If you’ve been hoping for a big budget Hollywood adaptation of author Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern science fiction cum fantasy novels, then don’t hold your breath . . .

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 Battlestar Galactica 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.

It however 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 the way.)

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:


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