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This Kids’ Show Is ‘Indiana Jones in Reverse’

Jeff Dixon wants to frighten your children.

Dixon, a father himself, has no desire to induce nightmares. But as an executive producer and creator of “Curses!,” a new television series from DreamWorks Animation, he would like to test the mettle of young viewers, just as his own was tested when he watched horror movies as a boy.

“Every single time, it actually built confidence in myself, as a kid, that I could actually tackle some real fears and obstacles in real life,” Dixon said in a group video interview that included Jim Cooper, the executive producer with whom he developed the series. “I know that may sound silly, to be like, ‘I want to scare kids,’ but I actually do.”

“Curses!,” whose entire 10-episode first season begins streaming on Apple TV+ on Friday, has another executive producer with expertise in frights: John Krasinski, who directed and was a writer of “A Quiet Place” and its sequel. But while that film franchise might really cause nightmares, “Curses!” offers humor and animation, which help smooth horror’s “sharper corners,” Dixon said. (Krasinski and the series’s voice cast declined to be interviewed for this article because of the continuing Screen Actors Guild strike.)

“Curses!,” however, does imitate “A Quiet Place” in its focus on a loving, imperiled family: Alex Vanderhouven, an archaeologist; Sky, a former art conservator; and their children, Pandora, an intrepid 12-year-old who thrives on skateboarding, video games and impulsive action; and Horus, nicknamed Russ, who is 15 and reflective, cautious and obsessed with puzzles.

Although their parents, who are voiced by Reid Scott and Lyric Lewis, are principled professionals, Alex’s great-great grandfather, the explorer Cornelius Vanderhouven, spent his career ruthlessly plundering artifacts, which now reside in a secret wing of the family’s spooky mansion.

Alex has long suspected that his ancestor’s looting brought about a family curse, a theory that is proved in the season premiere, when he suddenly turns to stone. That leaves Sky and the children, who are voiced by Gabrielle Nevaeh and Andre Robinson, to try to undo the sorcery while dealing with a related problem: the tendency of the house’s hidden relics to become living, breathing menaces. In early episodes, a snarling golden baboon head, robbed from Congo, unleashes a reign of terror.

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