First some background: in 1968 author Anne McCaffrey
(who was the first woman to have won the Hugo for fiction) combined two of
her shorter works into a novel named Dragonflight. Dragonflight
was supposedly science fiction, but (despite the author’s protestations)
actually had more in common with Fantasy instead, being set in a largely
low-tech feudal environment replete with fire-breathing dragons. The setup
was pure SF though: the novel is set a distant planet named Pern which was
colonized by Earthlings ages ago.
So long ago that its current inhabitants actually
forgot all about their mother planet’s very existence . . .
See the problem is that destructive spores from the
nearby sun called Threads have basically knocked the colonists back to the
middle ages (literally). The only way to destroy these spores before they
hit the planet is with fire-breathing flying dragons which humans ride
like, um, ponies. The humans communicate with the dragons using telepathy.
By the time the first novel begins, it has been 400 years since the
previous spore attack and the so-called “Threads” have very much passed
into the realm of legend and myth. There are also preciously few “dragon
riders” left to prevent any spores in such an event. Also, most of the
people of Pern don’t actually see the need for these dragon riders
anymore. Wanna bet that another spore attack is imminent?
". . . it was more like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer than
McCaffrey’s fictional universe!"
Dragonflight proved to be hugely popular with
younger readers and the Dragonriders of Pern (as the series came to
be called) became a bona fide publishing phenomenon. Throughout the years
another 18 or so books in the series would be published, some of them
written by Todd McCaffrey, the author’s son. (Anne McCaffrey is 83 at the
time of writing.)
In that time there had been several attempts to bring
McCaffrey’s books to the big screen. The closest anyone came was in 2002
when writer Ronald D. Moore (of the
revival fame) and the WB Network had completed sets and casting for a
television series. They were within a few days from filming when Moore
sent the script for the pilot episode to WB for final approval.
came back with so many changes to the basic structure of Pern that some
sources say that it was “more like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” than
McCaffrey’s fictional universe. Moore was however too much of a fan of the
original novels and refused to accept the changes. Instead filming was
cancelled and the film rights were returned to Anne McCaffrey.
Fast forward to 2006 when a Canadian production house
named Copperheart Entertainment announces that it has bought the rights to
all 19 Dragonrider books and intends bringing the series to the big
screen. “I decided that Pern had to be done right, and I wouldn’t let it
go to someone unless I was certain that they were committed to
excellence,” McCaffrey herself declared.
(Author Anne McCaffrey)
We hope that McCaffrey wasn’t expecting a $200
million special effects blockbuster in the style of
Avatar though. If she
had, then she probably didn’t take too close a look at Copperheart’s
portfolio. The outfit is best known for bringing the Ginger Snaps
werewolf movies to video shelves across the world . . .
Yup, Copperheart specializes in small- to medium
budget productions, usually horror movies such as the 2006 remake of the
cult 1970s slasher Black Christmas. Their next movie is
Splice, a Species-like
horror movie by the director of Cube
starring Adrien Brody (King Kong, The
Pianist) and indie darling Sarah Polley. (Splice is actually
getting a limited theatrical release in the States on 18 September 2009 by
That was back in 2006. Since then there has been no
news on the project: no casting, screenwriting, or any other news. The
only indication that the project is still “alive” (sort of) is the fact
that IMDb gives 2011 as the film’s release date which means that someone –
probably the production company itself – has kept it updated. (Our e-mail
queries to the production company have gone unanswered.)
So does that mean that the project is dead? Who
knows? But one thing is certain: don’t expect Peter Jackson to turn it
into a multimillion blockbuster. After all, Jackson has his own dragon
literary property optioned (Naomi Novik’s
Temeraire) . . .
(Note: we actually liked the first Ginger Snaps
movie and believe that a small budget doesn’t always mean that a movie
will suck, so we’re actually hopeful that Copperheart will make a
movie that will be truthful to author McCaffrey’s work. Sources: