EXCLUSIVE: Disney has big plans for Jacob Bertrand. The boy-oriented Disney XD has cast the 13-year-old actor as the lead in two pilots it has picked up as vehicles for him, Kirby Buckets and Neckpee Island. The intention is for one to go to series. That is a special treatment given only to talent Disney brass strongly believe would be their next breakout star. Disney XD sibling Disney Channel used the same tactic for Selena Gomez eight years ago. After spotting her at an open casting call the year before, Disney Channel simultaneously cast her in two pilots, one of which was Wizards of Waverly Place. That pilot became a hit series, propelling Gomez to stardom. Bertrand comes to Disney XD from Nickelodeon, where he was a regular on Marvin Marvin, recurred on the animated series Bubble Guppies, guest starred on iCarly and co-stars on the upcoming movie Jinxed.
Kirby Buckets (Bertrand), a 13-year-old who dreams of being the biggest animator in the world, enters a competition that allows him to meet his idol Mac MacCallister (think Seth MacFarlane or Matt Groening) and potentially get one of his own animated characters on Mac’s hit show. But he and his two best buddies run into a series of comical disasters on their way (including a clown ghetto and a low-speed lawn mower chase), threatening Kirby’s chances. Disney XD first developed and piloted Kirby Buckets last year with writers Gabe Snyder and Mike Alber, who are still on board, and executive producer David Bowers. The project is now being exec produced by Kris Brown (Beavis and Butthead).
Neckpee Island hails from Matt Dearborn and Tom Burkhardt, the team behind Even Stevens, which launched the career of another young actor, Shia LaBeouf, and the Disney XD series Zeke and Luther. It centers on OB (Bertrand), a 14-year-old troublemaker. To keep him out of trouble, his dad moves the family to the small, remote island of Neckpee where OB joins the Neckpee High Flag Corps. OB immediately becomes suspicious of Kirk Khool, the Flag Corps’ coach, and when he proves that Kirk Khool’s actually created an army of mutant, human-sized raccoon soldiers, he reaches out to his corp-mates for help to take them down.