Rowdy misfits-turned-mercenaries become unlikely heroes in the red-band trailer for The Legend of Vox Machina, a new adult animated fantasy series coming to Prime Video.
The series has an inspiring origin story. A group of professional voice actors used to get together to play Dungeons & Dragons, and when actress Felicia Day (Eureka, The Guild) heard about the game, she invited the actors to play in a livestreamed format for her YouTube channel, Geek & Sundry. (Day herself played a guest role as a human wizard named Lyra.) Voice actor Matthew Mercer served as Dungeon Master, and the campaigns took place in a fictional world he created called Exandria. The web series Critical Role was born.
Eventually, the folks at Critical Role formed their own production company and split from Geek & Sundry in February 2019, streaming new shows on their Twitch and YouTube channels and launching a spin-off comic book. Episodes typically run for three to five hours, and between 30,000 to 40,000 people watch live each week. Add in VOD and YouTube, and most episodes garner around 1 million views each week, making Critical Role a bona fide media mini-empire.
After failing to pique Hollywood’s interest in creating an animated series based on their campaigns, the Critical Role actors decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to make their own 22-minute animation—essentially a prequel covering the events of the streaming portion of the campaign. They hoped to raise $750,000 and surpassed that goal within an hour of launch, raising more than $4.3 million and breezing past all their stretch goals by the end of the first day.
By the time the Kickstarter closed on April 19, 2019, the project had raised more than $11.3 million, and Critical Role‘s members decided to expand the project into a 10-episode animated series. It’s one of the most quickly funded projects in Kickstarter history, raising more money than the high-profile Kickstarter campaigns for Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and the Veronica Mars feature film.
That’s the kind of money that catches Hollywood’s attention, and Prime Video soon acquired the streaming rights to The Legend of Vox Machina. The studio commissioned two additional season 1 episodes and renewed the series for a second season of another 12 episodes. The pandemic delayed the series premiere, which was originally slated for June 2020, but the show is now ready to make its debut later this month.
All of the original cast members will reprise their characters for the series, except for Orion Acaba’s character Tiberius. (Apparently, Acaba had a falling out with the rest of the Critical Role crew early in the first streaming campaign and left the game.) Mercer plays Sylas Briarwood; Ashley Johnson plays a gnomic cleric named Pike Trickfoot; Travis Willingham plays goliath barbarian Grog Strongjaw; Laura Bailey plays half-elf ranger Vex; Liam O’Brien plays half-elf rogue Vax; Taliesin Jaffe plays human gunslinger Percival Fredrickstein Von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III (“Percy” for short); Marisha Ray plays half-elf druid Keyleth of the Air Ashari; and Sam Riegel plays the gnome bard Scanlan Shorthalt.
Per the official premise:
Based on the beloved characters and adventures of Critical Role’s first livestreamed tabletop role-playing game (RPG) campaign, The Legend of Vox Machina is an animated fantasy-adventure series for adults that follows Vox Machina, a band of misfits with a fondness for boozing and brawling. In a desperate attempt to pay off their mounting bar tab, these unlikely heroes end up on a quest to save the realm of Exandria from dark magical forces. From a sinister necromancer to a powerful curse, the group confronts a variety of obstacles that not only test their skills, but also the strength of their bond.
The first two episodes will tell a new story featuring the seven Vox Machina team members, set before the events of the first streaming campaign. The rest of S1 will adapt the Briarwood story arc from the first campaign, incorporating a few other classic story arcs as well. The team travels to Percy’s ancestral home, Whitestone, which his family once ruled until Lord and Lady Blackwood killed most of his family and took control. The Briarwoods are also really into necromancy and a secret cult, and Vox Machina must prevent them from completing a dangerous ritual that would endanger everyone in the kingdom.
The Legend of Vox Machina premieres on Prime Video on January 28, 2022. You can also tune in to Critical Role‘s ongoing third campaign, which premiered last October on Twitch and YouTube.
Listing image by YouTube/Prime Video