'Game of Thrones' Animated Drama Eyed at HBO Max (Exclusive)

'Game of Thrones' S8E4 dragon attack - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of HBO

The next Game of Thrones chapter could be animated.

An animated Game of Thrones drama is in the early stages of development at HBO Max, multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. Meetings with writers for the adult-leaning project, which would be similar in tone to HBO's Emmy-winning flagship, are already underway. No deals have been made, and there's still a possibility that the animated series will never come to fruition.

Reps for HBO Max declined comment.

The animated idea is part of a larger strategy to expand the world of creator George R.R. Martin's fantasy drama. Sources say development executives at HBO — led by drama head Francesca Orsi and her group — are working directly with Martin on building out the sprawling Game of Thrones world. (Martin remains under a rich overall deal with the cabler.)

The franchise's expansion starts with HBO's House of the Dragon, the prequel that was picked up straight to series in October 2019. The drama starring Olivia Cooke, Emma D'Arcy and Matt Smith will begin production in the spring.

Other Game of Thrones ideas are being kicked around for both the premium cable network and streaming sibling HBO Max, including a live-action take on Martin's novella series Tales of Dunk and Egg for HBO proper. (No deals are currently in place for Dunk and Egg, either.)

Sources note that expansion plans for Game of Thrones were in the works long before Disney announced plans for nearly a dozen Star Wars and another dozen or so Marvel TV series for its streamer, Disney+, during its investor day in December. While HBO previously developed a number of other Game of Thrones prequels that did not move forward, the emergence of HBO Max has placed a greater importance on building out Martin's sprawling universe. (All of HBO's original series wind up on the streamer the day after they air on the premium cable network.)

HBO Max's effort to mine IP like Harry Potter, DC Comics and titles like Sex and the City is part of a larger strategy to better position its parent, WarnerMedia, for the future. Media behemoths WarnerMedia, Disney, NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS have restructured over the past year to prioritize their streaming services. Embracing intellectual property is a central part of building up streaming services to appeal to subscribers. (ViacomCBS has Star Trek and is plotting a scripted Godfather drama, for example.)

"In the face of massively expanding verticals, people have to make choices about what services they want based on what they can provide them," notes a veteran lit agent. "[HBO Max] is going to look in their library and they’re going to exploit everything they can."

A version of this story appeared in the Jan. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.