Activision Blizzard already is the home to well-known game franchises such as Call of Duty, Skylanders, Diablo, StarCraft, and more. The mega-publisher announced Friday it is now setting its sights on expanding more into television and film. On the same day BlizzCon 2015 kicks off and Black Ops 3 is released, a Skylanders animated television show was introduced along with plans for a cinematic universe based on Call of Duty.
Former Disney executive Nick van Dyke has been tapped to co-head a new Activision film and television studio devoted to creating original content based on the publisher’s extensive library of properties. The first production will be an animated TV series titled Skylanders Academy.
Former Futurama writer Eric Rogers will serve as the showrunner for Skylanders Academy, which will feature an impressive voice cast. It will star Justin Long (Alvin and the Chipmunks, Ask Me Anything) as Spyro, Ashley Tisdale (Phineas and Ferb, High School Musical) as Stealth Elf, Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul) as Eruptor and Norm Macdonald (Saturday Night Live) as Glumshanks. Harland Williams (Jake and the Never Land Pirates) and the voice of Kaos himself, Richard Horvitz, will also be part of the cast.
The Skylanders franchise popularized the “toy-to-life” genre of video games to the tune of $3 billion and 250 million toys since 2011. However, it is facing increasing competition from the likes of Disney Infinity and LEGO Dimensions. Throwing in a television series has the potential to grab additional mindshare from youngsters as Skylanders doesn’t have the natural cross-media hooks as its competitors.
Meanwhile, Activision is going big with not just a Call of Duty movie, but an entire cinematic universe based on the popular shooter.
“Activision Blizzard Studios envisions a series of Call of Duty feature films as well as the possibility of television adaptations,” the press release reads.
No additional details were provided, but it will be interesting to see which of the existing Call of Duty storylines will be utilized for the cinematic universe or if an all new one will be created. The Modern Warfare line exploded the popularity of Call of Duty, but it has been four years since the last release. The Black Ops line from Treyarch is both the most current and most popular with Black Ops III launching today. There is also the Advanced Warfare branch that was introduced last year by Sledgehammer Games.
Call of Duty should be a natural fit for films. The goal of every game has been to capture a cinematic experience. Meanwhile, television and film stars have begun making regular appearances in the games, such as Kevin Spacey’s appearance as the villain in Advanced Warfare and Christopher Meloni’s turn as the maybe bad guy in Black Ops 3.
Blizzard Entertainment partnered with Legendary Pictures in 2006 to produce a live-action film from the Warcraft universe. After a lengthy time in film development hell that saw work done by director Sam Raimi thrown out, that partnership will finally pay off on June 10, 2016, with the release of Warcraft directed by Duncan Jones.
Opening its own film and television studio gives Activision Blizzard more control over its properties as they hit other mediums and should prevent repeats of the Warcraft film development. On the other hand, this is also a huge financial undertaking. Fortunately, Activision Blizzard has already shown it can throw around billions of dollars with the recent purchase of Candy Crush maker King Entertainment.
“Activision Blizzard is home to some of the most successful entertainment franchises in history, across any medium. With the launch of Activision Blizzard Studios, our engaged fans can now watch the games they love come to life across film and television,” said Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard. “Activision Blizzard Studios is yet another way we’re celebrating our players and fans, and we expect that our film and television productions will entertain and delight whole new audiences, as well. I’m excited that Nick and his team will be leading this important new growth opportunity for Activision Blizzard.”
Kotick added, “We intend to approach film and television development with the same unwavering commitment to excellence we are known for in game development.”
[Image via Call of Duty]