Has there been any Wheel of Time movie or TV show been created to date? If created, was the show officially sanctioned by the Jordan estate?
UPDATE 2: The lawsuit mentioned below has been withdrawn, and Harriet has announced an official official television show that is planned to air at some unspecified future date. We have no details on who's producing it or where/when it will air. The official announcement seems to imply that the studio won't be Red Eagle, but otherwise has no details.
UPDATE: The section below on the legal status of the TV rights has been update to include the information from Red Eagle's law suit. (They're suing for slander of title and tortious interference, which is very rough terms is the business equivalent of libel) See: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/fxx-pilot-airing-at-130-773110
tl;dr: Technically, yes, there is -- sort of. And it was as sanctioned as it needed to be to remain legal, though again, it's sketchy.
The rights to the Wheel of Time television program are held by a company called Manetheren LLC, which appears to have been formed by parent company Red Eagle Entertainment specifically for this purpose. (For all intents and purposes, Red Eagle is Manetheren LLC, so I'm just going to call them Red Eagle from now on). The rights to make adaptations of Jordan's copyrighted material was sold to Red Eagle very early on; they were tasked with everything from TV to comics to video games. (All of their prior efforts failed, giving them a terrible reputation among fans). That means that Jordan's estate has no say in who makes such a program or what the content is, since they sold those rights.
As is typical of such licensing deals, part of the requirement on Red Eagle's part was to produce and air a show or they would lose the rights. According to multiple sources, that was going to happen on Feb 11, 2015, and the rights would revert back to Bandersnatch, Jordan's production company. According to Red Eagle (in a law suit they've filed against Bandersnatch), they originally sub-licensed the rights to Universal, but those rights expired and reverted back to Red Eagle back in 2014. They were in the process of negotiating with Sony to produce a pilot when the expiration date of the Red Eagle/Bandersnatch deal rolled around.
In order to prevent that, Red Eagle rushed to put a show on the air. There was exactly one episode of it created, a pilot episode called Winter Dragon. (Rumor is that it was filmed in ~4 days, and it has exactly 2 credited cast members). It was produced by Billy Zane's production company, covers about 10 pages of the prologue of Eye of the World, and aired on the FXX cable channel on Monday 2/9/2015 at 1:30 AM.
After the episode aired, Harriet McDougal (Jordan's widow and current copyright holder) was very publicly angry with Red Eagle, and in a Twitter post, vowed to make sure "this never happened again". She also claimed in a follow-up statement (which has since been taken offline) that Universal, not Red Eagle, were the only people licensed to make sure a show. However, Red Eagle is now suing her over this post, claiming that she actively took part in the negotiations with Sony, and thus knew full well who had the rights and that she was the one encouraging them to make the show. So, there is clearly some dispute over just how "legal" the pilot was, but so far all evidence seems to point to Red Eagle being within their rights to make it.
In any case The CEO of Red Eagle was quite adamant that they did retain the rights, and are planning to take the show to series, to capitalize on the popularity of such programs:
Winter Dragon was "a pilot for a high-budget production television series," says Selvage. "We think there's huge demand for the television series internationally, and we're looking forward to producing it and getting it out in the marketplace."
He admits that they rushed the pilot into production, but that's actually not uncommon with pilots. They are often very low quality, and air are odd times, because they're not really meant for public consumption. Also, just because the pilot airs, doesn't mean there will ever be more episodes: a network still needs to agree to pick it up and pay for it. That hasn't happened.
But, technically speaking, this is a Wheel of Time TV series, put out by the people who own the TV rights, and it was broadcast on a legitimate TV channel. So, strictly speaking, there is an "official Wheel of Time" series.
As of today, you can watch the entire episode on YouTube:
Opinion Section: it's terrible. Don't bother. It was clearly a ploy to keep the rights. The acting is not terrible (I liked Billy Zane as Ishy), but every single other aspect of it was horrid.
An official Wheel of Time television adaptation is currently in development.
Sony will produce along with Red Eagle Entertainment and Radar Pictures. Rafe Judkins is attached to write and executive produce. Judkins previously worked on shows such as ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD,” the Netflix series “Hemlock Grove,” and the NBC series “Chuck.” Red Eagle partners Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon will executive produce along with Radar’s Ted Field and Mike Weber. Darren Lemke will also executive produce, with Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal serving as consulting producer.
This was originally announced on the official Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time Google+ Page:
The following is a press statement that has been approved by the studio involved in contract negotiations:
Update: Wanted to share with you exciting news about The Wheel of Time. Legal issues have been resolved. The Wheel of Time will become a cutting edge TV series! I couldn’t be more pleased. Look for the official announcement coming soon from a major studio —Harriet
However, without an announcement of a channel and a release date, we still don't know whether or not this will end up in development hell.
Some of the original answer is now outdated, but it tracks the history of the development of this show, and whether or not the pilot was "official" is still unclear. Due to settlements tending to have non-disclosure agreements, we'll likely never find out.
Originally, there was a lawsuit against Harriet for slander, but that has been dropped, and settlement discussions are still in the works with the production company. At this time, it's still unclear who will end up with the actual rights to produce a full TV series, or if it's going to happen at all.
No, there wasn't a WoT TV show. There was an unauthorized(?) production of a "pilot" episode, called "The Winter Dragon", that recently aired on TV. Pilots are often made that never make it into production for a series schedule. Example, look at Amazon Prime's Pilot Season. Many of their pilot shows were not picked up to be full seasons.
Regarding this work, Harriet McDougal made the following statement:
This morning brought startling news. A “pilot” for a Wheel of Time series, the "pilot" being called Winter Dragon, had appeared at 1:30 in the morning, East Coast time, on Fxx TV, a channel somewhere in the 700s (founded to concentrate on comedy, according to the Washington Post).
It was made without my knowledge or cooperation. I never saw the script. No one associated with Bandersnatch Group, the successor-in-interest to James O. Rigney, was aware of this.
Bandersnatch has an existing contract with Universal Pictures that grants television rights to them until this Wednesday, February 11 – at which point these rights revert to Bandersnatch.
I see no mention of Universal in the “pilot”. Nor, I repeat, was Bandersnatch, or Robert Jordan’s estate, informed of this in any way.
I am dumbfounded by this occurrence, and am taking steps to prevent its reoccurrence.
Harriet P McDougal President and CEO Bandersnatch Group, Inc. February 9, 2015
It should be noted that Harriet McDougal, for those not in the know, is:
- The wife of the late James Oliver Rigney, JR (AKA Robert Jordan, author of The Wheel of Time)
- The editor for all of the official The Wheel of Time books
- The owner of The Wheel of Time copyright
The current understanding of the situation is that Harriet isn't able to make statements regarding this pilot, likely for legal reasons. However, many fans are under the impression that even if a company has the rights to make WoT media, everything still has to be signed off by Harriet first. Since "The Winter Dragon" short was not signed off by Harriet, it would be an unauthorized work if the belief about sign-offs is true.
There's also no guarantee that by creating and airing this content that Red Eagle will actually be able to keep the rights to produce WoT media for television. That is their claim, but Harriet's comments cast that claim in doubt.
The bottom line is, there seems to be a lot of interest, especially in the light of the very popular Game of Thrones series, but so far the pieces aren't together. The rights to make a TV series were sold off long ago, making things much more difficult now than they were previously.