Has it really been five years since we said goodbye to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and demon-filled Sunnydale? Sure, Ripper is supposedly still in the works and we’ve got the “season 8″ comic book series to read but there’s still no new weekly adventures of the “Scoobies” on TV. Creator Joss Whedon has certainly tried — including one interesting concept that would have kept the gang at Sunnydale High. A cruel supernatural trick?
Back in 2001, while the Buffy series was still in production, Whedon developed an animated version of the show. He invited a number of the series writers to participate and several scripts were written. Illustrator and animator Eric Wight designed the look and feel of the characters.
Buffy: The Animated Series was initially intended to be part of the Fox Kids lineup as early as 2002. Unfortunately, the programming block was a money-loser and was eliminated before the series could be produced. The studio, 20th Century Fox, shopped the concept to other outlets but there wasn’t any interest.
In 2004, a year after the live-action Buffy had ended, the studio had renewed interest in the series and produced a four-minute presentation pilot. Unfortunately, a buyer still couldn’t be found. The reason? Likely the subject matter — too mature for a children’s network, not mature enough to attract a mainstream adult audience.
Budgetary issues also came into play. Whedon told The Hollywood Reporter, “We just couldn’t find a home for (it). We had a great animation director, great visuals, six or seven hilarious scripts from our own staff — and nobody wanted it. I was completely baffled. I felt like I was sitting there with bags of money and nobody would take them from me. It was a question of people either not wanting it or not being able to put up the money because it was not a cheap show. One thing I was very hard-line about was, I didn’t want people to see it if it looked like crap.”
The animated Buffy series would have had essentially the same cast and take place in the same time-frame as the first season of the regular series — with Buffy and friends still in high school. Buffy’s sister Dawn, who was added later in the series as part of an altered continuity, would have been part of the cast as would Giles, Xander, Cordelia, Willow, Angel, and Buffy’s mom, Joyce.
Most of the live-action cast had reportedly agreed to participate in the series and voice their regular characters. Unfortunately, Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar wasn’t interested as she jokingly called herself a “commitment-phobe” after being obligated to several projects for so long. She said, “I was contractually bound to Buffy, to the Scooby movies, to whatever it was. I don’t do something unless I can commit 110 percent, and I just can’t say that three times a month or this week I could actually, absolutely do an animated show.”
This created a real challenge for Wight as he had to design Buffy to be recognizable but the character couldn’t look too much like Gellar. Giselle Loren was ultimately cast to voice Buffy. The actress had previously voiced the slayer in a couple video games.
Though the Buffy animated series has been considered a dead project for awhile, there’s still interest from fans and the creative team. Could the slayer actually return to regular television one day? Is the animated version worth doing? Take a look at the four-minute pilot and post your thoughts below. Stay tuned!