Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Meanwhile, over in the battle for the D&D film rights...

Whilst battle lines are drawn over the Wheel of Time rights situation, there is also the ongoing legal engagement going on between Hasbro and Sweetpea Entertainment over the Dungeons and Dragons film rights to consider.

Peter Jackson to swoop in and turn into an unnecessary nine-film epic starring Orlando Bloom as Legolas as Hank, and Andy Serkis providing mocap for Uni.

The two sides met in a Los Angeles courtroom last September for the first engagement. Hasbro, who own Wizards of the Coast, the current rights-holders for the D&D tabletop game, have been trying to get back the D&D film rights that were sold for almost a song back in the early 1990s by WotC's predecessors, TSR, when they were in financial trouble. Hasbro bought WotC in 1999 and seem to have been dismayed by the films produced by Courtney Solomon's Sweetpea Entertainment, which were low-to-zero budget disasters. The theatrical film Dungeons and Dragons (2000) was a bomb and the TV/DVD sequels Wrath of a Dragon God (2005) and Book of Vile Darkness (2012) were even less successful. Sweetpea contends that by getting movies in production every five years, they have fulfilled the terms of their contract. Hasbro contends that the contract does not include cheap-arse straight-to-TV/DVD projects possibly made for the sole purposes of holding onto the rights.

There are of course bigger names behind the scenes: Warner Brothers are working with Sweetpea on a new, big-budget film project whilst Hasbro has a deal with Universal. The Warner Brothers project seems to be more advanced, with a script in place and some production staff attached, whilst Hasbro and Universal's deal seems less detailed. However, Hasbro also has the rights to the various D&D worlds, such as Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance (which are arguably better-known and more popular than the D&D name itself which does not have any narrative value in itself), not to mention the numerous books published in those worlds. If Hasbro regains the rights, a movie based on the popular Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy or the popular Drizzt Do'Urden character become much more likely.

The legal showdown was inconclusive, with the two sides retiring at the end of September. The judge withdrew to consider a verdict, but urged the two sides to come to an out-of-court settlement. With both studios seeing the possibility of a massive Marvel/Star Wars/DC-style super-franchise encompassing many different films in the D&D brand, I doubt very much that will happen and so lawyers will clash again.

What is interesting is that under the terms of the deal, Sweetpea will apparently have to get another project into production this year or risk losing the rights to Hasbro by default. It'll be interesting to see if this happens, rendering the whole thing moot.

Even more interesting is Universal's role in both this and the Wheel of Time debacle. It may well be that Universal sees a larger brand value in the D&D name (which is much more famous worldwide) and no point in having two epic fantasy brands knocking around at once, so the fate of one of these situations may well impact on the other.


Raquel said...

All I can say is "OW"!!

Ghost said...

Universal must be desperate for a franchise. Aren't they already trying to start a "Monster"-U with the Werewolf, Count Dracula, and Frankenstein? Now they also want WoT & D&D? How many franchises do they want?