The long-developing TV series based on Robert Jordan’s sweeping fantasy novel series The Wheel of Time is coming to life at Sony Pictures Television. The series now has a writer and executive producer attached, too — it’s Rafe Judkins. You may not recognize the name, but you’ve probably seen one of the shows he’s worked on like Agents of SHIELD, Netflix’s Hemlock Grove, and Chuck.
The TV success of Game of Thrones has been responsible for the spawning of dozens of similar fantasy series, but The Wheel of Time is certainly the most ambitious of the lot. The series spans 14 novels and will require significant time, budget, and a lot of clever editing to produce.
But is live-action the best way to bring The Wheel of Time to life? We’re not so sure. In fact, we’d much prefer it to become an animated series. Here’s why…
The Wheel of Time Has a Cast of Thousands
For the uninitiated, the core of the story follows Rand al’Thor, a young boy from the Two Rivers who learns he possesses immeasurable power that can help restore the world to balance. The book series has a cast of characters that puts similar series to shame, and filming schedules would be a nightmare to coordinate with a live action production.
The need for an actor to move on to another project could have disastrous consequences, and the principal characters, Rand, Nynaeve, Perrin, Mat Cauthon, and Egwene all start at such a young age that they would be noticeably older by the time filming was complete.
Maisie Williams, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, and Sophie Turner were 13, 12, and 14 when filming began on Game of Thrones, and they’ve grown up significantly on screen. Animated characters offer a flexibility in casting that would make it much easier to disguise those jumps in age, or cover an actor’s exit from the show. Also, it stands to reason that no female actress, wigged or no, could physically survive pulling on her own braid as much as Nynaeve does.
The Wheel of Time Has Tons of Creatures
Robert Jordan dreamed up a menagerie of beasts to populate his world. Trollocs, Ogier, Myrddraal, Dragkhar, and the various war beasts of the Seanchan thunder through the pages of the books. Warcraft, which was released this week, demonstrated that the human characters in an epic surrounded by fantastic beasts can often seem out of place or overshadowed by the other elements of the story.
An animated series would allow all of those creatures to roam freely and truly inhabit the same world as their human counterparts and, perhaps more importantly, give the ordinary humans a chance to hold their own.
The Wheel of Time and Magic
The books of The Wheel of Time are filled with colossal, earth-altering magics. Aes Sedai, the Forsaken, and those others who can channel the Power, use the elements of earth, water, air, fire, and spirit to weave incredible, destructive magic that would be difficult to capture with live-action and special effects.
Actors often complain that acting against a blue screen is difficult because no matter what the production team shows you it’s difficult to reckon the true scale of what your character is experiencing. Not everyone can handle the task as adroitly as Ben Foster did as Medihv in the new Warcraft movie. Animation would allow for magic on an epic scale and without the wooden reactions from the actors that can often impede the action sequences or storytelling. With animation, the magic will always be real to the characters, and can be that much more impressive as a result.
The Wheel of Time Has Fantastic Landscapes
Robert Jordan’s story spans a wide world of his invention. Location scouts could certainly find some locations to fill in for smaller towns and places on the open road, but the fantastic cities and magical non-places like the Ways and Tel’aran’rhiod would need to be recreated on sound stages or with CGI. It also limits the kinds of stories the showrunners could tell, as characters would have a harder time being in two places at once. The various meetings that occur between geographically distant characters in the world of dreams could be near impossible if one set of characters was in, say, Venice and the other on the plains of Montana. Animators have been able to create some truly breath-taking scenery over the
The various meetings that occur between geographically distant characters in the world of dreams could be near impossible if one set of characters was in, say, Venice and the other on the plains of Montana. Animators have been able to create some truly breath-taking scenery over the years and seeing Tar Valon as a beautifully-drawn living city would be such a spectacular thrill.
The Wheel of Time’s Audience Loves Animation
Wheel of Time devotees will almost certainly tune in to watch an adaptation of the series, but how can the showrunners attract a new following? Animated series in the U.S. are often perceived as targeted to children or young adults.
Some shows, like Avatar: The Last Airbender, have transcended those boundaries by virtue of being incredible stories, but they get their start as shows that reach preteens or young adults. The viewers of that show are hungry for something to fill the void left by the end of the Legend of Korra, and the saidar–slinging witches of the White Tower might be just the answer.
By tapping into a younger audience, The Wheel of Time could captivate an entirely new generation and carry the series’ popularity forward for years to come, long enough to see the sprawling epic through to its conclusion.