I was tempted to release this article when it was announced that this series was going to happen, full of raw emotions and personal thoughts. However, what felt more appropriate was to delete that article, to wait a few weeks and then consume all the news again and come at it with a level head and give all the information in one place and to give my thoughts at the end.
What We Know
I did the easy work for you, the amount of click bait and repeating news I went thought was eye-rolling. But I’ve put my reporter hat on to just give facts that are backed up, I will be citing everything, and you will be able to find all the references at the bottom of the article listing with numbers to help.
A lot of the information we know came via a Netflix announcement/press release (1).
The Russo Brothers Are Connected
The Directors of Avengers: Endgame are confirmed to be executive producers. Within the Press release they said “We have been huge fans and players of Magic: The Gathering for as long as it has been around, so being able to help bring these stories to life through animation is a true passion project for us,” said Joe and Anthony Russo(1).
It Has A Promising Crew
Henry Gilroy (Star Wars Rebel & Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Jose Molina (The Tick & Agent Carter) will both be lead writers as well as co-executive producers (1). Also on the writing team, we have Mairghread Scott (Guardians of the Galaxy TV series) and Diya Mishra (Grandfathered) (2,3). Yoriaki Mochizuki (The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part & Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) will serve as supervising director and co-executive producer (1). Hanna (@hypherrr) seems to be the character designer (4), I have reached out to them at the time of writing and will update if confirmed.
We also found out from the press release that “Todd Makurath, Eric Calderon, and Dave Newberg serving as producers, and Mike Larocca and Isaac Krauss serving as executive producers.”(1)
Several Companies Are Connected
It goes without saying, but Netflix, Wizards of The Coast, Hasbro’s Allspark Animation, Octopie Studios & Bardel Entertainment have all been connected to the show (1).
Its been confirmed that Bardel Entertainment (Rick and Morty & Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny) will be doing the animation on the series (1). Octopie Studios will be overseeing the production of the series, their CEO Issac Krauss said “Our goal is to not only tell a compelling story leveraging Magic: The Gathering’s incredible body of work but to also push the medium and perception of storytelling through animation. This series will cross the genres of suspenseful thriller, horror, and drama with deeply developed characters the likes of which are not often seen in animation.” (1)
Wizards Seem To Be Doing This Due To Their Recent Success
Chris Cocks President of Wizards of The Coast said that “ More fans are enjoying Magic now than at any time in its 25-year history thanks to the enduring popularity of the tabletop game and our latest release War of the Spark, as well as the incredible success of our new digital game, Magic: The Gathering Arena.” (1)
It’s A New Story
Currently, the information we have been given is that it will be an “all-new storyline” that will “expand on the stories of the Planeswalkers, which are Magic’s unique magic-wielding heroes and villains as they contend with stakes larger than anyone world can hold.”(1)
They Have Been Trying To Make Something For Years
Within an interview with Polygon, Jeremy Jarvis the franchise team director for Magic: The Gathering went into details regarding the process that they have been going through to get this to the place it is today.
When looking for potential partners Jarvis has three key things he's looking for which is “One, I want to feel that they respect the IP, Two, I want to feel like I, as a creative, am being heard, that at least the better of my ideas are getting through, and they’re not just being pooh-poohed.” “three, I want to feel challenged, because if I don’t leave that room feeling challenged, why are there other people in the room?”
We also know that Wizards are still being involved “This is not a ‘kick it over the fence’ licensing deal,” “We have skin in this game, and the people that have been working to make the characters, make the worlds and bring them to life with the existing mediums that people know”.
It gives the impression that the series will be following a character or group, “[Magic] is very character-centric,” Jarvis said, “and we talked about some of the places that we believe would be best brought to life by animation, about the characters we believe that would be best served by animation.” And unlike its contemporaries “This is not going to be Yu-Gi-Oh! or Pokémon where you’re literalizing gameplay aspects. We developed this library of wonderful characters and wonderful places and impactful events, and we’re going to be bringing that to life in a new way.”
You can read the full article by Polygon here: https://www.polygon.com/2019/6/7/18657021/magic-the-gathering-netflix-animated-series-interview
Right, so that’s pretty much everything I could dig up, there’s not been a lot released but that’s partly because it’s in its very early days. Hell, the production studio is currently hiring for animators at the moment.
Now my question to myself and to you, how long do you expect this to take till we will see the show? The announcement took place on the 2nd of June 2019. I would hope and I mean hope that we don’t get the show till 2021. This is relative to the animation style that they used, some shows take around a year to complete, something like South Park takes them a few days see the documentary (5). I was fortunate enough to go to Japan at the same time Wizards was holding their celebration of Japanese magic, while there they had two short films for visitors to watch.
Sadly I haven’t been able to find the videos but I was able to find that according to Crunchyroll that “original animated collaborations from directors Koji Morimoto ("Franken's Gears" in Robot Carnival, "Beyond" in The Animatrix) and Osamu Kobayashi (Mongolian Chop Squad, Paradise Kiss)” I was able to back up their claims as both directors talk about the exhibition on their twitters. Both these films huge impression on me and raised my expectations on what I could expect from a Magic: The Gathering series or film.(6,7,8)
I was partly under the assumption that we were getting the same animation studio that gave us the War of the Spark trailer, but surprisingly no?
This was done by Axis Animation (Love Death + Robots: Helping Hand & Gears 5 – Escape) an amazing animation studio whose backlog is frankly phenomenal. Maybe Axis didn’t want to animate a full Netflix series but they did an episode for Love Death + Robots so that doesn’t make sense. My assumption is that if, IF, they were contacted with an offer that Axis declined or wanted more money. Now just stay with me here, Bardel does a lot of animation for TV series, however, their level of animation is simpler than Axis and in turn, one can assume cheaper. This isn’t to discredit Bardel but I want to be clear, watch each of the showreels below and tell me which you think will adapt the Magic: The Gathering universe more effectively?
To Bardel credit, they have experience working with Netflix and have a proven track record with them. However, the content that they make is typically for a different demographic than what Magic: The Gathering is for.
Watching Axis showreel, I can’t help but imagine what could have been, I saw what they had done when given the opportunity with the War of the Spark trailer and I wish they could have worked on the series. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe everything will look amazing and turn out perfect. I guess part of it is we will wait and see and hope for the best.
One thing I’m not worried about and more interested in is the story, while it's been confirmed they are creating an all-new story, that’s all we currently know. While I’m a little bit disappointed that we are not getting an adaptation of The Brothers War or an Origins retelling. Currently, while nothing is known, we did get a picture of Chandra which is using the artwork of Exquisite Firecraft from Magic Origins. I wonder if this might have been the reason that we saw the new Planeswalker The Wonder as well and some other new Planeswalkers as some foreshadowing.
Unrelated but, this does also link into Netflix slowly growing their animation catalogue, with Disney’s streaming service set to come out later this year with their huge backlog, plus with them owning Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight and Blue Sky there’s a lot that’s going to be on their service. With the head of anime at Netflix making a comment about the series within the press release you can assume that there is some hope that if this is successful then there is an opportunity for more to follow.
Which is an interesting point, the magic universe is huge and has the depth that a lot of long-running comic books have if not more in some respects. It’s almost crazy how much lore is there which means starting off new means the writers have complete freedom outside of the characters personalities both in the lore and in the community’s eyes. This means that the magic universe can have stories adapted, we can finally find out how Dack Fayden became the greatest theft in the multiverse, see the story of Innistrad, we could watch The Brothers War or the crew of the Weatherlight.
But what I can see happening is that this might fail, maybe the story doesn’t work, maybe it's an animation fault or perhaps it just has production hell due to the number of people involved. I don’t know, but if it does fall on its face Wizards can always do a live action film. Frankly you only really get one shot, this Netflix approach feels like if it doesn’t work out, you can forget about it and quickly move onto a movie. What story would they tell? Who would it follow? Both questions I don’t know, and I don’t know the indented audience, but it might be the only thing left to do if this doesn’t work out.
What was interesting to look at was Hasbro stock for the past year or so, if you didn’t know Wizards of the Coast are owned by Hasbro. On the 3rd Hasbro, the stock started that most recent spike due to all the Journalists covering the story. I tried to see if anything else would have made a jump like that happen around the same time and nothing. There was news but nothing that was seeing this much news coverage, meaning that sadly Hasbro will most lightly be watching over this project like a hawk. Which historically hasn’t worked out well for Wizards since Hasbro has probably had something to do with the extra product that has been coming out over the past few years to increase profits.
If it wasn’t clear, Magic: The Gathering is the game I love, it’s the one thing I really know far more about than almost anything else. I can go into the micro-history of decklists and I can remember card names from over five years ago that I played in a bad deck. So my passion for this series to be everything I feel that it can be is high. I’ve been around the characters for years, I remember when Magic saw its hard universe reset and Planeswalkers stopped being gods to what they are today.
I know that the plot is there, the lore that Magic has lends itself to a series so perfectly I’m sort of surprised it's taken this long for something to really happen. I’ve even seen breathtaking animation from Japanese Directors based on Magic and Axis War of the Spark Trailer really had me excited for the set but also the idea of this series.
But I can’t help having this nagging feeling that it's not going to work out. That might be me trying to stop my expectations from getting too high, it might be that I’ve seen beloved franchise with amazing fandom’s left disappointed with the result. But this might also be the future of something incredible!
With that in mind, thank you for reading and getting to the end of this. This was slightly different from what I’ve produced in the past but I really enjoyed digging into the information. What are your thoughts on the Magic Netflix series?
5. South Park Doc - http://www.cc.com/shows/six-days-to-air
7. Koji Morimoto Twitter - https://twitter.com/kojimorimoto
8. Osamu Kobayashi Twitter - https://twitter.com/osamukoba/