Run-and-gun indie game Cuphead is beloved for its unforgiving difficulty, and showed up on many game of the year lists in 2017, but before players even got their hands on it, its lovingly hand-drawn art style struck a chord with many. It was an immaculately rendered paean to those old Fleischer Studios/Ub Iwerks cartoons of the 1930s, back when one Michael ‘Mickey’ Mouse was barely a glint in Walt’s eye, accompanied by a period-appropriate jazz and big band soundtrack.
Now the idea’s come full circle, with Netflix and King Features Syndicate announcing the production of an animated adaptation of the game simply called The Cuphead Show!. It’s the same basic format as the game – Cuphead and his brother Mugman go around getting into all sorts of scrapes, although the series will likely feature a bit more storyline and a bit less constant gunfire.
Cuphead creators Chad and Jared Moldenhauer are, naturally, attached as executive producers, alongside Dave Wasson (Mickey Mouse Shorts), Cosmo Segurson (Rocko’s Modern Life), and C.J. Kettler (Carmen Sandiego).
Game-to-screen adaptations have a fairly rough reputation (see: the works of Uwe Boll), but with a project like this, most of the heavy lifting’s already been done. The art style and animation is all there in the game, and as for the narrative, the game already had a decent cast of characters in its various boss fights (easily the most memorable parts of the game) – all they need is to put voices to faces. And, given the much-anticipated The Witcher series will also be coming to Netflix soon, this might just be the turn of the tide, when game adaptations actually start getting good.
Weirdly, although King Features own the rights to a number of established cartoon properties, like Popeye, Garfield, and Archie, The Cuphead Show! represents their first longform animated series – in other words, their flagship in this area is a parody of the classics of the medium, rather than any of the actual classics. This is a particularly notable move given that in February they announced a scheme to create various character franchises. While Cuphead may be a tried-and-tested format, it’s a stripling compared to any of King Features’ other properties, so this is a bit of a roll of the dice.
As for the game that started it all, Cuphead’s eagerly-awaited DLC pack ‘The Delicious Last Course’ (featuring token female character Ms. Chalice) is scheduled for release sometime in 2020.