The Dragon Prince fans got the best news they could hope for one year ago when Netflix renewed the animated fantasy saga for four more seasons. That means that the team at Wonderstorm -- led by company co-founders and series co-creators Aaron Ehasz (who has worked on shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Futurama) and Justin Richmond (who has worked in the games industry at Riot Games and Naughty Dog) -- would be able to complete their planned seven-season saga set in the world of Xadia. But Wonderstorm isn't stopping there. From its founding, the company has had one foot in the world of television and the other in gaming. The Dragon Prince: Battlecharged card game and Tales of Xadia TTRPG are both nearing release, while a video game based on the Emmy-winning series is in development. There are further multimedia plans as well, with The Dragon Prince books and graphic novels already in stores and more on the way.
During 2021's Comic-Con@Home event, Ehasz, Richmond, and other members of the Wonderstorm team held a panel discussion about The Dragon Prince. They couldn't offer specific details about when The Dragon Prince would return. Still, they did give a sense of their plans for The Dragon Prince that extend beyond the Netflix animated series. Ehasz and Richmond then took some time a few days after the panel to chat with ComicBook.com. Our extensive conversation yielded some teases about upcoming projects. It also provided a sense of how high they believe the ceiling for The Dragon Prince's growth is (SPOILERS: high, as the idea of Xadia theme park came up). We also discussed storytelling, the new character Karim, and the growing number of animated adventure cartoons on the market. Here's our conversation (with some editing for clarity, flow, and space):
Jamie Lovett, ComicBook.com: The big news for The Dragon Prince is you've got four more seasons on the way. How has knowing that you're locked into that as opposed to going on a season-by-season basis affected the creative process and the way you approach the series?
Aaron Ehasz: It's incredibly empowering and freeing. Since the beginning, we've worked to have the discipline to create the stories and the seasons in such a way that in time we knew we were going to build a saga that had many seasons of storytelling. But having that commitment from Netflix really allows us to say, "Terrific, we know we can do certain things in season four, and we know we have season five and season six and season seven coming to undo them or pay them off and do the things we need to do."
It's incredible, I think, also for the community and for, in particular, people who love planned-in-advance fantasy storytelling, the chance to have a show where there are those little details that are going to come back later in different ways, that it is all planned out, I think, is really a great storytelling opportunity—no doubt about it.
At one point, you shared a timeline of sorts showing all seven seasons of the show. There were the first three seasons, theme a divider setting off the next two seasons with a redacted subtitle, another divider with the final two seasons, and another redacted subtitle. Now that we're approaching season four, can you say anything about what those dividers represent? Are these next two seasons going to be somehow significantly different in terms of tone or style than what came before?
AE: It's a trilogy of trilogies a little bit. But not really trilogies. It would be a saga like Harry Potter or a saga like Star Wars where it's the same characters, and it's the same forces of good and evil that we're gaining new understandings of the complexity of those forces as we go. There are things that change and reset the arc at those points. It's definitely not meant to be all-new. It's all part of the same saga. They're organically connected, but it evolves.
We will be able to say more about that probably at New York Comic Con, what the next set of seasons are like. I'm hoping that we are. I can't say exactly what, but I think we'll be able to say a little bit more about that in a few months.
You mentioned Harry Potter as a point of comparison. I've always felt that one of the reasons that series was so successful was that it aged with its audience. The first book, Harry's 11 and it's a book for 11-year-old, then it progresses and gets dark, and by the time you're at the last book, Harry's grown, and it's a story for young adults. Can we expect to see anything like that as The Dragon Prince continues? Will it get a little more mature in its themes or a little darker?
AE: We are, absolutely. I don't want to make any specific promises about age, but I will tell you that the storytelling is definitely maturing because we know that our audience is maturing. We expect people want a story that is deeper and more dimensional and that the drama becomes a bit more mature, and that's the story that we're telling. Your speculation is spot on. Like Harry Potter, we want it to be something that grows with people and that it's not the same story over and over. It is thematically and character-wise. We're going in the same direction, but we want it to feel like something that grows with people as they experience the saga.
Everyone in this industry has been affected by the pandemic, and in talking to some other folks, I've heard stories about things changing since, not being able to shoot, they've had more time to revisit scripts or spend more time in post-production, things like that. Obviously, it's a little different when you're working on an animated series. Still, I wonder if any changes came out of this pandemic for The Dragon Prince or if it's been business as usual but on a longer timetable.
Justin Richmond: I guess it's both. We've had more time, obviously because of the pandemic and because of the way you pick up work and stuff. You have more time to work on specific parts of the series and things like that. And it's given us time to develop the board game with Brotherwise and the TRPG with Cortex and given us some time to do stuff that's expanding the universe as well.
But in terms of the show, the cool thing about having the four seasons is we know how much time we have to do all of it. So if we've discovered something in later seasons of writing or an idea, we can then see it in season four. That's a huge advantage.
But in terms of actual work, we've been relatively smooth. We were very lucky that we have some smart technical people that got us set up very quickly online. And so we've been cracking away for all the pandemic, and we've hired, as a company, 20 people that I've never met in person, or more than that even, and so we've been very, very fortunate that our business and our ability to continue to do what we do was virtually unaffected. I consider that a huge blessing considering what a lot of businesses and things went through in the last 18 months.
During your Comic-Con@Home panel, you introduced the new character, Karim. He's voiced by Luc Roderique, who voiced King Harrow previously. To head off any potential fan theories, should fans read into this that there's some connection between Karim and Harrow, or did you really want to work with Roderique again?
AE: Part of me wants to tease you, but no. Honestly, we auditioned the character and Luc, we loved Luc's audition, and we love working with Luc, and it was just like, "Oh man, we've got to get this guy back." So that was what happened. We knew it was an important character, and he's a phenomenal actor, and so when he came back into the circle, we were like, "Yeah, of course. Luc is Karim."
JR: I will cut off the fan theory: No, he is not in any way related to Harrow. They're totally separate.
You talked a bit during the panel about the video game that's in the works. You've got tabletop games in the works. You've got novels and graphic novels. Obviously, if there were anything that you were ready to announce, you would have done it formally, but I'm wondering about how big you've imagined this world getting. Have you considered anything from audiobooks to making a movie to live-action? Or, for the time being, are you pretty focused on the animation side of things and having the gaming team doing the gaming side of things, and what we've seen of that thus far?
AE: Our focus is making sure that the saga and The Dragon Prince game are amazing experiences. That said, we are very franchise-minded in the sense that we think about the things we love as fans and how we wanted to experience them, not as only one thing, but also being able to play games, being able to have good merch or other experiences. So we think about it that way.
I, personally, love theme parks. I love going to Disneyland and stuff. So I'm constantly half-joking about all the cool stuff that's going to be at the Xadia theme park one day. Just so you know, that's not officially in the works. I can't announce it. But in my mind, it's officially in the works. And let me just tell you ahead of time, the snacks are going to be amazing. You're going to come back from Xadia so full and so happy.
But more specifically, we have started some early exploration and talk about like... are there ... I probably... maybe I shouldn't say this. Justin, should I say anything about this?
JR: I don't know what you're going to say.
AE: We've explored all the things. We want to find the right path, and it might be great to see other animated storytelling for certain characters or parts of Xadia. And there are other cases where there may be live-action opportunities at some point. We don't know. But we love Xadia. We love this world. We think there's a lot of potential. As long as there's a community and fan base that are excited about it and also, honestly, as long as there are great creative people who want to join us in this vision and build it with us, which is a big requirement here, we'll be continuing to build it and build it out in cool ways.
It sounds to me like you're looking at this the way people might think of Star Wars now, where there is the big saga you're telling right now, but who knows what other stories about other characters you could tell in different corners of Xadia.
JR: I think that's right. Yeah, for sure. The universe of Xadia is huge, so hopefully, we get to keep doing this for a long time and tell more and more stories. The game is a great opportunity to do that too, to explore places and things that we haven't seen before and new characters and all that kind of stuff. So it will be as core an experience as the show is, and so hopefully, people will love both.
Speaking of the game, can you talk at all about how the game relates to the show? I know it has characters from the show in it, from what we've already seen, but does it expand on the story? Retell the story? Is it more just an experience than a narrative?
JR: A little bit. We will be having a lot more conversations about the game soon, hopefully. We see it as being as pivotal to the franchise as the show, the same as anything else we're doing. And so I think it's a huge world-building opportunity. Where you get to go to the border for 10 minutes, maybe, across the entire show, but what if you could adventure there? See what's going on and tell different kinds of stories or interesting things that are going on there or whatever. It's not a straight story-based game. It's not an Uncharted. It's not a Last of Us. There's definitely a huge element of gameplay associated with it. The gameplay is really important to us, but it is also as core to the experience, hopefully, for the player that the show is.
Not only are there going to be characters that you know and love, but there'll be brand new people, some of which will show up later, some of which will not. There'll be things that are only seen in the game, places that you'll only go, or characters you'll encounter that only show up there, and hopefully, that gives people who want to play it a new thing to look forward to and to get excited about and check out alongside the TV show.
We have this great medium where we can tell linear stories that are fantastic, and so a lot of what we're making is, "How can this gameplay experience really enrich the world of The Dragon Prince and bring people them in?" Aaron used to say, in some of our pitches, "This show is our time to tell a story, and then the game is their time, it's the time for the fans to be able to tell their own stories and experience the world in their own way, rather than us telling just a different type of linear story in the game."
I wanted to ask a bigger picture question. I feel like there's been a resurgence of shows like The Dragon Prince, where they are Western animated adventure series meant for all ages in the sense that they're mature enough that adults can enjoy them as much as kids do. They're not anime, but they feel like they fill the same space and purpose as many anime. Do you have any thoughts about whether you agree with that assessment and what might be contributing to it?
AE: I have a lot of thoughts about that. First of all, you are super right. If anything proved the power of the potential impact of great animated storytelling, it's the fact that Avatar: The Last Airbender, a show that we wrote and produced 16 years ago, was the number one show on Netflix last year. These old shows, in 4:3 aspect ratio, number one show on Netflix longer than any other show. This animated show. What I'm telling you now is that impact is very obvious. I think the executives who buy animation are still very hesitant to buy shows like this. They're still really focused on younger shows.
A lot of Western executives still see there's adult animation they think of as the sitcoms like Bob's Burgers or Futurama, and then they think that action animation is younger; it's kids. And what they don't see is that shows like Avatar and The Dragon Prince are every bit as wide-reaching as The Mandalorian or Marvel movies or Harry Potter and that you can do that in animation, and Avatar should prove that. But I think they're still behind. That's my opinion that some of these executives need to wake up and find more shows like Avatar or He-Man or things where they can tell these very big, broadly appealing stories in epic ways.
What do you feel sets The Dragon Prince apart from other similar shows in that genre?
AE: I don't know what sets it apart, except that we're trying to tell something that has adult levels of emotional storytelling and drama and epic stuff going on but also is full of enough magic and wonder and dragons and cool stuff that younger audiences are on board too. One of the Korean directors that we worked with on Avatar told me a phrase. Here they talk about four quadrant properties, which sounds so, to me, businessy, but he said, "No, no, it's like a six ticket movie." And I was like, "A six-ticket movie?" He's like, "Yeah, a six-ticket movie is you bring the kids and the grandparents, everybody loves it. It's six tickets." It's like, all right, that's what we want to make, six-ticket shows and movies.
The last thing I'll ask you is, I know you don't want to reveal plot details about the coming season, but the first three seasons seemed to be, essentially, a coming of age adventure as these characters matured and came into their own. As succinctly and as vaguely as you would like, can you say anything about what the themes of this upcoming season or duology might be?
AE: I will say this: Wouldn't it be great if returning an egg to a mother that lost their egg or returning the baby dragon could cause world peace? Wouldn't that be great? Well, it's a step in the right direction, but the conflicts and complications of Xadia are deep, and I think you can probably speculate about different characters who have different levels of idealism and believe that change should come quickly. And I think the themes are the same. I think the hopes and dreams of our characters are the same, but the world will be revealed to be a bit more complicated than in the first three seasons.0comments
What do you think? Let us know in the comments. The first three seasons of The Dragon Prince are streaming now on Netflix.