Elfquest too much like The Hobbit, says Warner Brothers

Warner Brothers has canceled production of Elfquest, a movie about the feral descendants of space-faring shape-shifters and their quest to uncover the truth about their ancestors' crash-landing on a primitive planet, because that sounds rather too much like The Hobbit.


    1. Whereas the Hobbit is about Dwarves and a Hobbit and a Maiar on a completely different quest. Well, two completely different quests seeing as Gandalf had to leave partway through.

      1. so i looked up maiar and i’m now slightly more enlightened but anyone else find the wikipedia description unreadable (except for the final paragraph)?

        1. Reading it as a kid before mass-internet and trying to find out from geeky magazines from the library didn’t make it any easier.

        2. Compared with the rather arcane language of the Silmarillion it is actually a very relaxing and easy read.

  1. I’m sorry but apparently someone at WB has their head up the backside. Elfquest has about as much in common with The Hobbit, as Star Trek has with Star Wars.

    1. Elfquest has about as much in common with The Hobbit, as Star Trek has with Star Wars.

      It has about as much in common as Star Trek has with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

        1. I love his story about doing Shakespeare and having somebody in the front row wearing Starfleet uniform.

    2. Eflquest has as much to do with the Hobbit as an unpublished vampire fanfic of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic involving an undead Han Solo preying upon bowls of fruit disguised as snowmen who are invading Equestria to turn all residents into California Raisin claymation characters, does, with a pornographic reenactment of the pilot episode of You Can’t Do That On Television cast entirely by hairless, snuffleupogusses sewn human centipede style before a live studio audience.

      1. Those are still more similar to each other than either one is to the all-hedgehog remake of Sex And The City 2.

  2. eh. . .  the actual explanation – that they don’t want to compete with their own film (The Hobbit) – is not exactly the same as saying that the two films are too similar.  More that they appeal to the same demographics, which is plausible.  You’d think they could solve that problem by releasing the movies a couple months apart, but who knows.

    I can almost imagine a plausible argument for this.  The concern is presumably less about hardcore fantasy/comics fans, who would probably watch both movies repeatedly, and more about the question of whether there’s enough mainstream interest to support two high fantasy features in the same season.  

    1. I agree that’s a better explanation of their thinking, but it’s still bizarre because it never stopped them before.  If they think anything has a hint of being successful, they can’t wait to resell the same story either as a sequel or more commonly a ripoff.  I don’t know who came up with the line “If you liked (insert successful movie title here), you’ll love (insert crap ripoff movie title here), but it’s certainly a Hollywood staple.  I should likely shut up, as if I think about studio execs too long, I’m gonna start talking about Firefly, and then I’ll be up all night.

      1. Of course studios love sequels, because they allow a producer to mitigate their risk, as they have a proven audience.  Showing two fantasy movies close to each other has the risk of splitting your demographics without having a known product name you can sell as a sequel.  

        1. Fellowship of the Ring and the first Harry Potter movie were released a month apart.  They both did ok. 

  3. If they were going to make it like The Hobbit, then I’m glad they decided not to go forward on production.

      1. I think he meant that, if they were going with the same sort of vibe/costumes as a movie with a completely different story and setting, then it’s better they didn’t do it, at least they didn’t “desecrate” the original material.

  4. In summer 2011 Hollywood released Thor, Transformers, X-men 1st class, Captain America, and Green Lantern.

    But ElfQuest is too much like The Hobbit? If you’re going to make up an excuse, at least make up a believable one. And if that is the real reason, it’s absurd.

    1. In journalism, “despite” often really means “because of”, and vice-versa.

      “Many suspected Senator Chris Dodd would become a lobbyist upon leaving office, despite his unusually profuse promises that he would not.”

      Perhaps it’s the same deal here: there is a missing element of context that inverts the meanings in play.

      Stuff like Elfquest might only be interesting to WB as a LOTR-like thing, because that’s what they know how to market. But its evident dissimilarities to genre fantasy make that plan impossible. So to WB’s way of seeing things,  Elfquest is too much like LOTR … for them to figure out how to market it. “Looks like The Hobbit” means “we never should have optioned this, because we can’t sell it.”

      See also: “We never should have optioned Akira, because we can’t sell it unless we replace all those asians.”

    2. Superhero movies are a proven brand by now; we’re in a decade where there are almost as many superhero movies as there are all other types of action movies.  Fantasy though, in still not nearly as mainstream, and apart from huge budget, high risk productions of the most famous of all fantasy books, (LOTR, Harry Potter, Twlight) I would guess they have yet to make it into the mainstream enough to justify a movie like ElfQuest.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m disappointed as I love ElfQuest, but the modern audience of the comic-books is probably tiny in comparison to how many average joes who know who the X-Men and Captain America are, or Bilbo Baggins.

      1. I’d struggle to find something more mainstream than fantasy, these days. LOTR+Hobbit, HP, Narnia, Shrek, Stardust, Golden Compass, more recently the new Snow-White — since special FX got good enough, not a year goes by without a couple of big-budget fantasy blockbusters hitting the screens… even a crappy film like The Last Airbender was actually *made* and marketed. 

        1. Right, those movies were all made, hoping to catch the same market that LOTR and Harry Potter did. But The Last Airbender,  Stardust, and the Golden Compass were all big flops, and only the first Narnia movie was a big hit. Also a flop, at least in the U.S. market, was the Tintin movie.

          Movie studios used to think that any comic-book or fantasy movie would only have niche appeal. That was proven wrong, but only for some of the biggest, most mainstream properties within the genre. For properties that only have niche appeal, Hollywood still hasn’t figured out how to make a lot of money on them.

          1. Last Airbender cost $150 million, took in $320 million.
            Stardust cost $70 million, took in $156 million.
            Golden Compass cost $180 million, took in $372 million.
            Narnia: Prince Caspian cost $225 million, took in $420 million.
            Narnia: Dawn Treader cost $140 – 155 million, took in $416 million.

            Those five flops profited $900 million.

          2. Two things that you have to factor in, Antinous:

            1) Movie production costs don’t factor in marketing costs, which typically run about the same amount. So, take what each movie “cost” and double it.

            2) Making $12-15 million on a project may not seem like chump change to you or I, but the people who finance these movies are looking for much bigger returns on investment; the ROI for the Lord of the Rings trilogy or Avatar was in the billions.

          3. I can’t reply to Antinous directly (since this commenting system has a comment depth limit), but Halloween Jack is right.  These budget numbers don’t include marketing.  It looks like you picked them up from IMDB, which lists only “negative cost” – the costs up through post-production.  See here for more: http://www.imdb.com/help/search?domain=helpdesk_faq&index=1&file=budget

          4. I’m impressed that you found an answer on IMDb. They always seem to have every answer but the one that I’m looking for.

    3. All of the movies you list in your first para have a lot of name recognition outside of comics fandom; two of them are entries in already-successful movie franchises. Nobody, and I mean nobody, outside of comics fandom has heard of Elfquest, and for that matter, there’s quite a few people in comics fandom who haven’t.

      1. I agree that that is probably the real reason. Why, then, did WB feel the need to say it was about similarity to The Hobbit? There are many better excuses available.

  5. Actually, it’s probably BECAUSE it’s NOT ENOUGH like Twilight/True Blood/whatever fantasy fad is currently popular…

    It would be like passing on Firefly/Battlestar Galactica/Stargate Universe (or any space-based sci-fi series) because that’s too much like Star Trek / Star Wars. 

    And then turning around and producing three more series or movies (or series of movies!) about the current fantasy fad.  What are we at, now?  Werewolves, is it?

    1. I hate to say this, but…

      I thought SG-U was trying too hard to be “edgy” like BSG. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t much like it, but that was one of the complaints I saw about it. Stargate had always been campy, even the first movie, and SG-U ditched that for grit. I loved it (well, there was Elyse Levesque and her acting) but I guess I was in a minority.

      The excuse made by WB sounds lame.  It seems like every third movie right now is either a vampire movie or a zombie movie.  The number of “steampunk” movies is beginning to ratchet up a bit, too.  Please, Hollywood, don’t run that into the ground; the fanbase already did that.

  6. I try to stay away from Internet Hyperbole, but that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Geez WB, you suck.

  7. This is actually wonderful news… Can we get more Hollywood studios to stop vomiting all over other great childhood memories? 

    Extremely high odds that this would have just been a slo-mo fighting, teen-star showcasing, awful soundtrack-featuring piece of dreck. Directed, of course, by the nameless guy who last helmed Saw 24 and “The Chipmunks Go Straight To Video”. 

    Next, they can leave Dr. Suess’ corpse resting peacefully, and stop trying to beat money out of it like a piñata…

    1. Actually, every movie that Hollywood don’t make is wonderful news. Because *fuck* Hollywood, that’s why.

      Best film I’ve seen in the last year: Trolljegeren (the troll hunter). Second best, possibly the gigantic clusterfuck of madness that is Enthiran.  Practically every country in the world is making better movies than the US.  Maybe not Iran; you probably get executed for doing anything original there.

      The MPAA won’t stop trying to fuck up the internet until we ignore them to death, and it will be no hardship if the US film studios never shoot another reel.

      1. Man, I fell right asleep during Troll Hunter. Maybe it was because the Brattle Theater where I watched it was over 9000ºF, and I was up on the balcony getting the most of the heat, but that movie just dragged on and on doing the same thing again and again.

        Grated, that same thing again and again was killing trolls, which was pretty neat, but really, once you’ve killed one troll you’ve killed them all.

    2. Actually, the creators of Elquest have been trying to get it made into a film since the 80s. Maybe it’s not what you want to see, but it’s certainly what they want to see, and maybe that matters more.

      1. Sure, no begrudging them trying to transition to telling their story in a new medium. And I imagine they would also stand to make a healthy profit for a labor of love. 

        But with a story that complex and with those kind of adult themes, there’s no way in hell it would survive in the complex form the we came to know it in. Mind-melding space-elves having orgies? Hah hah!

        Hollywood execs just want a huge initial hit out of a multi-episode series. But they keep bungling the launch so goddamn badly that it kills things off before they even get started. Examples: Golden Compass, Lemony Snicket, Percy Jackson, C.S. Lewis, Disney rides, endless superhero reboots…  
        Not many franchises mange to secure someone like Peter Jackson or Benicio del Toro who respect the script and the story enough to make it solid. The code so far is just “acquire rights + film + add a shitload of CGI = PROFIT” 

        Assuming the movie ever got greenlit, it just seems like a ripe source of scorn for diehard fans who hate the sanitized version and newcomers who just think it’s a shitty movie about space elves. But as you say, it’s their prerogative to drive their franchise off a cliff – George Lucas didn’t have a problem doing it.

  8. feral descendants of space-faring space shifters and their quest to uncover the truth about their ancestors’ crash-landing on a primitive planet,

    It sounds like it’s too much like Thundercats, rather than The Hobbit. But yeah, either way, good for them for realizing you can’t improve on perfection! Perhaps the Sword of Omens gave someone at WB “sight beyond sight.”

  9. Pretty lame excuse if you ask me.  Not as if Hollywood hasn’t made a million movies that are all alike already.

    1. Yeah, the part of the series that reveals that has been out for twenty years now.  I think the statute of limitations on spoilage has expired.

  10. Bleeding hot hobbit boner-dollars will set these wobbly studio execs straight.  The juicy pileup will ensue.  Martinis.

  11. Another think, from having worked in Advertising, I often think that the suits are actually physically incapable of seeing things from a creative point of view, much in the same way Conservatives and Liberals may have competing neural networks. Seriously though, fuck those guys.

  12. I’m with Skywise on this one: NBD.  I think I might have to add an F in there as well…

    As mentioned above, the chances of the powers-with-the-purse-strings turning something imaginative and special into a craptacular soul-less exercise in groan inducing dialogue and derivative CGI…is high.

    So go ahead and NOT make it, suits me: I been meaning to bust out my old WARPs anyways.

    Still, the argument on the face of it seems pretty stupid: The Hobbit is going to make a Dwarven Hoard of Ducats for somebody; the Heavens Forfend we should follow in the footsteps of a Billion dollar enterprise…

    1. Actually, Jaws would have been improved by adding a bad-ass Eskimo guy and that whole bit with the whale penis.

      Incidentally, the MPAA are casting themselves in the role of Ahab. Which makes the internet Moby Dick I guess. Let’s see how that works out for them.

        1. Oh yeah, sorry.  Long time since I read it, but there’s no excuse for my not checking, since it’s up on project Gutenberg. :(

  13. EQ is better off. I’d guess they were too afraid of the material. Dumbing it down to the lowest common denominator is going to take the heart out of the story and deliver a meh film. 

      1.  I’m not really familiar with Elfquest but why do you think Ghibli would be wrong for it? Perhaps a different Japanese anime studio? Or do you just not think it should be animated… despite it coming from a comic book?

         @boingboing-d89bdf5c353a5be7da462c29e55a8d73:disqus  below essentially suggested that HBO should do an 18+ anime series of Elfquest. Is there some reason that a Japanese studio just wouldn’t do it right? It’s too fundamentally American or something?

        When I think of animated fantasy with “adult” elements (I don’t mean hentai), I can’t really think of anything that isn’t Japanese. I know it exists (there are a few movies I can think of) but it’s not quite on the same level.

        1. Ghibli’s sensibilities and style are very different — the results would be to the source material as, say, Ghibli’s Earthsea is to LeGuin’s. Which is to say: pretty, but different.

          It would be like having Tarantino direct Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It could be awesome! But it would not be anything John Le Carré ever thought up.

          1. I must say, having seen only the BBC miniseries of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy that I think it certainly would have been awesome if Tarantino had directed the new film (which I’m planning on seeing today, actually). After the success of Inglourious Basterds I do hope he makes more period films.

            Anyway – I agree that Studio Ghibli in particular isn’t a good idea if you have strong source material, as they have their own lovely art style which is quite different from the Elfquest stuff I’ve seen.

          2. It would be like having Tarantino direct Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

            I would actually pay to see that at a movie theater. 

            Just sayin’, Hollywood. 

        2. The idea of an animated miniseries is attractive to fans because it means the source material won’t get condensed and that the art style could be preserved. It’s always envisaged as HBO or the BBC because of their production standards.

          They could invent a time machine to fetch a 20-year old Yul Brynner from 1940 to play the main character, too!

          1. I have yet to be entertained by anything from BBC.  Benny Hill and Monty Python are the exceptions that prove the rule, as they only illustrate what is possible when the talent has the final say. To the best of my knowledge, this environment has been extinct at the BBC for many years now.  Outside of my own personal world, I am probably wrong about this, but can only comment on my own experiences.

            I like and respect Wendy and Richard Pini and have talked with them quite a bit in the past.  They are truly great people.  I have a lot of their earliest works in the Elfquest world, but am not what you would call a diehard fan. Still, it would be a shame to see the movie done badly.  Some of us are still recovering from Ralph Bakshi’s Tolkien efforts.

  14. I’ve been an EQ fan for almost 30 years and been with them through the CBS “elf babies” debacle and the suit to get the rights back, the Pressman era and now this, so they’ll live to hunt another day. I’ve always hoped they would do an issue by issue animated series adaptation for HBO, which they could easily do for not so much money. What’s needed is a premium sf/fantasy channel for 18+ viewers, where EQ’s sensuality could fly free.

    WB isn’t dumb, they likely won’t give the rights back only to have the Pinis get a deal at Fox or Paramount. If they’re truly smart they’ll make it worth their while to wait another year or two before they green light it.

    1. Exactly, you always notice 2 or 3 movies that are verry similar release around the same time.
      Oh shit, that’s popular, now we have to have our own “insert genre here” movie.

  15. If Hollywood just stopped, would anybody really care? What would be the economic impact of a total disappearance of that industry? Serious question.

    1. Michael Bay turning tricks on Santa Monica Boulevard?  Kristen Stewart doing children’s birthday parties?

  16. Well, folks, it’s also about what works you want Hollywood to mess with.  Perhaps this is a good thing.

    Meanwhile, Hangover 7 is in drafts, and I’m still awaiting The Restaurant at the end of the universe. And Terry Pratchet in in que ‘right after they finish Shrek’, ‘right after this sequel’, ‘right after this next sequel’, ‘right after this spinoff sequel’

    Not to mention that wardrobe would have to do something about ElfChest. Those berries must have steroids in them.

  17. Count me in with the people who see this as a not-bad thing, as it would almost inevitably be buried in the mountains of hype that will be surrounding the Hobbit film(s).

  18. They need the secret ingredient for Internet success: Samuel L. Jackson saying “I’ve had it with these motherfuckin’ elves on this motherfuckin’ quest.”

  19. I am sure I am echoing many people when I say Hollywood is full of jackasses and idiots.

    You can read all the Elf Quest books online – the creators put them all up there. I confess I had next to zero interest reading them back when I collected comics. But I stumbled on the site one day and decided to read the first book. 3 days later and near zero work done, I read the whole first story arch. It was good. I really liked it.

    However – other than both have elves and take place on a planet – IT IS NOTHING LIKE THE HOBBIT. Jesus, pull your heads out of your asses. Go ahead, give more money to Michael Bay.

    Wait – I got it. They are fighting  piracy by making shit that is so bad, no one wants to download it. BRILLIANT!

  20. That short description made me actually want to check out ElfQuest.  I never really picked it up as a kid or a teenager – the whole thing just looked uninteresting and twee to me, and I think Wendy Pini’s style struck my younger self as ‘soft’ and ‘feminine’ and therefore ElfQuest was ‘a comic for girls.’  

    I’ll have to take a look– especially since they’re online, now.  It wouldn’t be the first time I foolishly dismissed something awesome in my youth.

    1. Well, they do tend to be full of feeeeeeelings.  But a lot of those feelings have to do with fighting and hunting and blood and sex.  :)

  21. This is my new favorite idea, Fairlight. But HBO would have the same problem as any other major studio, right? They don’t get it, it’s too difficult, no one’s heard of it, etc. (Why did WB buy it in the first place, again…?)
    Argh. So frustrating.

  22. I never read Elfquest so I’ll play the role of the WB exec here. They probably never read it except a glance- through either. But that glance led me to think that it is exactly the same sort of thing as LOTR. Elves, swords, goblin- looking thingys? Yup. And everyone else who never read it is going to think the exact same thing as well. But the core audience of elfquest was never huge, however loyal, whereas The Hobbit has LOTR as backup. If they want to do Elfquest well they have to put similar money into it with much less promise of a decent return. So Elfquest gets ditched.

  23. Hard for me to imagine an Elfquest movie that did the source any sort of justice and was rated…  oh, anything less than R.  

    R-rated fantasy with sexy feral elves?  Hmmm.  Sounds awesome.  Also does not sound mainstream…

  24. For those who can’t be bothered to click the link to the original article, the headline here is more than a little misleading. 

    Wendy Pini posted to Facebook:After close to four years of suspense – and longer than four years of your much-appreciated interest and support – the word has come down from Warner Bros. And the word is “no.” Their simple explanation is that they don’t want to compete with The Hobbit. This was a possibility, among several, that we were prepared for. It is a relief, at last, to know.

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