〉There are over 200 million copies of the popular manga in print worldwide
Another beloved manga is about to find a new life on the silver screen, as sources confirm that Lionsgate is moving forward with an adaptation of the mega-popular NARUTO, with emerging helmer Michael Gracey in line to direct. The studio recently closed the rights to the Japanese series written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto, which follows Naruto Uzumaki, an adolescent ninja who dreams of one day becoming the Hokage, the village ninja who serves as protector and leader, considered strongest of them all. Prolific producer Avi Arad, a self-described fan of the series, will produce via his shingle Arad Productions, while Erik Feig, Geoff Shaveitz, and Kelly O’Malley will oversee for the studio.
With over 200 million copies in print, Naruto has become the third highest-selling manga in history, generating an avid fan-base worldwide. Though it originally started out as a manga, the property has since been adapted into an unbelievably popular anime series, which has aired on the likes of Cartoon Network, Hulu, and Disney XD in the U.S. The series spawned ten feature films, with an eleventh, Boruto: Naruto the Movie, set for release next month.
Though he initially began in visual effects/animation, Gracey has now moved to feature directing, with a slew of high-profile projects in his wheelhouse. He’s currently at work on a new adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches for Warner Bros., with Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo Del Toro producing. Gracey is also directing the Jim Henson biopic Muppet Man, Focus Features’ Elton John biopic Rocketman, and 20th Century Fox’s P.T. Barnum musical The Greatest Showman on Earth.
The development of the project doesn’t come entirely as a surprise, as popular manga series have proved tempting fodder in Hollywood. The Guest director Adam Wingard is currently working on the long-gestating Death Note adaptation for Warner Bros., while Scarlett Johansson’s Ghost in The Shell, which Arad is also producing, is moving forward at Paramount with Rupert Sanders directing.
However, it remains to be seen whether or not fans will accept Hollywood’s Naruto, as in the past popular manga series haven’t fared well after being churned out through the studio grinder. Take Fox’s Dragonball: Evolution for instance, which was met with universal disdain after it soullessly butchered its take on the immensely beloved Dragon Ball series. Fans can only hope that that grievous misfire will serve as a lesson for all adaptations to come.
Clark Allen | Associate Editor