Watch out Marvel Cinematic Universe, there's new movie universe comin' to town that no one saw coming: The NHMU.
Don't know what that means yet? Don't worry, we're here to help. The NHMU is the Netflix Holiday Movie Universe, as the streaming service has been quietly building an inter-connected seasonally set film universe through its original Christmas movies, which it first began releasing in 2017.
Since A Christmas Prince went viral that year, Netflix has fully leaned into the Christmas rom-com genre, going on to release A Christmas Prince trilogy and starting a new franchise with Vanessa Hudgens, fully embracing the cheesy hallmarks of a Christmas movie and upping the ante when it comes to the plot lines. Secret twins! Time-traveling knights! Fictional European countries! Netflix's got all that, plus a partridge in a pear tree...(and a Hot Santa).
While binge-watching is usually a mindless activity, eagle-eyed viewers have been noticing some Easter eggs throughout some of the original Christmas movies that seem to indicate the characters might all be set in the same universe. Could we be gifted with an Avengers-style team-up in a few years? Well, we know what's going on our Christmas list next year.
But after releasing several viral hits, Netflix is no longer playing coy about its plans for Original Christmas Movie domination, even boasting about its "interconnected world" of seasonal magic on Twitter, breaking down the connections between the "eight films (and counting)" so far in a thread.
As you prepare to hibernate the holiday season away, either avoiding the cold or your visiting family members or both, we've compiled a list of all your need-to-know info before diving into the NCU.
The Major Players: Much like Hallmark and Lifetime, Netflix is assembling its own roster of leading ladies to star in their holiday flicks. While the other networks are banking on '90s sitcom nostalgia, Netflix seems to be targeting a younger audience—smartly drawing in the Gen Z crowd who are repeatedly watching Friends, Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, and grew up obsessed with the Disney Channel.
While iZombie star Rose McIver was really their first lead (and has three A Christmas Prince movies on her resume), with fellow CW actresses Kat Graham (The Vampire Diaries) and Eliza Taylor (The 100) also leading their own respective movies (2018's The Christmas Calendar and 2017's Christmas Inheritance), it's clear that Vanessa Hudgens is to Netflix what Candace Cameron Bure is to Hallmark: their Christmas queen.
Last year, she took on two roles in The Princess Switch, with the High School Musical alum playing a princess and a baker who switch places over Christmas. And the film was such a streaming hit that a sequel is coming in 2020: Princess Switch: Switched Again, in which Hudgens will add a third character to the mix, a look-alike party girl. The range!
And this season, Hudgens starred in (and executive produced) The Knight Before Christmas (and she'll also serve as an EP on the princess Switch sequel).
She's not the only HSM alum joining Netflix's holiday party as her BFF Ashley Tisdale stars in Merry Happy Whatever, the streaming giant's Christmas sitcom. (Yes, a Christmas series. Your move, Hallmark!)
World-Building: OK, here's where Netflix is having a little too much fun with its ever-expanding Christmas universe.
In a few of its original movies, the characters end up Netflix and Chilling, watching some of the other original Christmas moving offerings.
In The Princess Switch, Kevin and Lady Margaret (who is posing as Stacy) decide to watch a movie, and when he goes to Netflix, they end up picking between two choices: 2017's A Christmas Prince and Christmas Inheritance. There's also a scroll filled with other original Netflix programming, including Nailed It, Glow, and Set It Up among others. Shameless self-promotion is shameless!
And in The Knight Before Christmas, our leading knight Sir Cole (Josh Whitehouse), who has magically been dropped in 2019 from the 13th century, quickly adapts to modern technology by deciding to binge-watch the night away. The first thing he watches? Holiday in the Wild, the 2019 original Christmas rom-com starring Rob Lowe and Kristin Davis.
While Hallmark's leading couples tend to favor tree decorating and cookie decorating montages to show off the season's festivities, binge-watching holiday movies is one of the activities of choice in Netflix's rom-coms, as The Holiday Calendar (2018) also featured one of its characters making a dent on their couch: Abby (Graham) ends up choosing to watch The Christmas Inheritance over A Christmas Prince during a night in.
"It felt like a natural fit to show one of our other films available on Netflix," Amanda Phillips Atkins, EVP at MPCA, the production company behind the majority of the Christmas rom-coms for Netflix, said, per the Twitter thread, of the meta choice.
But could any of these movies actually be set in the same world? It's seeming more and more likely that there could be a potential crossover.
In this year's The Knight Before her Christmas, her character Brooke talks about a past trip her family had taken to Aldovia aka the fictional European country where the A Christmas Prince trilogy is set. And then Belgravia, aka the fictional country where The Princess Switch is set, was referenced in A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby, the most recent installment in the franchise.
Aldovia and Belgravia are neighboring countries and gossip appears to cross their borders, as there is talk of Belgravia's prince marrying a "a commoner" and different expectations for the two countries' royals when it comes to marriage.
"We planned to branch out from just having our characters watch each other on TV," Atkins explained, via Netflix. "We thought it would be a great opportunity to build out a whole universe, not just for Aldovia but for the whole world of our Christmas movies!"
And the world will likely continue expanding, as The Knight Before Christmas pulled a Marvel, placing a sequel-teasing end credits scene at the end of the movie, hinting that Sir Cole's brother Geoffrey (Harry Jarvis) ends up running into the same witch that sent Hudgen's knight to the future.
"Of course I can see a sequel," the film's director Monika Mitchell told Glamour. "I think Harry Jarvis is definitely involved because the [witch] is there to present him with yet another medallion. We don't know who's coming back through time. We don't know if he's gonna go visit his brother. We don't know if Josh and Vanessa would come back and help him out. Maybe some other young lady comes back through time. We'll have to see what the audience responds to."
Hm...we wonder if The Princess Switch: Switched Again's new party girl character Fiona is single?