2021 saw the debut of Arcane on Netflix, and proceeded to grab everyone’s attention. Whether you were a fan of League of Legends or going in completely blind, the CG series became a critical and fan darling that continued Netflix’s pretty good streak of video game adaptations. But if that weren’t enough, the show now has the prestige to further back up its acclaim.
During the Creative Arts Emmys on Saturday, Arcane took home the award for Best Animated Program, and is now the first streaming series to win such an award. It’s well deserved, and is certainly be something that Netflix will be keen to bring up once season two is close to release. Until that day arrives, Riot Games has spent the last month pulling back the curtain on how the series came to be.
Beginning in August, Riot released a behind the scenes miniseries called Bridging the Rift that goes into the creation of Arcane. Showrunners Alex Yee and Christian Linke explain in the premiere episode that the show’s inception all began with Riot’s desire for deeper narrative storytelling for League beyond action-heavy CG cutscenes. For founders Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill, the idea of doing an animated show for their popular MOBA felt impossible, to the point that Beck admitted to hoping at the time that it would fail. Ultimately, it was an animation test between Jayce and Vi (sans dialogue) that won over the co-founders, which you can watch below.
The test animation was done by French animation studio Fortiche, who already had a relationship with Riot due to creating music videos for characters Jinx and Ekko, both of whom appear in Arcane. Like Riot, Fortiche hadn’t ever done a TV series before, and only had a handful of employees on hand. Linke’s enthusiasm for the show won over the staff, who admitted to being incredibly determined to make the show a reality. “I always thought that if there’s any superpower that we had to make Arcane a thing, it was gonna be whether or not we could unleash the potential of Fortiche,” he said.
Episode two of Rift offers deeper insight into the show’s biggest hurdle, namely that test screenings from Riot employees were so negative that the show was put on pause. As a result, Fortiche laid off staff, though Linke and Yee did their best to ensure as many employees could be kept around. That, in turn, led to the creation of the 2018 League songs “Rise” and “Pop/Stars,” the latter from the in-game girl group K/DA. That sparked further interest in trying at Arcane again, and Yee and Linke eventually found a mentor in the form of Lost alum Monica Maser, and a strong production head in Melinda Dilger (Darkwing Duck, Mary Poppins Returns). Getting several TV writers, in particular Amanda Overton (Severance, Marco Polo), didn’t hurt.
Overton is only credited with one episode for the first season—episode five, “Everybody Wants to Be My Enemy”—but her contribution to the show also includes Jinx’s (Ella Purnell) monologue to close out the season, and the opening to the series in general. Originally, the show was going to open on Silco’s (Jason Spisak) monologue from episode three as he’s getting drowned, but was instead changed to focus on a young Vi and Powder as they’re taken in by Vander. “Silco’s drowning wasn’t telling the story of the series, which is these two sisters being torn apart,” she explained. “I’m quite proud of the cold open to the whole beginning of the season with the bridge.”
Future videos go into the process of creating the show’s music and its voice cast, with the final episode appropriately devoted to getting Arcane ready for release, and the world’s reaction to it. Towards the end of the video, after the crew basks in the adoration of their launch party, Beck briefly touched on Riot’s plan to do similar shows featuring different characters once the story of Jinx, Vi, and Cait wraps up. “That we can spend five hours in just Piltover and Zaun, and then do it again in a second season before we start to zoom out of this one little corner of the world, and this handful of characters,” teased Beck, “The possibility space is so wild.”
As for what’s to come in season two of Arcane specifically? All Overton would say is that the crew plans on being better than before. “No matter how much you think you might know about what’s coming in season two, there’s always gonna be tons of new stuff to discover,” she said. “I think people are gonna be really excited about what they find.”
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