Andre Norton fans have waited a long, long time to see a movie based on her Witch World stories. The first book was published in 1963 and it launched a trilogy that consisted of Witch World, Web of the Witch World, and Three Against the Witch World. These books told the story of Simon Tregarth, a man from Earth who found his way through a gate to another world – one where magic works alongside technology.
Andre Norton was, to the best of my knowledge, the first science fiction writer to postulate travel between worlds through constructed portals. In her 1956 novel Star Gate, characters travel between worlds via both starships and technologically-made gates. The novel foreshadows many of the themes of the Stargate universe, although I’ve never seen anyone associated with the first movie or the franchise that followed acknowledge Andre Norton as an inspiration for their work.
The world-gates in the Witch World stories were made magically, but that didn’t stop technological civilizations from using them. It was a unique blend of science fiction and fantasy.
Generations of writers drew inspiration from Andre Norton’s stories. She wrote about galactic empires, sword-wielding barbarians, time travel, post-apocalyptic worlds, intelligent alien species, and much more. She also wrote westerns and mystery novels but if you’re a science fiction and fantasy fan, you’ve probably only heard about her science fiction and fantasy books.
Hard-core Norton fans (and the Lady herself) were disappointed by the Beastmaster movies, which only used the name from the first book of that series. If you loved the movies or the TV show that followed, you might be surprised to learn that they are nothing like the novels. Andre herself was so appalled by the film adaptation (which also resulted in the death of the big tiger) that she withdrew her name from the credits. She disavowed that movie for the rest of her life.
I’ve never understood why it took so long for someone to develop anything around the Witch World. Admittedly, it’s my favorite Andre Norton franchise, although I’ve read many (but not all) of her books. I created a dedicated Andre Norton fan site many years ago. I was never able to finish it, but maybe one day I’ll get back to it.
SF-Fandom has an Andre Norton forum, the oldest such forum on the Web. Originally launched on Xenite.Org, we moved the forums to SF-Fandom in 2001. Loyal readers have kept the forum active for over 20 years.
News about a Witch World movie franchise broke in June 2015. All we learned at the time was that Kirin Media Ventures had formed a partnership with a Chinese production company, Kylin Network Movie & Culture Media Co. Ltd. in Beijing. They chose George Paige to develop the first movie.
In August 2016 The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency announced: “We’ve also done a fair amount of new work for the Andre Norton Estate. In Germany we’ve agreed on terms to license 15 of Andre’s books to Apex Verlag. This will be the first major re-publication of Andre in Germany in at least a quarter century. We’ve also licensed WITCH WORLD in China. With the WITCH WORLD movie in active development as a joint Chinese/American project we are very hopeful this will turn into something big.”
Science fiction and fantasy writers Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens have delivered the script for the first movie, according to their biography page on Amazon: “In the world of features, Judith and Garfield have recently brought their love of sci-fi worldbuilding and epic storytelling to two classic genre franchises. For the Goddard Film Group, they have delivered the first feature script of a proposed trilogy based on Jerry Pournelle’s classic interplanetary military sci-fi novel series, JANISSARIES. For Kirin Media Ventures and George Paige Entertainment, they have also delivered the first script for a trilogy of movies based on Andre Norton’s bestselling WITCH WORLD franchise.”
The one sheet you see in this article’s Featured Image is from George Paige Entertainment’s Website. So that’s an official image from 2017. Another press release was released in March 2017 and a copy was posted in the Andre Norton Forum by our late and much-missed friend the Paul Goode. The release confirmed the Reese-Stevens collaboration and mentioned both George Paige and Jeff Chao would co-produce the movie.
Paige may be best known for producing documentaries about entertainers, and the movie The Three Stooges. According to IMDB, the last movie he brought to market was the Danny Glover-led kids film Space Warriors in 2013.
His most recent news announcement was to share artwork for an upcoming reboot of the Beastmaster series. It looks nothing like the movies or past TV show, but doesn’t quite match up to the book. I would say it’s closer to the book than the earlier productions, at least in general concept (a man from a technological civilization partnering with a cat).
While there haven’t been any recent updates on the Witch World franchise, it doesn’t seem to be dead. And clearly the 2020 pandemic has disrupted film and TV productions all around the world.
We would like to see something that is relatively faithful to the books. I don’t expect 100% accuracy and faithfulness, but the last thing I want to see is a cheesy low-budget adaptation filmed in a desert.
You can see discussion about the artwork in this Andre Norton forum thread.