log in or register to remove this ad

 

This is the Way

The long-gestating Dungeons & Dragons film continues to creep along, but another series has demonstrated that the game may not need a big budget movie at all: The Mandalorian.

themandalorian.jpg

The Manda-who?​

For the uninitiated, The Mandalorian follows a Mandalorian bounty hunter and his ward, a Yoda-like Force-using creature named Grogu in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian draws on rich lore from existing Star Wars canon and elements of the Expanded Universe (now known as Legends) that was created in books, comics, and video games.

What makes The Mandalorian so groundbreaking isn't just that it's a streaming show on Disney+ launching after a massive nine-part movie series, but that it has managed to seamlessly fit into the films' story lines while maintaining movie-level special effects. Jon Favreau, who worked on Marvel's Iron Man and Disney's live action Lion King, took what he learned from those experiences to make a streamlined series that feels like a movie.

And that's a good thing, because the massive diversity of alien fauna and sentient beings in Star Wars has a lot of parallels in the monster-rich world of Dungeons & Dragons. Previous D&D movies have all struggled with portraying monsters true to their D&D roots, both from a script and a special effects perspective (most notably a beholder distracted by a rock).

Favreau's Innovations​

Favreau set out to create a television show with movie-level special effects on a limited budget (for Disney, $15 million per episode). To keep the series within budget and on time, he leveraged two technologies and integrated them into the planning and shooting process.

The first is The Volume, a massive 360 degree projection sound stage where the actors are filmed in real time. Green screen isn't necessary as there's less work done in post-production; the actors in costume stand in front of real-time rendered virtual sets, which means the light glinting off twin suns in the background is automatically reflected in the Mandalorian's shiny beskar armor. Or to put it another way, the special effects are integrated into the background as the actors are filmed.

The second innovation is game-rendering technology. Epic Games, maker of the Unreal Engine, and other partners created StageCraft, a virtually reality platform that enables directors to render the action before a single scene is filmed. The game engine does all the work, allowing directors to determine where cameras and actors should be placed before filming begins.

Taken together, these two technologies are revolutionizing film making for series that require fantastic locations and creatures. Which makes it perfect for D&D.

The D&D Series that Never Was​

Ironically, the Dungeons & Dragons media franchise was always a supposed to be television series. This all came to light in lawsuits over the movie rights, which pivoted on the TV rights. The rights were originally owned by Sweetpea Entertainment and continuation of those rights were contingent upon creating further movies; Sweetpea made two movies that were released on the Syfy channel, "Wrath of the Dragon God" and "The Book of Vile Darkness." According to the suit, their status as TV movies did not qualify as a "theatrical motion picture" and therefore did not "reset the Sequel Rights' five-year revision clock." As evidence that Sweetpea Entertainment knew it was creating a television show and not an actual sequel to the movie:
Sweetpea paid, and Hasbro accepted, a payment of $20,000--the amount contractually tied only to the exploitation of Television Rights, and consistent with the parties' mutual understanding that the Second TV Movie was a made-for-television production for release on the Syfy Channel. Were the Second TV Movie planned or released as a theatrical or non-theatrical sequel, prequel or remake based on the Picture, Sweetpea would have paid the greater amount under the License for exercising the Sequel Rights.
Using the payment as evidence, the lawsuit alleged that the movie rights actually reverted to Hasbro five years after the movie's debut on December 8, 2005. Sweetpea's counter lawsuit claimed the company had invested over 60,000 hours and $2 million in a television series.

Thanks to the pandemic and Favreau's innovative new filming techniques, the line between a movie and a television series have blurred. All this legal wrangling seems moot now, but it illustrates how with the right budget and the right technology, a "good" D&D series today is more possible than ever. Maybe we don't need a D&D movie after all.

Your Turn: What multimedia will work best to bring Dungeons & Dragons to a wider audience?
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

MarkB

Legend
I, for one, really, really hope they never do this. Unless as a set-up for a live-action version of the 80s cartoon. Show the kids playing the game before that fateful day at the amusement park . . .

I've really tried hard to like "The Gamers" and it's follow-ups, but I just haven't been able to.
I liked it very much, but it's very much for the fans.

I just don't see the whole blended at-the-table and in-the-fiction thing being particularly accessible for new viewers.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

We have to remember the first action-live Transformer movie was not for fandom but for aduence who knew nothing. They went to be a movie about "aliens attack" like War of the Worlds.

I like the idea of "isekai", people from real worlf traveling to a D&D world, but it is not easy to work(but in Ravenloft, where people from all multiverses are "welcome")
 

I love The Gamers, but yeah, it's very much a for-fans, by-fans set of movies. Someone not into gaming coming into the show would probably find switching back-and-forth between this world and the fantasy one off-putting. For a movie it might work (Ready Player One is essentially just this), but for long-form entertainment, it'd probably end up damaging its own narrative. People would care about the real world or fantasy world more, and knowing that the fantasy world wasn't even real would undermine its drama.

I liked it very much, but it's very much for the fans.

I just don't see the whole blended at-the-table and in-the-fiction thing being particularly accessible for new viewers.
 

Faolyn

Explorer
We have to remember the first action-live Transformer movie was not for fandom but for aduence who knew nothing. They went to be a movie about "aliens attack" like War of the Worlds.

I like the idea of "isekai", people from real worlf traveling to a D&D world, but it is not easy to work(but in Ravenloft, where people from all multiverses are "welcome")
There's always the idea of a summoning spell going awry.

"I was trying to summon the legendary spirit-heroes to defend our land. Instead, I got... you guys." camera pans over to a bunch of confused-looking gamers.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
You could have people pulled into a fantasy world, and it might even work. Look at the Jumanji movies. I thought they were a bit silly, but they leaned into it and the movies have been quite successful.

Not suggesting it's a good idea but maybe? I wouldn't bounce back-and-forth though, I'd do it more like the D&D cartoon where they just get pulled in and stay. It's also been done in various fantasy novels before, it lets the protagonists bring in modern viewpoints and approach the whole thing as kind of fish out of water.
 


Stormonu

Legend
Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe also use the "thrown into a fantasy world", but I'd rather have a series that completely revolves around the fantasy world - no kitchen table interludes or characters thrown into the fantasy world.

For the D&D series I would like to see, I wish for a really well-done Dragonlance Chronicles. I think a Drizzt series could also work. Is there enough stories around to do a Blackmoor or Greyhawk series?
 



TV: No doubt a classic party going on mini-adventures that tie into a larger theme, and larger adventure. Classic classes. Dozens of races encountered. Broad swaths of D&D. Could (and would) do very well.
Movie: Hard to capture the world in 3 hours. Try to make a franchise? Too expensive.
Radio: Books on tape might be the better option. ;)
 


Advertisement1

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top