After 26 years of supernatural success at retail, the tabletop trading-card game called “Magic: The Gathering” is getting its first Hollywood screen adaptation: Netflix has just announced an animated original series called Magic:The Gathering from executive producers Joe & Anthony Russo, the co-directors of Avengers: Endgame.
The Russos will partner with both Hasbro, the Rhode Island-based toymaker, and Wizards of the Coast, the Seattle outfit that publishes both the Magic card game and Dungeons & Dragons, the classic 1970s game-changer. Hasbro has owned Wizards of the West Coast since 1999.
Henry Gilroy (Star Wars Rebels) and Jose Molina (The Tick) will be lead writers for the show and co-executive producers. Yoriaki Mochizuki will serve as supervising director and co-executive producer.
Animation will be done by Bardel Studio. Octopie will oversee production of the series, with Todd Makurath, Eric Calderon, and Dave Newberg serving as producers, and Mike Larocca and Isaac Krauss of Octopie serving as executive producers
Netflix says the Brothers Russo will “oversee the creation of an all new storyline and expand on the stories” of the Planeswalkers, the term for many of the magic-wielding heroes and villains who dominate Magic’s tabletop realms of imagination.
Details beyond that are scant but Krauss, CEO of Octopie, did say the animation ambitions for the series are lofty ones.
“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,” Krauss said “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.”
The card game represents a rich an vast IP universe with magical people, places, and things. The brand’s entrenched fanbase and global reach made it a clear commodity in the eyes of Netflix , especially with the Russos on board.
“Magic is a beloved global franchise with a massively engaged fan base that has only continued to grow over the last 25 years,” said John Derderian, head of Anime programming for Netflix. “There’s no one better suited to bring this story to audiences around the world than Joe and Anthony Russo, whose talent for genre storytelling is unmatched, as is demonstrated by their central role in creating some of the biggest box office hits of all time.”
Indeed, the Russo Brothers are coming off of the hottest box-office streak in Hollywood history (four Marvel Studios hits in five years with $6.61 billion in global box office). The prolific Russos are also Executive Producers on Deadly Class, the Syfy series .Their company, AGBO Films, just locked in an inventive deal with MGM, adding to the TV pact they inked last year with Midnight Radio.
This latest project brings the Russos into the universe of Magic: The Gathering but they won’t be arriving as tourists.
“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,” the Russos said in a joint statement.
As a game, Magic: The Gathering has certainly lived up to its name. With an estimated 38 million fans playing the game in 11 languages and 70 countries, the sorcery brand transcends U.S. borders. The brand has expanded well beyond the card games in recent years, too.
“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,” said Chris Cocks, President of Wizards of the Coast. “We’re thrilled to collaborate with Joe and Anthony Russo to bring Magic: The Gathering’s rich and diverse cast of characters and worlds to Netflix in a way that will delight our many fans and those new to the franchise.”