Stranger Things creators confirm spin-off series, a live-action Death Note, and more
The Duffers have formed Upside Down Pictures.
The final episodes of Stranger Things Season 4 have been out less than a week, and despite the fact that we have no idea when Season 5 will be released, creators the Duffer Brothers are fast at work on your next binge obsession.
On July 6, the Duffer Brothers formed Upside Down Pictures and have renewed commitment to Netflix for a handful of new projects. Some of the projects expand the Stranger Things franchise, while others will adapt other IP from Stephen King to anime.
Here’s what we know about their newly formed production company and what projects they’ll be working on in the near future.
What happened? — On July 6, Deadline reported Wednesday that Netflix and the Duffer Brothers announced the launch of a new production shingle called Upside Down Pictures.
In the TV and film industry, shingles are basically talent-led production companies that have already agreed to a studio or network to have the first look at a new idea. (If the agreed-to studio likes the idea, it gets greenlit. If it doesn’t, depending on the terms of the deal, the shingle is allowed to pitch the idea elsewhere.)
The Duffers have also hired Hilary Leavitt, who ran her own similar shingle Blazer for Hulu and has developed shows like Orphan Black, Ozark, and Shining Girls.
Given the monumental success of Stranger Things, it’s unsurprising that the Duffer Brothers wouldn’t want to continue their relationship with Netflix. “Matt and Ross are an exceptionally unique talent with a vision so crisp and clear,” said Netflix co-CEO and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos in a statement. “They are all about the details — it’s no accident that Stranger Things has pierced the zeitgeist to become the epic pop culture phenomenon it is today. We’re excited to continue telling new stories with them as they grow Upside Down Pictures and to welcome Hilary [Leavitt] as creative partner.”
In a statement provided to Deadline, the Duffers said they’re interested in maintaining the philosophy that led them to Stranger Things. Inspired by stories they loved as children, the Duffers promise all their projects will “take place at that beautiful crossroads where the ordinary meets the extraordinary, where big spectacle co-exists with intimate character work, where heart wins out over cynicism.”
Upside Down Pictures will, of course, develop the fifth and final season of Stranger Things, which does not yet have a release date. But here is a quick rundown of what else is coming from the Duffers, as reported by Deadline:
- A live-action series adaptation of Death Note, the popular Japanese manga and anime franchise by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Deadline reports that this version by the Duffers will have nothing to do with Netflix’s own 2017 English-language film version, directed by Adam Wingard and which was unpopular with both critics and fans.
- An original, untitled series by Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews (Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance).
- A series adaptation of the 1984 novel The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. The series will be produced with Amblin Entertainment and Paramount Television. The Duffers told Deadline in another interview that The Talisman will have “much more fantasy” than Stranger Things.
Upside Down Pictures will also expand Stranger Things with two rather unusual projects:
- A new Stranger Things spin-off series already exclusive to Netflix, “based on an original idea” according to Deadline. The Duffers have already expressed that the spin-off will not center on the series’ most popular characters, like Eleven (Millie Bobbie Brown) or Steve (Joe Keery). “That’s not interesting to me because we’ve done all that. We’ve spent I don’t know how many hours exploring all of that,” the Duffers said on the Happy Sad Confused podcast. “So it’s very different.”
- A new stage play (yes, that’s right) “set within the world and mythology” of Stranger Things. Deadline reports that UK stage producer Sonia Friedman is involved, with Stephen Daldry (The Crown, Billy Elliot) as director.
What It Means — Though Netflix has had some struggles this year, it’s abundantly clear that the path to dominance remains true as it did when television first penetrated households: Produce must-watch entertainment no one else can offer.
It just makes sense that Netflix would enter an agreement with the Duffers, whose Stranger Things was passed over by other networks until Netflix agreed to it and allowed the Duffers maintain creative control. While Netflix notoriously keeps its data close to the chest, Stranger Things is by far one of the most popular shows out today.
The Inverse Analysis — What makes less sense are some of the proposed projects. The Duffers doing legit Stephen King is logical, but Death Note? Despite the crossover appeal of the Japanese franchise, Death Note has struggled to translate. The 2017 film was deeply unpopular and indicative of a lot of American adaptations of Japanese anime, from accusations of white-washing to bizarre choices that divert wildly from the original.
But perhaps nothing will raise more eyebrows than a Stranger Things STAGE PLAY. It might have worked for Harry Potter, but it will still be tough for Netflix binge-watchers to wrap their heads around a play. While live theater is precious and should be as revered as TV and movies, streaming a play from an iPhone will be surreal, especially knowing it’s still functionally Stranger Things.
But if there’s one thing anyone should take from Stranger Things, it’s that even the wildest ideas might be the most obvious winners.