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Game of Thrones spinoff pivoting to animation, says Blue Eye Samurai stan George R.R. Martin

‘I hope we can make them as good as gorgeous and gripping’

The Sea Snake from House of the Dragon and Mizu from Blue Eye Samurai Graphic: Matt Patches/Polygon; Source images: HBO; Netflix
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

Though the end of Game of Thrones in 2019 dovetailed directly into news that HBO was in development on a slate of spinoff series spearheaded by source material author George R.R. Martin, 2024 only feels like the beginning of a GoT onslaught. House of the Dragon, the only show that’s gone before cameras (besides an entirely different pilot that was shot and scrapped), will return for season 2 this summer. A Knight of Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight, adapting Martin’s Dunk and Egg story, has a greenlight with lofty goals of arriving before year’s end. A Jon Snow series might still be in the works? Easy to believe, but there are no officially announced plans.

But Martin, a writer who loves to tease epic conclusions, continues to pique fan interest with updates on everything else that may or may not be happening in HBO’s Max-driven Westeros universe. And the most recent update concerns a show that is apparently moving at a clip: Nine Voyages, a naval warfare-themed spin following Lord Corlys Velaryon that was previously referred to as The Sea Snake, which was planned for live-action but will now take the form of an animated series.

In a post on his personal site, Martin notes that Nine Voyages was planned on the scale of Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon, but as development went on with showrunner Bruno Heller (Rome, Gotham), it was clear the vision was prohibitively expensive. “The necessity of creating a different port every week,” Martin writes, “from Driftmark to Lys to the Basilisk Isles to Volantis to Qarth to… well, on and on and on. 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.”

The animated version of Nine Voyages joins two other unnamed animated Game of Thrones projects in development. Martin notes none of them currently have the greenlight from HBO/Max, but adds “we are getting close to taking the next step with a couple of them.” It’s unclear if they’re all destined for Max premieres; later this year, Warner Bros. Pictures will release a fully animated Lord of the Rings film, The War of the Rohirrim, in theaters. The right Thrones story could make the same play.

Pivoting to animation over live-action hasn’t shaken Martin’s enthusiasm for the story, and if anything, it makes him more excited about the potential of adapting even more of his A Song of Fire and Ice stories. And that’s because George R.R. Martin rightfully stans Netflix’s Blue Eye Samurai. Polygon’s #2 show of 2023, Blue Eye Samurai honed classic samurai tropes with modern action choreography and dimensional drama. We ate it up and so did Martin.

“I hardly know where to start on this one,” he writes. “Once we started watching it, we could not stop [...] it is violent, visceral, sexy (and more than a little kinky in spots), with amazing action sequences and a cast of well-developed characters, colorful and complex and real. Flawed heroes, villains who are more than cartoons (though they are cartoons, being drawn, after all). It reminded me of some books I read… what was the title of that series, now? Something about a song… ”

Blue Eye Samurai shares a notable connection with Game of Thrones: Jane Wu, who supervised the animated series and choreographed much of its action, designed set pieces for both the original series and House of the Dragon. And her work on the live-action series, which required massive amounts of storyboarding and pre-visualization animation, inspired her to reverse engineer her process for Blue Eye Samurai, in which she tried to direct for live-action then convert into cartooning with French studio Blue Spirit.

“I got this idea through [our main] character,” Wu told Polygon last November. “She is biracial. So I wanted this production, and when you’re looking at it, to feel like it’s a great blend of both animation and live action. I wanted to show that there is strength in that diversity.”

In Martin’s eyes, the bar for Nine Voyages and the other Thrones animated project has been set.

“But if it does happen, with one or two or all three shows, I hope we can make them as good as gorgeous and gripping as Blue Eye Samurai,” he writes. “We will for damn sure try.”

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