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Development: Jim Henson Co. to adapt Witchlands series; Star Wars’ John Boyega to produce monster movie; more

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Sep 4, 2018

The Muppets are going to The Witchlands (sort of); Star Wars’ Finn is producing a new film; the Cats adaptation gets a release date and an environmental sci-fi thriller novel will become a TV series in this edition of SYFY WIRE’s Development Roundup. 

First up, the Jim Henson Company has optioned Susan Dennard’s bestselling young adult epic fantasy book series The Witchlands to develop as a live-action TV show, the company announced.

Windwitch Cover

Windwitch, by Susan Dennard

The Witchlands takes place on a distant continent in which some are born with a magical skill set known as a ‘witchery.’ The series follows best friends Safi and Iseult, as well as ship captain Prince Merik and the mysterious Aeduan, as they navigate warring empires, political machinations, and mercenaries who seek to use their magic for personal gain.

The series published by Tor Books consists of Truthwitch, Windwitch, and the illustrated spinoff novella Sightwitch. The next book in the series, Bloodwitch, is set to be released on February 2019.

“The Witchlands features a world of magic and astonishing characters that our Creature Shop can sink its teeth into and bring to life in an exciting and fresh way,” said Halle Stanford, President of Television for the Jim Henson Company in a statement. “These books fulfill our desire to dive deep into a high fantasy world a la Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, where the women are the heroes and the world itself is seen through a feminine lens."

Stanford and Jim Henson Company President and CEO Lisa Henson will serve as executive producers for the project. Dennard will co-executive produce. Jim Henson's Creature Shop will create the creature characters for the series.


Meanwhile, John Boyega, star of the latest Star Wars trilogy, will executive produce writer-director Keir Burrows’ upcoming U.K. fantasy-horror film A Spriggan, Deadline is reporting. Boyega will executive produce the film through his Upper Room Productions banner along with producer Josephine Rose from Bandit Country. 

A Spriggan follows a recently-widowed mother who returns to her father’s isolated hotel, where she discovers a malevolent presence haunting the land. 

“In my producing projects, I’m looking for filmmaker driven, world-building, cinematic pieces, and have found in Josephine Rose another producer who shares that creative vision and commercial ambition,” said Boyega. “We’re looking forward to working with Keir Burrows to explore the monsters of real-life through a dark, twisted, fairy-tale world of the Spriggan.”

Boyega, who is currently shooting Star Wars IX for director J.J. Abrams, recently co-produced Pacific Rim: Uprising through Upper Room Productions along with Legendary Pictures.

A Spriggan will be Burrows’ second film, following his low-budget sci-fi film Anti Matter. Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Neil Corbould (Rogue One, Gravity) and his company Neil Corbould Special Effects will handle special effects and create the creature. 

The film is currently in the casting process. 

(Via Deadline)  

Those who are sad that Cats used up its ninth life on Broadway now have reason to purr. (Okay, no; I’m not littering this entry with cat puns — that was the last one, I swear!). The film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-running musical is set to hit theatres on Dec. 20, 2019. So. It’s going up against the next Star Wars film. Bring it.

The film adaptation directed by Tom Hooper (Les Misérables) will star Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden and Ian McKellen. Production is set to start in the U.K. later this year. 

Universal Pictures and Working Title, which previously partnered to make the film adaptation of Les Mis, are once again teaming up to produce Cats.

Finally, Game of Thrones executive producer Frank Doelger plans to adapt the environmental sci-fi thriller novel The Swarm into a TV series. Per various media outlets, this will be the first drama to come out of Doelger’s nascent Intaglio Films, a German TV production company designed to produce English-language dramas for the international market, is a joint venture between Beta Film and ZDF Enterprises, the commercial arm of German public broadcaster ZDF.

Based on Frank Schaetzing’s 2004 novel, The Swarm follows a group of scientists and military personnel who discover that an intelligent being in the depths of the ocean, after suffering the ravages of human civilization on its habitat, is about to fight back.

Doelger, Schaetzing and Eric Welbers will serve as executive producers. The series will have an eight-episode run. Production begins in 2019.

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