Writer and executive producer Jeff Pinkner told Observer in April that writing on Season 2 of Netflix’s live-action adaptation of beloved anime Cowboy Bebop was already underway. Before that, Observer exclusively reported details on the main characters of Amazon’s massive Lord of the Rings TV adaptation. But before either of those stories can truly come to fruition, both franchise reinventions need to actually deliver their first seasons of television. Fortunately, both Netflix and Amazon are one step closer to doing so.
Following a hiatus forced by the coronavirus pandemic, filming has resumed in New Zealand on Amazon’s rejuvenation of Middle Earth while production on Cowboy Bebop will resume on Wednesday, September 30, Deadline reports. Both series were granted border exemptions by the New Zealand government in July to resume production within the country, per the outlet. This is a key development given the respective importance each series represents to their streamer.
Amazon is reportedly investing $1 billion over five seasons in production costs in Lord of the Rings, which would make it the most expensive television series in history by a wide margin. For comparison, the final season of Game of Thrones maxed out at upwards of $90 million.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a critical darling with a sizable audience and The Boys is rapidly becoming Amazon’s flagship series in terms of blockbuster broad appeal. But Lord of the Rings is arguably the most influential property of the 20th century. Peter Jackson’s film trilogy transformed the tale into a worldwide global sensation. It’s possible that we look back upon the success of Game of Thrones and Stranger Things as quaint should Amazon’s big-budget attempt live up to its potential.
Netflix, meanwhile, has smartly begun leveraging popular animated series for both attractive library content and live-action adaptations. This brings the dual benefits of adding to Netflix’s original programming coffers while taking advantage of pre-existing fanbases. Yet with original creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko departing the streamer’s live-action remake of Avatar: The Last Airbender over creative differences, Cowboy Bebop takes on additional pressure. For this strategy to work, they need a controversy-free launching pad that unites the fans. With the future of Avatar uncertain, Cowboy Bebop slots into pole position. The original sci-fi western anime is credited with introducing western audiences to the thrills of eastern animated content.
Amazon has already renewed The Lord of the Rings, led by showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, for a second season. Filming on the first two episodes, directed by Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom filmmaker J.A. Bayona, was nearly completed when COVID struck, though the production team planned to take a multi-month hiatus regardless.
Javier Grillo-Marxuach is serving as showrunner on Cowboy Bebop, which had completed a couple of episodes when production was shut down for seven to nine months in October following a knee injury suffered by lead John Cho. The series was originally intended to premiere on Netflix in 2021.