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WIRE Buzz: Netflix orders Heaven's Forest from Warren Ellis; iHeart strikes The Second Oil Age podcast; more

By Josh Weiss
Warren Ellis

After the rousing success of its Castlevania adaptation, Netflix is once again teaming up with writer Warren Ellis for a brand-new animated genre series called Heaven's Forest, Deadline has confirmed. Per the report, the project will take place "in an Indo-futuristic world, with storyline and characters inspired by the Indian mythology of the Ramayana."

In addition to serving as head scribe, Ellis is also an executive producer — a title he shares with Adi Shankar and Kevin Kolde. Powerhouse Animation, which brought Castlevania to life, will also animate this show.

“I am delighted to be partnering again with Netflix, my Castlevania comrades, and the Indian creative community, to create this surreal, mythic narrative filled with life and heart,” Ellis said in a statement to Deadline.

Warren Ellis

“My whole life I’ve dreamed of seeing Hindu mythology represented in international media,” added Shankar. "My culture’s stories are spectacle-filled fantasy epics in lavish aesthetic and we’re going to bring it to the global stage."

Originally written in Sanskrit, the Ramayana tells the story of Prince Rama, who, along with an army of monkeys, sets out to free his wife, Sita, from the captivity of Ravana. The epic, which dates back to 500-100 BC, consists of 24,000 verses and has heavily influenced the cultures of India, Southeast Asia, and Buddhism.

“This is a great time to be working in animation and to be a fan of animation,” said Kevin Kolde. “It’s exciting to be given the freedom by our partner Netflix to push the boundaries of the art form to explore and tell diverse and mature stories to audiences around the world.”

Deadline also reports that iHeart Radio has placed an order for The Second Oil Age, a scripted science fiction podcast that's already being groomed for television by the United Talent Agency. Created by Robert Lamb (host of Stuff to Blow Your Mind), The Second Oil Age takes place in 2186:

"When humanity’s thirst for oil took them to the bottom of the sea and the threshold of an alien civilization. Through a bargain with a deep-sea species known only as the Tritons, people were able to tap previously unreachable oil reserves. This birthed a new age of fossil fuel dependency: the Second Oil Age, a second chance for a floundering civilization that refused to change. But the demands of the new age have altered the human condition itself."

The main character of the story is Synøve Pan, an employee of the world's most powerful corporate entity, UDEX Petroleum. Able to resist the telepathic tactics of the Tritons, "she’ll wake to the true threats of division and hatred that threaten the world of the Second Oil Age," continues the official synopsis.

"Robert is constantly fascinated by the new genres that podcasting is covering. He is also a devout sci-fi fan, so it was only a matter of time before Robert set his sights on experimenting in the fiction space and, specifically, in the sci-fi dystopian future genre. We are big fans of Robert‘s and true believers in his talent, so as an experiment, we asked him to dream up a futuristic sci-fi world just to see what he would come back with," said iHeart's head of podcasting, Conal Byrne.

UTA is already conferring with producers to turn the podcast into a big-budgeted TV show.

“Podcasting is an incredibly good medium to test intellectual property for TV and film because you can move quickly and cost-effectively. Plus, you can test ideas in front of audiences at scale to see what resonates and what does not. All that said, our goal here is to first make an amazing podcast series, before all else,” Byrne continued.

iHeart has also set up podcast agreements with Blumhouse, Shonda Rhimes, and Will Ferrell.

The formative, butt-kicking years of Batman's eventual butler will be further explored in a second season of Pennyworth, which was just ordered by Epix, SYFY WIRE has confirmed. Taking inspiration from the likes of James Bond, the series unfolds in 1960s London, where a young Alfred (Jack Bannon doing a respectable Michael Caine impression) faces off against insidious criminal groups and meets Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge) for the first time.

"Pennyworth has been a big hit for us, embraced by critics and fans alike," said Epix president Michael Wright in a statement. "It was the highest-performing original series ever to premiere on Epix, more than doubling the viewership of the shows that came before it. Bruno Heller, Danny Cannon and WBTV have delivered a brilliant, must watch series. We can’t wait to work with this phenomenal cast and creative team on another exciting season.” 

Alfred and Thomas Wayne meet in Pennyworth

"It was a chance to do something within the DC canon that was completely different," Heller, who developed Fox's Gotham series, told us over the summer. "And you could tell a completely different story in a different way. It's much more of a character drama than Gotham, for instance ... Origin stories are certainly my favorite, and this was a chance to address a character that is an iconic, much-beloved character, but who has never really been explored."

Production on Season 2 of Pennyworth will kick off in January at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden. Epix is eyeing a 2020 premiere for the next batch of 10 episodes.