D&D documentary directed by Critical Role’s Joe Manganiello will use 400 hours of archival footage
With Wizards of the Coasts president producing, this second film will likely cleave closer to hagiography.
A new documentary covering the creation, lifetime and recent popularity surge of Dungeons & Dragons has been announced by Hasbro’s Entertainment One division. True Blood actor and guest player in Critical Role's CelebriD&D series, Joe Manganiello will co-direct the as-yet untitled feature.
Quotes and statements from the announcement are positioning this documentary as the “the definitive documentary feature about the world’s greatest roleplaying game”, according to Variety, and it will be released in 2024 to sync up with celebrations for D&D’s 50th anniversary.
Manganiello will be joined by other co-director Kyle Newman, while his brother Nick Manganiello has been tapped to produce the documentary, along with Anthony Savini, Cecily Tyler and Cynthia Williams, president of Wizards of the Coast and digital gaming (thanks, Hollywood Reporter). Executive producers include Tara Long, Geno McDermott, Jon Peterson, Adam F. Goldberg and co-director Newman.
Manganiello and Newman have apparently spent the last few years attaining exclusive rights from Wizards of the Coast to access over 400 hours of archival footage from the 1970s showing the creation and first years of Dungeons & Dragons. Created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, the tabletop RPG with deep roots in the wargaming scene enjoyed both soaring success and near death before landing in the possession of Wizards of the Coast by way of the now-defunct TSR.
Wizards reportedly also gave the directing duo filming access to parts of the development and branding process for the current iteration of D&D, which has reached unheard of heights of popularity in the tabletop space and become more brand than game - even in the eyes of parent company Hasbro. This is the first time Wizards has allowed these parts of its business to be filmed.
“As we approach 50 years of this incredible gaming universe, the time is right for an officially authorized telling of the game’s origins and current state of play to its passionate fanbase from all walks of life, and its global cultural impact,” Michael Lombardo, eOne’s head of global television said in a press release.
This isn’t the first D&D documentary announcing its production this year. Role Players, handled by documentary studio XTR, also called its dive into the venerable tabletop title as “definitive” and claimed to have access to never-before-seen archival footage (cheers, ComicBook). Whether this is the same material Manganiello claims to have is unclear, but the similarity between both film’s details is, well… interesting. Dicebreaker has reached out to Wizards of the Coast and XTR for more information.
Those hoping for incisive critique into D&D's conception and current reign at the top of the table might be disappointed in this latest venture. Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro are pushing the franchised potential of D&D hard - the upcoming film Honor Among Thieves and still-happening live action television series are the tip of the multimedia spear. Given that, they likely wouldn’t sign off - or agree to produce - anything short of hagiography. Manganiello, himself, owes a large part of his career to Critical Role, which has become an arm of D&D’s advertising power in everything but name.
Update: Joe Manganiello's relationship to the Critical Role franchise has been clarified.