So far in 2022, a number of high-profile debut Netflix Original animation series and movies have been canceled, and perhaps one of the most high-profile was Bone. Here’s a rundown of everything we know about the Bone series at Netflix including what could’ve been, why it was canceled, and how the creator of Bone reacted to the cancelation.
Released across 55 issues from 1991 through 2005, Bone has had an endearing legacy often cited as one of the best comic books of all time.
The comics focus on three cousins: Fone Bone, Smiley Bone, and Phoney Bone. The cousins are run out of their hometown of Boneville and find themselves in The Valley, where they embark on a quest to bring a long-lost princess into power and to defeat The Lord of the Locusts.
Netflix’s Cancelation Adds to a String of Cancelations in the Past
This isn’t Bone’s first rodeo when it comes to getting picked up and eventually canceled.
A movie adaptation has been in the works in some form for close to two decades. Nickelodeon (via Paramount) and Warner Bros. had attempted to make the movie. Lost Media’s Wiki does a great job at cataloging what’s known about the failed movie adaptations, but we’ll run through the key details here.
The Nickelodeon adaptation was greenlit in 1998 with the view to releasing it in 2002. Due to internal troubles and creative differences, the rights eventually lapsed and the project was scrapped.
Bone said in the early 2000s regarding the project:
“I think we were a little optimistic: We thought that, because Bone was so fleshed out, our development time would be really short, like six months or so. Instead, it’s turned out to be a fairly normal development time of two years. But things are going really well, and we’re hoping to put the movie out in 2002.”
Fast forward to 2008 and it was Warner Bros. that came knocking to adapt the comics. The script for the film was illustrated by Australian TV Justin Monjo, and the animation will be developed by the creators of Happy Feet, Animalogic. It was also being developed to turn it into a trilogy of movies.
Development took place for years but eventually, news just dried up surrounding the project, and creatives involved moved on to new titles. It was in April 2017 when the first movie got its title name announced.
!!!!! @jeffsmithsbone @cartoonbooksinc pic.twitter.com/vC9AR8M27N
— Mark Osborne (@happyproduct) April 21, 2017
Fast forward two years after that title announcement and Netflix was then in the driver’s seat when it came to adapting the title, only this time, it would be a movie.
It was in October 2019 when it was announced that Netflix had secured the books’ rights and was planning to adapt them into a movie.
At the time, Smith said:
“Netflix is the perfect home for Bone. Fans of the books know that the story develops chapter-by-chapter and book-by-book. An animated series is exactly the way to do this! The team at Netflix understands Bone and is committed to doing something special — this is good news for kids and cartoon lovers all over the world.”
In November 2021, Smith spoke to Polygon about the legacy of the comic (it was celebrating its 30th Birthday that year) and gave some insight into the series, which we’ll be using throughout this article.
According to Jeff Smith, they chose Netflix (with their default position being not to adapt the property) because “Netflix that understood it and knew what it was.”
Netflix’s adaptation was going to be in 2D and largely stick to the comics the show would be based on. Bone spoke about the plans for the show, saying:
“They’re [Netflix] like, “We’ll do it as an animated serial. We’ll follow the book and it’ll unfold in much the same way that it did in the chapters of the comics.” So I was like, “Well, all right. I guess you do kind of get it.” We’re in the writing process. I will never allow myself to believe it’s really going to happen until it’s actually on TV [laughs]. I’ve been through it too much. So I can’t just say, “Yeah, it’s going to happen.” But it is going to happen. I’m pretty sure this time.”
We also know that production on the series was aiming for a release on Netflix at some point in 2023.
In the Polygon article back in November 2021, Smith was asked how the adaptation progress was going. He told them that it was “Much better than previous attempts.”
Sadly, Jeff’s fears were realized with the series being shelved in late 2021 but not announced until 2022.
When and Why was Bone canceled at Netflix?
It’s perhaps important to add context to the cancelation of Bone.
Netflix Animation has had a “golden era” over the past few years, building numerous high-profile teams to create and produce new animated series and movies in-house. The initiative really kicked off in 2018 but, like Netflix itself, couldn’t sustain the growth forever.
This was all heavily detailed in an article posted on The Wrap that detailed some of the behind-the-scenes woes at Netflix, including the departure of numerous high-profile figures within Netflix Animation.
Bone was notably listed as one of the projects that had been canceled, with others being (some announced following the article in The Wrap):
- CentaurWorld (Season 2)
- The Twits
- Dino Daycare
- Boons and Curses
- Toil and Trouble
- Wings of Fire
Although it was in April 2022 when we learned Bone was canceled, it was actually quietly canceled in the fall of 2021.
One other thing to point out is that the show was notably swept up in the global pandemic which led to numerous delays which set the production back months (something Jeff hinted at several times).
On Twitter, Jeff Smith reacted to the news getting about the cancelation with a comic strip:
Responding to upset fans on Twitter, Bone said that the experience of another cancelation was “such a waste of emotional energy,” adding, “It shouldn’t be this difficult!”
Michael Ruocco, who now works at Warner Bros. Animation as an animator storyboarder, Tweeted on April 21st, stating that he was involved in the project in the early days at Netflix Animation.
“A few years ago, I got a chance to be on a pretty exciting group call with Jeff Smith and a ton of great industry folks to talk about Bone at Netflix. What we loved, wanting to do justice to it, sharing thoughts. The excitement and passion was so palpable. So sad it petered out.”
He went further in June 2021, detailing some additional information about the canceled series (full thread here / Twitter thread start here).
“Recalling the wonderful group call we had with Jeff Smith regarding Bone 3yrs ago. So much amazing talent in one zoom call, all fueled and jazzed about the potential of what was to come. That kind of artistic encouragement, both to and from everyone involved, was unmatched.
We saw boards, James Baxter animation, details from Jeff on what the world he created would be like in animation, from design to music to sound. It was glorious, and the excitement was palpable. The electricity from that alone could’ve powered countries. If only it lasted.
I knew after that call, I didn’t want to work on anything else. I didn’t want to be a pain in the ass, but I checked in every few months while at Netflix to see when they were eventually staffing. I doubt whether or not I would’ve been on it, but it was worth the shot. Always is.
Netflix kept me on board their to tide me over when they told me the project wasn’t ready yet, but would be VERY soon. I worked hard on Cuphead n’ Storybots, and those experiences alone were fantastic in itself, but in a way it was a means of biding time. Waiting for that call.
After I left Netflix when things were slowing down and I felt I did all I wanted to do there, and once I learned behind the scenes that Bone was dropped last fall, even though I was a bit mentally prepared for it, it still kind of gutted me. Chased that carrot for far too long.”
The Save Bone campaign
A small but dedicated contingent on social media is campaigning for the show to be saved.
Setting up a Change.org petition and actively campaigning using the #SaveBone hashtag, they hope will get enough attention to get the project picked up elsewhere or continue at Netflix.
Before we leave you, we should note that Jeff Smith’s latest book series (which started its life on Kickstarter) was recently released and is titled TUKI: Fight for Family.
Do you wish Netflix was going to continue with Bone? Let us know in the comments down below.