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Eyes of the Dragon: Stephen King adaptation gets pilot order at Hulu

The works of Stephen King continue to be among the hottest properties around.

Hulu has ordered a pilot for a potential series based on The Eyes of the Dragon, King's 1984 fantasy epic which is one of his only novels not to fall into the horror genre. Seth Grahame-Smith (The Lego Batman Movie) will pen the pilot and serve as showrunner. (via Deadline)

The Eyes of the Dragon was the result of an effort by King to write something which his young children could read, and while some of his more hardcore fans were turned off by the book, critics at the time praised it as one of his best efforts. It's a classic fantasy yarn involving a murdered King, an evil magician, and a deposed prince who must escape a terrible fate to reclaim his rightful place on the throne — and it has a few significant connections to King's magnum opus The Dark Tower and his horror masterpiece The Stand.

The story takes place within the kingdom of Delain, which is ruled over by the benevolent King Roland. His son, Prince Peter, is in line for the throne — but Peter, being noble and pure of heart, is secretly opposed by the King's magician, the sinister Flagg. When Peter's mother, the Queen Sasha, becomes pregnant with another child, Flagg sets his nefarious plan in motion; he orchestrates the Queen's murder during the birth of Peter's brother Thomas, and then — in a plot which takes over a decade to come to fruition — frames Peter for the murder of King Roland, sending him to be imprisoned in a tower known as the Needle.

As a result, 12-year old Thomas becomes the new King, and in his inexperience he grants Flagg near-total power over the kingdom. Peter must hatch a perfectly fairytale-esque plan to escape, clear his name, and attempt to banish the evil Flagg from the kingdom once and for all.

Even casual King fans may spot a couple of references right off the bat, one substantially more significant than the other. Roland is the name of the protagonist in his sprawling, singularly awesome Dark Tower series, and while it's never implied that King Roland is an analog for the famed Gunslinger Roland Deschain, several of Eyes of the Dragon's characters are referred to in The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three, The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass, and the companion short story "The Little Sisters of Eluria" (which can be found in the 2002 collection Everything's Eventual). 

But as King's faithful readers know, the character of Flagg is more than just a reference. The magician is actually a timeless, interdimensional entity capable of appearing in many forms in many different realities; he appeared in the Dark Tower series in the guise of Walter O'Dim (or simply "the Man in Black"), but his first appearance in the Kingverse was as the terrifying Randall Flagg, the Walkin' Dude, the main antagonist of The Stand.

The Eyes of the Dragon has been eyed (no pun intended) for adaptation before, once as an animated project in the early 1990s and again as a potential series or feature film when the rights were acquired by SyFy in the '00s. The new project comes as a result of those rights being put up for auction, and Hulu prevailed over Apple — which was presumably eyeing the property for their forthcoming streaming service — to secure them.

King's unbelievably deep bibliography has been mined for all it's worth in recent years. On the small screen, Netflix has hit paydirt with adaptations of the novel Gerald's Game and the novella 1922, while Hulu has fielded the series 11.22.63 (based on the novel of the same name) and Castle Rock, which is "inspired" by the Master's works (to name a few). At the multiplex, this year's Pet Sematary has done quite well for itself, and let's not forget 2017's It: Chapter One, the highest-grossing horror film of all time. That flick, based on the 1985 novel It (King's other masterpiece) told one-half of a terrifying story which will be concluded with this September's It: Chapter Two, which stands poised to break its predecessor's record while soiling the pants of moviegoers worldwide.

Grahame-Smith is an interesting choice to handle the adaptation. The Lego Batman Movie is by far his most successful solo credit; he also penned Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (both the novel and the screenplay) and an early draft of the long-gestating Beetlejuice 2. Speaking with Deadline, the scribe said: "I am so excited to be working in the world of Stephen King with with Hulu, which has such a terrific track record with Stephen King adaptations. The goal for this series is to feel unlike any Stephen King adaptation before, with this rich underlying source material, and the only true fantasy book he wrote that has kings and swords and princesses. We will honor the spirit of the book and the legacy."

Being slightly more family-friendly than many of King's works, The Eyes of the Dragon will make an intriguing addition to Hulu's growing stable of King adaptations; entertainment megalith Disney recently gained full operational control of the streamer, and the Mouse House's deep pockets surely contributed to Hulu's victory over Apple at auction. Should it be picked up to series, it'll be open to speculation whether Dragon will be aimed primarily at children, or whether its creative team will be allowed to lean into some of the story's darker elements. Yes, of course it has darker elements — at the end of the day, it's still a Stephen King novel.

We'll be keeping a close eye on this one, as casting news is sure to come down the pike sooner rather than later. We'll keep you up on any such developments, as well as production and release information, as they're reported.