Magic: the Gathering’s animated adaptation has lost The Russo Brothers as showrunners after the pair parted ways with the Netflix project, taking several team members with them. Jeff Kline reportedly replaced them, bringing a new creative team on board to continue work.
As reported by Deadline, Anthony and Joseph Russo left the unnamed CG-animated show sometime early in production due to “different visions for how best to adapt” the universe of Wizards of the Coast’s globally popular trading card game for Netflix’s streaming media service. The Russo brothers, popularly known for directing several films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, were originally attached as show runnenrs when the project was first announced in 2019.
Head writers Jose Molina and Henry Gilroy followed the Russos departure, which was apparently “amicable”. Netflix then brought in animation veteran Jeff Kline to replace them, with the Russos aiding in the transition. Kline’s previous work includes several Transformers cartoons, along with creating both the 2001 Men in Black animated series and 2002’s Jackie Chan Adventures.
“I’m grateful to the Russos for bringing me into the world of Magic: The Gathering – specifically, over dinner at one of their go-to Cleveland restaurants,” Kline told Deadline. “Magic is one of those rare intellectual properties with such a wellspring of mythology that “picking and choosing” is half the battle. Every single person working on the series understands how beloved this universe is – and feels both the exhilaration and tremendous pressure that comes with translating Magic across mediums.”
Story editor Steve Melching will join Kline as a co-producer, bringing writing chops from his work on series such as Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and The Batman. Other creative team additions include supervising director Audu Paden, art director Izzy Medrano and Nicole Dubuc, Russell Sommer, Dan Frey and Taneka Stotts as writers.
In a final switchup, Bardel Studio will be replaced with Snowball Studios to handle the series’ animation duties.
A joint statement from Netflix, Wizards of the Coast and eOne, Hasbro’s film studio division, expressed optimism for the project’s continued success under Kline’s stewardship. “While the Russo Brothers are no longer part of the animated series, their passion for the game combined with their early creative perspective and input helped us to shape the project to a place where we believe fans of the game and those new to the ‘Gathering Universe’ will enjoy the series and discover what millions of fans around the globe have known for the past 25 years,” the statement reads.
What that eventual show will look like remains unclear. The announcement pitched an entirely new storyline centered on Planeswalkers, the universe-hopping characters at the center of the vast majority of Magic: The Gathering’s latest narrative arcs. That choice makes senses - Planeswalkers such as Jace Berelan and Liliana Vess not only have recognition within the player base but a wealth of established characterisation and connection to each other.
Wizards of the Coast’s other massive property, Dungeons & Dragons, is similarly being produced for both an upcoming film and - possibly - a rash of television shows, according to a 2020 Hasbro investor earnings call. The yet unnamed film most recently announced that actor Hugh Grant will play the villain, though whether that necessitates Paddington the paladin’s inclusion will have to wait.