 1–4)|
HDTV: 1080i (seasons 5–8)
|Audio format||Stereo (seasons 1–4)|
Dolby Surround 5.1 (seasons 5–8)
|Original release||28 January 2004 –|
Iginio Straffi conceived the show's concept in the late 1990s after working in the comic book industry. While developing the series, Straffi drew inspiration from manga and the comics of Sergio Bonelli. He consulted Italian fashion designers to create a futuristic clothing style for the characters. Straffi's company Rainbow produced a pilot episode in 2000 and started production of a full season in 2002. In exchange for broadcast rights, Rai Fiction financed 25% of the show's budget and the series' first episode premiered on Rai 2 on 28 January 2004.
Winx Club uses a serial format (modelled on American teen dramas) that has an ongoing storyline, with individual story arcs comprising each season. Initially, Straffi planned for the plot to last three seasons, but he decided to continue the story following the show's success. In 2010, Nickelodeon became a co-producer of Winx Club and its parent company Viacom gained 30% ownership of Rainbow in 2011. Production on the fifth and sixth seasons was divided between Rainbow and Nickelodeon Animation Studio. To attract an American audience, Viacom assembled a voice cast of Nickelodeon actors including Elizabeth Gillies and Ariana Grande, invested US$100 million in advertising for the series, and inducted Winx Club into Nickelodeon's franchise of Nicktoons.
The series has been a ratings success in Italy and on Nickelodeon networks internationally. By 2014, Winx Club had been broadcast in over 150 countries. The series has developed a following among comic and fashion fans, and its portrayal of gender roles has generated academic interest. Critical reviews of the series have called attention to its themes of empowerment and positive relationships, as well as to the perceived sexualization of the character designs. Three theatrical films based on the series have been released; the first two received David di Donatello Award nominations. The franchise has spawned two spin-off series and licensed merchandise, including a comic book serial, platform video games, and lines of fashion dolls. A live-action adaptation of Winx Club aimed at young adults was announced in 2018.
Winx Club follows the adventures of a group of girls known as the Winx, students (and later graduates) at the Alfea College for Fairies, who turn into fairies to fight villains. The team consists of Bloom, the red-haired leader with flame-based powers; Stella, the fairy of the Sun and Moon; Flora, the fairy of nature; Tecna, the fairy of technology; Musa, the fairy of music; and Aisha, the fairy of waves. Roxy, the fairy of animals, occasionally joins the Winx and all three of the show's production companies refer to her as the Winx Club's seventh member. The main male characters are called the Specialists, a group of students and later graduates of the Red Fountain school who are romantically involved with the Winx fairies. They include Bloom's boyfriend Sky; Stella's fiancé Brandon; Flora's boyfriend Helia; Tecna's boyfriend Timmy; and Musa's boyfriend Riven. Unlike their female counterparts, the Specialists do not have magical powers and instead train how to fight using laser weapons. The Winx and Specialists' most frequent adversaries are a trio of witches named the Trix: Icy, Darcy, and Stormy, all of whom are former students of the Cloud Tower school.
Winx Club is set in a fictional universe that has several dimensions. Most episodes take place in the Magic Dimension, which is closed off to ordinary people and inhabited by creatures from European mythology like fairies, witches, and monsters. The capital of this world is the city of Magix—which is located on the planet of the same name—where the three main magic schools are situated. The other planets of the Magic Dimension include Bloom's home planet Domino, Stella's home planet Solaria, Flora's home planet Linphea, Tecna's home planet Zenith, Musa's home planet Melody, and Aisha's home planet Andros. Some episodes take place on Earth, Roxy's home planet and where Bloom spent her childhood.
Concept and creationEdit
During the 1990s, comic artist Iginio Straffi noticed that animated action shows were primarily focused on male protagonists. Feeling that the "cartoon world was devoid of female characters," Straffi hoped to introduce an alternative show with a female lead while also highlighting a magic element, as media featuring magic (like Harry Potter) were popular at the time. Incorporating both of these ideas, Straffi decided to develop a pilot centred on the conflict between two rival colleges; one for fairies and another for witches. He compared his original premise to "a sort of 'Oxford–Cambridge rivalry' in a magical dimension". In expanding the concept, Straffi drew his inspiration from Japanese manga (including the series Sailor Moon) and the comics of Sergio Bonelli, a comic writer for whom Straffi had worked.
Straffi's pilot, which was titled Magic Bloom, featured the original five Winx members in attires similar to those of traditional European fairies. It was produced during a twelve-month development period that included animation tests, character studies, and market surveys. The animation attracted the interest of Rai Fiction, which paid for 25% of the production cost in exchange for Italian broadcast rights and a share of the series' revenue over 15 years. After holding test screenings of the pilot, however, Straffi was unhappy with the audience's unenthusiastic reaction to the characters' outdated clothing style and stated that the pilot did not satisfy him. In a 2016 interview, Straffi said the end result "looked like just another Japanese-style cartoon ... but nothing like [the modern] Winx ". He likened his feelings about the pilot to an "existential crisis" and chose to scrap the entire test animation despite an investment of over €100,000 in the completed pilot.
To rework the concept, Straffi's Rainbow team hired Italian fashion designers, including some from Dolce & Gabbana and Prada, to restyle the show and give the characters a more modern appearance. The crew changed the show's color palette, replacing the pilot's colour scheme with a brighter collection of hues, and adjusted the skin tone of Flora to look "more Latin" in an attempt to add diversity to the show. Production of the restyled series began in 2002, and Rainbow estimated the episodes would be delivered to distributors by late 2003. The new name of the series ("Winx") was derived from the English word "wings," and the "x" was intended to evoke the shape and sound of wings. Straffi's aim was to appeal to both genders, including action sequences and displays of power designed for male viewers and fashion elements for female viewers. At the October 2003 MIPCOM event, Rainbow screened the show's first episode to international companies. The first season had its world premiere on Italian television channel Rai 2 on 28 January 2004.
From the beginning of development, Iginio Straffi planned an overarching plot that would conclude after 78 episodes. Straffi stated that the Winx saga "would not last forever" in 2007, and he intended the first feature film (Winx Club: The Secret of the Lost Kingdom) to resolve any plot points remaining from the third season finale. In 2008, Straffi decided to extend the series, citing its increasing popularity.
In 2010, Nickelodeon—which had aired Winx Club on its international outlets since the show's debut—announced that it would be co-producing the fifth and sixth seasons of the series with Rainbow, as well as four hour-long specials summarizing the first two seasons. Production on the 52 new episodes was divided between Nickelodeon Animation Studio and Rainbow with Nickelodeon approving scripts and all phases of animation. Nickelodeon brought on some of its long-time staff members, such as creative consultant Janice Burgess, and writers Adam Peltzman and Carin Greenberg. In February 2011, Nickelodeon's parent company Viacom purchased a 30% stake in Rainbow, with the other 70% belonging to Iginio Straffi. Following the announcement, the two Winx Club feature-length films were released through Viacom's Paramount Pictures and aired on Nickelodeon. The series was officially inducted into Nickelodeon's franchise of Nicktoons, a brand that encompasses original animated productions created for the network. Nickelodeon and Rainbow have since collaborated on additional co-productions together, including Club 57 in 2019.
The series' visuals are a mixture of Japanese anime and European elements, which Iginio Straffi calls "the trademark Rainbow style". The main characters' final designs are based on Straffi's original sketches, which were modelled on celebrities popular at the turn of the 21st century. In a 2011 interview with IO Donna, Straffi stated that Britney Spears served as the basis for Bloom, Cameron Diaz for Stella, Jennifer Lopez for Flora, Pink for Tecna, Lucy Liu for Musa, and Beyoncé for Aisha. This approach was part of Straffi's aim for the fairies to represent "the women of today" and look much more modern than classic examples like the la Fata Turchina. The three Trix witches were also designed to appear "beautiful and fashionable" to counter the stereotype of ugly witches.
A team of specialized artists designs the characters' expressions and outfits for each season. About 20 tables of expressions and positions from all angles are drawn for each character. The designers start to develop characters' costumes by creating collages from magazine clippings of recent fashion trends. Using these as references, they draw multiple outfits for each character; for season 8, this was 20 new outfits for each Winx fairy. They complete their design task by assessing the clothes' real-life appearances by creating scaled-down fabric representations and attaching them to character models.
Writing and animationEdit
The first stage in the production of an episode is developing its script, a process that can last 5–6 months. When the series began production, the writers were based entirely in Italy. Since Nickelodeon joined as a co-producer in 2010, Rainbow's group of 30 writers has collaborated with teams in both Italy and the United States. The international coordination, which has continued through 2019, intends to make scenarios depicted in the program multicultural and accessible to viewers from different countries. Episodes are written with two stories in mind: a longer narrative arc that lasts for tens of episodes and a subplot that concludes at the end of the 22-minute runtime. This episode structure was modelled on those of teen dramas and American comics. Themes written into the series include romance, the acquisition of maturity upon reaching adulthood, and (in the fifth season) nature conservation.
After the script and character designs have been approved, the screenplay is passed onto a group of storyboard artists. For each 22-minute episode, the artists prepare 450 pages of storyboards for each 22-minute episode, which are used to assemble an animatic. At this stage, dialogue and music are added to determine the length of each scene. Characters' mouths are normally animated to match the Italian voice actors' lines but for seasons five and six, mouth movements were synchronized to Nickelodeon's English voice cast. Episodes are worked on concurrently because each requires around two years of work to complete.
At the beginning of the first season, the ten-person production team worked at Rainbow's original headquarters in Recanati. In 2006, Straffi opened a second studio in Rome for computer-animated projects. During the fifth and sixth seasons that were co-produced with Nickelodeon, 3D CGI graphics were incorporated into the series for the first time, animated at the studio in Rome. According to the Rainbow CGI animators, the animation of the characters' hair in underwater scenes was particularly difficult, and it was animated separately from the characters.
In Italy, the series' voice actors include Letizia Ciampa (Bloom), Perla Liberatori (Stella), Ilaria Latini (Flora), Domitilla D'Amico (Tecna), Gemma Donati (Musa), and Laura Lenghi (Aisha). According to Ilaria Latini, the characters were cast before any character designs were finalized and the actors were shown black-and-white sketches of their roles. The actors record their lines in Rome and the animation is later synchronized to their voices, with the exception of the specials and seasons 5–6, which were animated to match Nickelodeon's cast.
The specials co-produced with Nickelodeon introduced Nickelodeon's English voice actors, who also provided voices for the first two Winx films and seasons three through six. The cast consisted of Nickelodeon stars whose names were advertised on-air to attract American viewers, including Ariana Grande as Diaspro, Elizabeth Gillies as Daphne, Keke Palmer as Aisha, Matt Shively as Sky, and Daniella Monet as Mitzi. The cast recorded their lines at Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Burbank, California.
According to Iginio Straffi, music plays a crucial role in the success of the series. Original pop songs in the "style of Britney Spears and Beyoncé" have been recorded in about 40 languages for the show. Songs are usually drafted in English; Italian lyrics are written after Rainbow has approved the English versions. Frequent composers for the program include Michele Bettali, Stefano Carrara, Fabrizio Castania, and Maurizio D'Aniello. Music is recorded in Milan and Rome, and each song takes between five and twelve months to complete. One of Nickelodeon's composers, Emmy and Grammy Award recipient Peter Zizzo, joined the team during Nickelodeon's joint production of the fifth season. His music is featured in the fifth, sixth, and seventh seasons; he also composed the stand-alone single "We Are Believix" for the show. The single was accompanied by a Nickelodeon live-action music video that was performed by Elizabeth Gillies and was released on iTunes. Six compilation albums based on the show's music have been released; some include songs that do not appear in the television series.
Many of the show's tracks are performed by Italian singer Elisa Rosselli. She was selected during the production of the first Winx film, as Iginio Straffi was seeking a writer and singer for the movie's soundtrack. Straffi looked to Sony Music's archive for inspiration and enjoyed three of Rosselli's songs that were co-produced with Maurizio D'Aniello. After working together on the film, Rosselli continued to produce music for the show (usually in collaboration with D'Aniello or Peter Zizzo) until its seventh season.
Winx Club premiered on the Italian television channel Rai 2 on 28 January 2004. It was announced in October 2003 that 4Kids Entertainment, which is known for dubbing Japanese anime, had acquired the United States broadcast rights to the first season. The first episode premiered in the U.S. on 19 June 2004 as part of Fox's programming block "FoxBox". 4Kids censored and edited the series for U.S. broadcasts; much of the dialogue was altered in an attempt at localization. Straffi criticized these dialogue adjustments in a 2008 interview, saying, "The Winx fairies cannot talk about boys there. I think this removes something essential." Following 4Kids' loss of other licenses, including Pokémon, Rainbow revoked its licensing agreement with 4Kids in December 2009.
On 2 September 2010, Nickelodeon announced through a press release that they would be co-producing the fifth and sixth seasons with Rainbow. Nickelodeon debuted four one-hour specials (also co-produced with Rainbow) summarizing the first two seasons, the first of which premiered on 27 June 2011. With the exception of Italy, the fifth and sixth seasons launched on Nickelodeon channels domestically and internationally.
During the sixth season in 2014, episode premieres were moved from Rai 2 to Rai Gulp in Italy, and from Nickelodeon to Nick Jr. in the United States. The change to younger-skewing networks followed Rainbow's lowering of Winx Club's target demographic to differentiate a spin-off, World of Winx, that was specifically aimed at older audiences. The seventh season was jointly announced by Nickelodeon and Rainbow in April 2014 as part of their continuing partnership. It made its world debut on Nickelodeon in the UK on 4 July 2015, which was followed by its premieres on Rai Gulp (21 September 2015) and Nick Jr. (10 January 2016).
Upon its debut, Winx Club was a ratings success. During its first season in 2004, the series became one of the highest-rated programs on Rai 2 with an average audience share of 17%. Among viewers 4-14 years old, the average share was 45%. In France and Belgium, the season reached a 56% share among 10 to 14-year-olds. According to Rai in 2009, the gender mix of Winx Club's audience was nearly equal across the first three seasons; in the target demographic of 4-14 years of age, females represented only 3% more of the audience than males. The premiere of the fourth season set a record for an animated show's audience on Rai 2 with 500,000 viewers. In 2007, Iginio Straffi noted that there were lower ratings in English-speaking territories than in Europe at the time, which he surmised was due to poor promotion by 4Kids and cultural differences.
On 27 June 2011, the first special co-produced with Nickelodeon premiered on Nick U.S. to 2.278 million viewers. Each of the following three specials performed better than the previous ones, with the fourth ("The Shadow Phoenix") rating #1 in its time slot among viewers aged 2-11. During the first quarter of 2012, an average of 38.5 million viewers watched the series across nine of Nickelodeon's international outlets, a 60% increase from the fourth quarter of 2011. On Nickelodeon UK, Winx Club increased the network's ratings by 58% on its launch weekend in September 2011, ranking as the second-most-popular program on the channel and the most popular show with females aged 7-15. As of 2019, Winx Club and SpongeBob SquarePants are the only animated shows that are still broadcast on Nickelodeon UK's main network.
Federico Vercellino of Il Sole 24 Ore described the series as "an Italian cultural enterprise—the largest since the days of Salgari". He credited the show with opening up Italian media to feminist stories about rebellious female characters, calling it a "phenomenon capable of building today's popular culture". A 2019 study conducted for the Corriere della Sera reported that Winx Club was the fourth-most-popular Italian series outside of the country, with strong demand in Russia and the United States.
In 2018, Giovanna Gallo of Cosmopolitan stated that the program's characters have become "real icons of fashion" and noted the show's popularity with cosplayers, performance artists who wear costumes and accessories to represent the show's characters. Winx Club costumes were the focus of a second-season episode of The Apprentice, in which Flavio Briatore challenged the show's teams to create three Winx outfits intended for females 25-35 years of age, which were to be submitted to the judgment of Iginio Straffi. la Repubblica's Marina Amaduzzi attributed the popularity of Winx-inspired fashion to fans' desire to emulate the characters, stating that "Winx fanatics dress, move and breathe like their heroines".
The show has also been popular at fan conventions. In 2012 and 2013, Winx Club had a large presence at Nickelodeon's San Diego Comic-Con booth, where exclusive collectibles were raffled off to fans. In 2015, a four-day Winx Club fan gathering in Jesolo counted 100,000 attendees. In October 2018, an exhibition for the series' fifteenth anniversary was held at Europe's largest comics festival, the Lucca Comics & Games convention in Tuscany.
The Regional Council of Marche, Italy, chose the Winx Club fairies to represent Marche and Italy at the Expo 2010 world's fair in Shanghai. A four-minute video using stereoscopic technology showing the Winx in Marche's tourist destinations was animated for the Italian Pavilion. In 2015, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited Rainbow's studio and wrote that "the Winx are a beautiful story of Italian talent".
In a New York Times article, Bocconi University professor Paola Dubini stated that the themes and characters of Winx Club appealed to both the target audience and their parents. After studying the rise of the show's production company, Dubini wrote that the fairies' "defined and different personalities" made them relatable to viewers. Common Sense Media reviewer Tara Swords gave the show a three-star review, calling it "an imaginative story with bold, take-charge heroines" while also arguing that the show is hindered by its design elements and by "ongoing drama surrounding the main characters' attraction to their male counterparts".
Criticism has been directed at the character designs, which some have perceived as unrealistic. Meenakshi Gigi Durham took issue with the characters' clothes in her 2008 book The Lolita Effect, writing that the fairies' revealing outfits seem to link "ideal femininity" with body display. Researchers for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media felt that the characters represent an unattainable body image for women. In 2011, Italian journalist Loredana Lipperini said the series perpetuates the idea that women must be fashionable, that the characters' appearances negatively impact viewers, and that fans learn to "admire the flowing hair, plump lips, narrow waists and wide hips".
In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, psychotherapist Gianna Schelotto assumed an opposite standpoint. She argued that the Winx are "anti-showgirls" with stories that highlight positive aspects like friendship, guiding female viewers "away from supermodels to which the commercial world drags them". Rhodes University professor Jeanne Prinsloo agreed, saying in 2014 that "in spite of the unrelenting bad press", Winx Club episodes "present complex narratives with active female protagonists and positive relationships that validate 'girl power'". Il Sole 24 Ore also wrote positively about the show's feminist themes, commending how the characters "expose narcissistic masculinity". Responding to criticisms of the character designs, Iginio Straffi said in 2007 that the fairies' looks are an "envelope" serving to interest the viewer and are "never vulgar or exaggerated".
Winx Club has attracted academic interest for its presentation of gender roles. In the journal of Volgograd State University, Russian sociologists Georgiy Antonov and Elena Laktyukhina judged that female characters in the series are depicted as dominant while males are shown to be passive. As examples of women adopting traditionally male roles, they listed the female fairies fighting for their boyfriends, saving them from enemies, and inviting them on dates, while at the same time having difficulty performing household duties like cooking and cleaning. Writing for Kabardino-Balcarian State University, Zalina Dokhova and Tatiana Cheprakova stated that the series conveys "both positive and negative stereotypes", citing the opposite personalities of Stella and Aisha. They wrote that Stella's character incorporates stereotypically feminine passions for shopping and clothes while Aisha represents a more realistic character with an interest in male-dominated sports.
In March 2018, a live-action adaptation aimed at young adults was announced. It will be Rainbow's and Netflix's second collaboration, and according to Eric Barmack of Netflix, the series will offer deeper plotlines while retaining the same general story as the animated version. It will be produced in 2019 in Italy and will be released in 2020.
The Secret of the Lost KingdomEdit
On 8 October 2006, a Winx Club feature film was announced on Rainbow's website. The Secret of the Lost Kingdom was released theatrically in Italy on 30 November 2007. Its television premiere was on 11 March 2012 on Nickelodeon in the United States. The plot takes place after the events of the first three seasons, following Bloom as she searches for her birth parents and fights the Ancestral Witches who destroyed her home planet. Iginio Straffi had planned a feature-length story since the beginning of the series' development, and the film eventually entered production after Straffi founded Rainbow CGI in Rome.
On November 9, 2009, a sequel film was announced for a release date in 2010. Winx Club 3D: Magical Adventure was released theatrically in Italy on October 29, 2010. Its television premiere was on May 20, 2013, on Nickelodeon in the United States. In the film, Sky proposes to Bloom, but Sky's father does not approve of their marriage. Production on Magical Adventure began in 2007, while the first film was still in development. It is the first Italian film animated in stereoscopic 3D.
The Mystery of the AbyssEdit
A third film, titled Winx Club: The Mystery of the Abyss, was released theatrically in Italy on 4 September 2014. The film made its television premiere on Nickelodeon Germany on 8 August 2015. The plot follows the Winx venturing through the Infinite Ocean to rescue Sky, who has been imprisoned by the Trix. According to Iginio Straffi, the film has a more comedic tone than the previous two films.
Poppixie is a comedy spin-off series that ran for a single season over two months in 2011. It is based on the chibi-inspired Pixie characters from the second season of Winx Club. The series does not feature any of the original characters and is aimed at a younger audience than other Winx content.
World of WinxEdit
World of Winx is a spin-off series that premiered in 2016; Straffi described it as one "with more adult graphics, a kind of story better suited to an older audience" than Winx Club. It is a co-production between Rainbow and Netflix. 26 episodes over two seasons have been released.
As of 2014, more than 6,000 pieces of Winx Club merchandise have been released by over 350 licensing companies. From January 2004 to December 2007, merchandise sales generated €1.5 billion. Outside Europe, Mattel released products based on the show until 2012, when Nickelodeon named Jakks Pacific as the series' new merchandising partner. The announcement followed a Winx Club advertising campaign on which Nickelodeon spent US$100 million.
Doll collections based on the show's characters were first released in January 2004 to coincide with its debut. In Italy, the dolls are manufactured by Witty Toys (a division of Rainbow) and distributed by Giochi Preziosi. As of 2016, more than 100 collections had been designed and over 60 million Winx Club dolls had been sold. In 2013, Rainbow relaunched vintage dolls as collectors' items.
An ongoing comic book serial has been published since the series' premiere. Over 180 Italian issues have been released as of 2019. In 2014, the comics' worldwide circulation was 25 million copies, with 55,000 copies sold each month in Italy. In the United States, manga distributor Viz Media translated several of the first 88 issues and released them across nine graphic novel volumes. Other tie-in books unrelated to the comics have been produced, starting with character guides distributed by Giunti Editore. Nickelodeon's partner Random House has published English-language Winx Club books since 2012.
In September 2005, a live stage musical called "Winx Power Show" began touring in Italy. The musical later expanded to other European countries and the show's cast performed at the 2007 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards in Milan. An ice show follow-up starring Carolina Kostner was launched in November 2008. In December 2014, the "Winx Club Musical Show" began in Italy to celebrate the series' tenth anniversary.
Several console video games based on the show have been produced. The first, Konami Europe's Winx Club, was released on 15 November 2005. Other video games based on the franchise include Winx Club: The Quest for the Codex (2006), Winx Club: Join the Club (2007), Winx Club: Believix in You (2010), and Winx Club: Magical Fairy Party (2012). The latter was released as part of Nickelodeon's partnership with D3Publisher. A physical trading card game based on the franchise and produced by Upper Deck Entertainment was released in 2005.
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[Roxy] joins the Club...
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