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Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)
Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)Via IMDb

Jodorowsky’s doomed Dune film may be resurrected as an animated series

Spice DAO is forging ahead with plans for a limited series despite legal complications

Remember when a group of cryptobros spent $3 million on a book of Dune concept art earlier this month, only to find that it didn’t actually grant them rights to produce content based on the artwork, as they’d anticipated? Well, it appears that they don’t actually care about the legal complications, because they’re going ahead with an animated adaptation anyway.

In case you don’t remember the high-profile Dune auction, here’s a refresher. On January 15, a crypto group going by the name Spice DAO announced that it had paid €2.66 million (or more than £2.2 million) for a book about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unmade Dune film. That’s one hundred times the estimated price for a non-unique collectible that has been free to view online since 2011.

In an announcement of the purchase, the group wrote that it had several intentions for the book. One, it would make the images public, “to the extent permitted by law”. Two, it would “produce an original animated limited series inspired by the book and sell it to a streaming service”. Three, it would “support derivative projects from the community”.

The only problem is, the sale didn’t actually grant Spice DAO rights to reproduce the book in any form, since it did not transfer any intellectual property rights. The group has since been widely-mocked online, embodying the recklessness and naivety of high-risk crypto traders.

Addressing the skepticism toward the sale of the book and Spice DAO’s intentions, the crypto group shared a Medium post on Thursday, seemingly confirming that it had not secured the rights to adapt the source text, a 1965 novel by Frank Herbert.

“After two months of outreach, conversations with former business partners and consultations with legal counsel,” Spice DAO writes, “we have not been able to reach an agreement with any of the rights holders involved in the creation of the contents of the book of collected storyboards of Jodorowsky’s Dune.”

Far from admitting defeat, however, the group goes on to suggest that it is forging ahead to create an animated Dune series. “Our research over the past two months has only increased our respect for their project,” the post reads. “And we were so inspired by the book and learning more about its creation that we saw how we could develop our own intellectual property that we own 100 per cent and control all aspects of the production of an original animated limited series.”

Despite its previously-stated desire to make an animated series inspired by the book, the group also denies that the two are connected, writing on Twitter: “The book and the animation are two separate verticals of the DAO’s activity. They have nothing to do with each other.”

Apparently, Spice DAO has started development of the series by embarking on a “whirlwind week” of meetings with industry professionals. These professionals (which it for some reason goes on to name) reportedly include an animator who worked at Production IG — the studio behind the anime sequence in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill — as well as three LA-based animation studios, and an entertainment attorney for Drake.

Unfortunately for Spice DAO, however, the book’s content is likely off-limits until at least 2092, since Jodorowsky remains alive and copyright typically lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years, as explained by Kirsty Stewart of Thornton’s, in a blog post on the law firm’s website.

To produce derivative works, Spice DAO would also have to obtain licenses from the Herbert estate (which, given the success of Denis Villeneuve’s recent Dune film, likely wouldn’t come cheap). Given that Herbert died in 1986, copyright will likely persist in the source text until 2056.

Legal issues aside, there’s also the impossible task of trying to resurrect a 15-hour space epic that was originally intended to star Salvador Dalí and Orson Welles, with a soundtrack by Pink Floyd. No matter which way you look at it, Spice DAO’s animated miniseries has the makings of yet another disastrous Dune attempt that ends in inevitable disappointment.