Back in 2021, it was first reported that a Game of Thrones animated series was in its earliest stages of development, though absolutely zero plans were ever revealed.
Fast-forward to now and creator George RR Martin is suggesting that three franchise animations are in the works, pivoting the Nine Voyages spin-off from live-action.
At this point, we have to stress - this isn’t a continuation of where things left off after the season 8 finale. Think of it instead as a new branch on the same tree, exploring the same world at the same point in time, only focusing on different stories.
Even better, said stories will now have a whole new visual style to explore. Given how intricate the main series was, any animation should be nothing less than breathtaking.
However, as the world of Game of Thrones continues to expand commercially, the move to animation begs the question: why bother?
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Fans of the main series will remember (or might choose not to) how abysmally badly season 8 ended - so much so that it completely eclipsed its former reputation of being an unmissable show. We watched, we left and we moved on, still with a bitter aftertaste in our mouths.
As of November 2023, it was estimated that at least six more Game of Thrones spin-offs were somewhere in the development pipeline.
So, at what point does this hit expansion for expansion’s sake? As Martin wrote himself on his personal blog: "There’s a whole world out there. And we have a lot better chance of showing it all with animation. So we now have three animated projects underway."
With this in mind, animation is possibly looked at as the potential saviour of a franchise with a rocky history. At first glance, this is totally understandable. Who doesn’t like being whisked away to a world where everything is obviously make-believe? After all, isn’t that why Game of Thrones worked so well in the first place?
If nothing else, this approach from the show’s creative eggheads could then be doing animation a huge disservice. Already looked upon as a genre rather than an art form, animation isn’t exactly an easy beast to tame, needing barrels of time, history and understanding.
Though the franchise IP is incredibly strong, it’s now entering into an arena it hasn’t dealt with before, stacking up to the likes of anime titans.
Away from the hallmarks of Game of Thrones, animation has hit a global boom. Anime, in particular, is growing in popularity internationally, with success stories such as One Piece and Avatar: The Last Airbender making the transition from cartoon to live-action.
In effect, Martin is planning the reverse strategy, perhaps with the hopes of capitalising on this thirsty demand.
There’s no two ways about it: Game of Thrones is likely to struggle - or unlikely to be successfully revived - by an animated series.
Competition is already extremely fierce, with fan doubt possibly holding over from the sour note that season 8 created. There seems to be little value in continuing to explore the world in its "present" day, not building on anything that wasn’t already bludgeoned by the series finale.
If there is no value, then the animation itself will suffer. Anime or cartoon shows perform at their best when they are enriched with unique storytelling - just look at Blue Eye Samurai or Invincible. If that authenticity is dulled, then so is the end product, resembling something that instead looks like a cheap cash grab.
Perhaps this is a particularly harsh way to view what Martin might have in store for fans, but it’s difficult to be enthused by something that has already been self-sabotaged.
Any new additions also have the potential to harm where the franchise is actually excelling, with the second season of House of the Dragon being hotly anticipated.
As a prequel with an entirely new cast and vision, its value is easy to spot. But widening the world of Game of Thrones too far could put a dangerous strain on what has already been salvaged.
The first season of House of the Dragon aired on Sky Atlantic and is available on NOW – find out more about how to sign up for Sky TV. Check out more of our Fantasy coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.