So, apparently Red Eagle Entertainment, the company that bought the television and video game rights to Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series back in early 2000's, was about to lose those rights come February 11th if they did not have the series aired by then.
So, a couple weeks ago, they shot a "pilot" for the series on the cheap in a couple of days, a move they admit was done to just hold onto the rights. It looks like most of the money was probably spent hiring Billy Zane, which should tell you plenty about the budget. Then, they bought time on FXX after midnight like an infomercial would and aired the pilot.
Just in case you missed it last night, here it is:
io9 spoke to the CEO of Red Eagle, who jumped to defend their "quality production:"
You probably know that a lot of pilots are put on the air at different times in different ways, and for different reasons. As with a lot of other properties, there's always an airdate that you need to air something by... and that was certainly part of it...
Obviously, the pilot was a prologue to the eye of the world, which is the first book. It was not the introduction to the series, although it is a pilot. Certainly, we want fans to find out about it and be excited that there's a lot more to come...
Robert Jordan's widow, Harriet McDougal isn't quite seeing eye-to-eye with Red Eagle Entertainment on this as you might imagine.
This morning brought startling news. A “pilot” for a Wheel of Time series, the "pilot" being called Winter Dragon, had appeared at 1:30 in the morning, East Coast time, on FXX TV, a channel somewhere in the 700s (founded to concentrate on comedy, according to the Washington Post).
It was made without my knowledge or cooperation. I never saw the script. No one associated with Bandersnatch Group, the successor-in-interest to James O. Rigney, was aware of this.
Bandersnatch has an existing contract with Universal Pictures that grants television rights to them until this Wednesday, February 11 – at which point these rights revert to Bandersnatch. I see no mention of Universal in the “pilot”. Nor, I repeat, was Bandersnatch, or Robert Jordan’s estate, informed of this in any way.
I am dumbfounded by this occurrence, and am taking steps to prevent its reoccurrence.
My guess is that Harriet was pretty excited to get the television rights back and see Wheel of Time have a chance to become the next Game of Thrones for TV, especially with several studios now interested and even Jordan himself expressing his displeasure with Red Eagle in one of his final blog posts. Red Eagle's move wasn't really surprising however, as our readers may have memory of similar moves with comic book properties in the past, like the awful Fantastic Four movie years ago.
Whether Red Eagle Entertainment's "pilot" will succeed at this however will probably be decided in court. They might have two hurdles to overcome in the case. The biggest is that they had re-sold the rights to Universal a few years ago and Universal does not seem to be involved in this pilot. The second is that the series being aired was also supposedly one of the requirements in the contract (often the movie or show just has to be made, not actually aired), so there could also be room to argue due to infomercial approach to airing it. I'm no lawyer however, so until the dozens of lawyers that are surely eye-balling this case as of this morning fight it out, all I can do is speculate. It will be interesting to see if the show has a chance to be good, or if it stays with Red Eagle.
If you are interested in more on the history between Red Eagle and their failures with Wheel of Time, check out this blog post on The Wertzone.