American McGee's twisted take on Alice in Wonderland has been capturing the imagination of fans since the original game debuted back in 2000. The movie rights to his vision have been bouncing around for nearly as long. Now McGee wants them back, but he can't do it alone.
The good news is that while McGee's Spicy Horse development studio is still in talks with EA about a third game in the Alice series (Alice: Otherlands), the company has managed to ink a deal with Collision Entertainment, the current holder of the franchise's film rights. In a statement to Kotaku, American McGee explains how the deal is structured.
"As with most things in Hollywood, the deal is a little complex. It's structured as a purchase option, which is like 'rent to own'. We pay $US100,000 to secure the option, which also enables us to make animated shorts based on the Alice property. In order to purchase the licence outright and be able to make a feature film we need to pay $US500k USD in total. The initial payment of $US100,000 goes towards that final purchase price. That initial payment needs to be followed up with yearly payments in the same amount or the rights revert to the seller."
Getting those rights, even in this strange piecemeal fashion, back into the hands of the creative visionary behind the series would be a good thing. There's a rich opportunity to flesh out the Lewis Carroll-inspired setting in film and animation. McGee says they've already been in talks with writers, producers and directors interested in doing something with the universe. All Spicy Horse needs to do is gain control of the rights. The studio isn't trying to get into the film business — they just want to option to allow established film and animation studios to work with the property.
So, yeah, they're going to need $US500,000.
The plan is to link the film rights for Alice together with the OZombie campaign, Spicy Horse's Kickstarter project currently accepting donations towards funding a game in which Dorothy, the Tin Man and the Lion of L. Frank Baum's classic Oz series join forces to take on Scarecrow and his army of zombies.
"We're going to link the Alice film rights to the OZombie campaign in hopes that doing so will increase awareness about OZombie and put us in a position to secure and develop the Alice property as animated shorts and eventually feature film(s)" McGee told Kotaku. "How much we put towards the purchase and how much goes towards developing some initial animation for delivery to backers will depend on how much we're able to raise. In other words, if we are successful in raising the funds to secure the rights, then we're committed to delivering a series of animated shorts based on the 'Otherlands' concept."
It should be interested to see if Alice fans rally to the OZombie cause due to this fresh wrinkle. The OZombie Kickstarter looks to be slowly gaining traction, up to $US118,000 of its $US950,000 goal with 33 days to go. Spicy Horse's previous Kickstarter project, Akaneiro Demon Hunters, only cleared its $US200,000 goal by under $US5,000.
"Honestly, I wish that Spicy Horse (or I) was successful enough to be financially independent and able to secure these rights without 'panhandling on the Internet' (as it has been so kindly labelled)," said McGee, calling back a piece written by our own Jason Schreier earlier in the year. "Being an independent developer means the business is often linked with struggle - this is true within the games industry and within Hollywood. This is an opportunity for you to help that struggle pay off in some meaningful way that benefits us all. This is a way for us to leverage crowd-sourcing toward securing a property that we all want to see made into something great."