Skip to content

Arcane: How a Video Game Adaptation Crushed the Animation Emmy Competition

When Arcane, the new animated series based on the hit video game League of Legends, won the 2022 Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program, it sent shockwaves through the film industry. This groundbreaking win tore up the animation playbook, serving notice that streaming services and gaming adaptations are major forces to be reckoned with.

Let‘s examine how this underdog smashed ratings records and award season expectations, and why Arcane‘s success has Hollywood‘s most powerful animation studios worried.

The Phenomenon of League of Legends

To understand Arcane‘s impact, you need to comprehend League of Legends cultural clout. Since its 2009 launch, the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game has amassed a fanatical global following of over 100 million monthly players.

League boasts an expansive universe with over 150 unique playable characters. Through immersive gameplay and storytelling, it has cultivated a devoted fanbase and spawned a thriving esports scene.

League of Legends Key Facts
Developer Riot Games
Release date October 27, 2009
Peak concurrent players (2022) Over 4 million
Registered accounts (2022) Over 115 million
2022 Esports viewership Over 1 billion hours watched

Fans have long awaited a film or TV adaptation that could translate League‘s lore into a new medium. An early attept at a League of Legends movie project got cancelled in 2014. But Riot Games finally delivered in epic fashion with its Netflix series Arcane last year.

Arcane Breaks Records and Wins Acclaim

Arcane serves as an origin story for key League of Legends characters like sisters Vi and Jinx, exploring tensions between the utopian city of Piltover and the oppressed underground city of Zaun.

Riot Games partnered with French animation studio Fortiche Productions, investing over $10 million and 6 years into Arcane‘s stylized CGI animation and nuanced storytelling.

The meticulous attention to detail paid off, as Arcane immediately captivated critics and fans upon its November 2021 release:

  • 100% Rotten Tomatoes critic rating – Reviewers praised the emotional storytelling, dynamic characters, and breathtaking visuals
  • #1 Netflix show in over 50 countries – Viewership topped every other TV series on Netflix for weeks
  • 180 million hours viewed in 1 month – Set massive records for Netflix animation programming

Beyond critics, Arcane also dominated social media discussions. Fans enthusiastically dissected each episode, while new viewers were pulled in by the hype.

Here‘s just a sampling of social media reactions:

Arcane achieved something remarkable—pleasing hardcore League of Legends fans while still appealing to general audiences who had never heard of the game.

Arcane Domination at the 2022 Awards Shows

Given the overwhelmingly positive response, Arcane gained momentum entering awards season. The Annie Awards showered Arcane with 9 wins, the most of any production in 2022. This included Best TV/Media Production for General Audience as well as individual wins for writing, directing, production design, and character animation.

Arcane received nominations from several other major ceremonies:

  • Art Directors Guild Awards
  • Billboard Music Awards
  • Golden Reel Awards
Awards Won by Arcane Category
2022 Annie Awards
  • Best TV/Media Production for General Audience
  • Best Direction
  • Best Writing
  • 6 other categories
2022 British Film Editors Cut Above Awards Best Animation Series Editing
2022 Golden Reel Awards Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and ADR Animation in a Feature Film

These industry accolades highlighted how Arcane had managed to capture the imaginations of both entertainment insiders and the general public. All signs pointed to a potential Emmy breakthrough.

Arcane‘s Historic Emmy Win

The pinnacle moment came at the 2022 Primetime Emmy Awards, where Arcane won in the prestigious Outstanding Animated Program category.

This marked the first time a streaming original series earned this honor, breaking the 15-year stranglehold that Fox and Comedy Central held with shows like The Simpsons and South Park.

Arcane beat out veteran Emmys juggernauts like The Simpsons (which has won over 30 Emmys), Bob‘s Burgers, Rick and Morty, and others. The rookie series achieved this feat after just one season, while most Emmy winners are recognized after years on the air.

Show creators Christian Linke and Alex Yee accepted the award to a standing ovation. A visibly emotional Linke thanked Riot Games in his speech "for trusting us and for giving us the freedom to make this show the way we wanted to."

Industry observers considered Arcane‘s surprise Emmy win a game-changing moment for streaming animation. As Variety‘s chief TV critic Daniel D‘Addario noted:

This year’s prize represents the final stage in a legitimation process for the form that began with the film nominations of projects like “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.” Animation aimed at adults is now not only artistically significant but can beat live-action at industry honors.

How Arcane Shakes the Animation Industry

So how exactly does Arcane‘s Emmy breakthrough shake up the industry? Here are some of the seismic implications:

Validates Video Game Adaptations as Prestige Entertainment

Despite past misfires, Arcane dispels the notion that video game adaptations are cheap cash-grabs. It proves they can be both critically and commercially successful when handled with care. Expect more resources allocated to upcoming projects.

Pushes Legacy Studios to Raise Their Game

Industry leaders like Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks and Cartoon Network are now on notice to step up their storytelling and animation. They need to compete with upstart studios like Riot Games and Netflix that aren‘t afraid to take risks.

Boosts Netflix‘s Animation Credentials

As streaming services battle for subscribers, Arcane gives Netflix major ammunition. It also may inspire them to aggressively pursue more high-profile animation projects as they shift resources away from live-action.

Opens Doors for Diverse Animation Talent

Arcane‘s writers room was notably diverse, hiring talent from nontraditional backgrounds. Its success encourages inclusion of unique voices in future projects.

More Collaborations Between Gaming and Hollywood

The lines are blurring between video games and film/TV. Arcane shows the magic that happens when Hollywood collaborates closely with gaming studios to produce authentic adaptations.

Adult Animation Grabs Mainstream Attention

Beyond comedy, Arcane shows that animation tackling action, drama and complex themes can find mass appeal. We may see less stigma against "just for kids" cartoons.

Clearly, this historic Emmy win cements Arcane‘s status as an inflection point for the animation industry. Both legacy studios and newcomers will need to adapt to this disruptive streaming era.

The Future is Bright for Gaming Adaptations

Arcane upended preconceived notions about the commercial and critical viability of animation aimed at adults, especially shows based on video game IP. Rather than being viewed as niche media, Arcane sets the expectation that these genres deserve prestige treatment.

Its ripple effects are already being seen. Competitors like Disney have partnered with Epic Games on a Star Wars series set in the Fortnite universe. Sony‘s cracking open its catalogue of PlayStation games for adaptation.

Meanwhile, Netflix has greenlit Arcane Season 2 for a 2023 release. Riot has also announced various upcoming shows based on League of Legends.

Thanks to trailblazers like Arcane, the future looks bright for adult animation and respectful video game adaptations. Rather than being an anomaly, Arcane could represent the new normal. Either way, this plucky underdog has shaken up the animation world and captured Hollywood‘s attention. Game on!

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *