Pixar’s Luca Went Through Many Big Changes on Its Way to Disney+

Alberto and Luca--two mermaid-like characters from Luca--spy on humanity while hiding in the water along with seagulls sitting on their heads..

Alberto and Luca spy on humanity in Disney Pixar’s Luca.
Image: Pixar

Here’s how Pixar’s latest film, Luca, does not end: a huge kraken does not show up and face off against the heroes. At one point in production, it did happen, though. During Pixar’s film development, director Enrico Casarosa and producer Andrea Warren were working on a movie that got that way bigger and busier than what eventually ended up on screen, and they told us all about it.

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Speaking with io9 over video last week, Casarosa told us some of the big moments he had in the film earlier on, but later decided to take out before locking in the final cut. “We had much more of a quest and we had a huge kraken transformation at the end. A big monster finish,” Casarosa said. “And we [did an internal screening] and we realized… that wasn’t the story we wanted to tell. I come from this sensibility of more of a lyrical take on things and we wanted to stay with the friendship, be a little smaller. We didn’t want this huge monster movie ending.”

Luca always had monsters in some form, though. From the first time Casarosa pitched the film, following the release of his Oscar-winning 2011 short La Luna, he knew he wanted to make something set in Italy and use sea monsters that turned into humans on land. “The pitch was a bit of a Stand By Me in Italy,” he said, referring to the Stephen King story turned Rob Reiner movie about four boys bonding over the summer. “[Our main characters] had still this changeling thing, but they were on a quest to become human. It was just too complicated. So the process is very kind of sculptural. It is really like taking the rough out of this big block of marble.”

Luca and Alberto as human boys.

Luca and Alberto as human boys.
Image: Pixar

From all of their big, grand original ideas, Luca got boiled down to be fairly simple, all things considered. Set in late 1950s-early 1960s Italy, the story follows a young sea monster named Luca (Jacob Tremblay) who meets another named Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer). Together they get out of the water and go onto land where these particular sea monsters take human form, and the pair began to explore what it means to be human, including training to win a local triathlon-type race. Independent of that story, Casarosa realized early on that when the sea monsters are on land as humans, this was actually the first time Pixar was doing a movie about actual kids just being kids. The studio had animated kids before, of course, but they’re usually in some unique, weird circumstance; we follow the character in a kid’s brain, kids going to the Land of the Dead, kids who have superhero parents, etc.

Talking to Casarosa and Warren, it almost seemed as if once they realized the heart of Luca was as simple as kids bonding and growing up, other elements such as a third sea-monster-turned-human that tagged along with Luca and Alberto got cut as well. Even without that third pal, Luca and Alberto aren’t alone on this quest—they run into another kid, a young human girl named Giulia (Emma Berman) who befriends the pair and, eventually has to deal with the reality of her new friends not being human. But again, that reveal was something the filmmakers struggled with. “We tried different moments [to reveal] when Julia found out that they were sea monsters,” Warren told io9. “We realized that prolonging that just added more tension and drama to the film. So that was fun, too.”

Pasta dinner.

Pasta dinner.
Image: Pixar

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To give an idea of just how long Luca has been in the world before viewers got to see it: Warren came on the project four years ago. At that time, Casarosa and his team screened the first rough version of the film, so he’d been working on it for a good chunk even before that. “It is such a huge, long evolution to find the right story,” Warren said. “And I think it’s great, especially for kids with aspirations and everybody out there who wants to do a creative project to understand that it takes a lot of work and a lot of iterations and a lot of tossing things out and deciding what to keep along the way to get to the place that you want to be.”

The place the whole Luca team wanted to be was the big screen. But earlier this year, Disney announced that Luca had been pulled from its theatrical release and relegated to Disney+. “It’s… a little bit of a disappointment,” Casarosa said. “I’m not going to lie.” However, he, Warren, and the crew quickly realized they didn’t have much say in the matter and that, ultimately, releasing on Disney+ kind of spoke to the overall journey of the film. “The pandemic is such a part of our history,” the director said. “We couldn’t control it while we were trying to finish it, which was hard through the pandemic when we were making it. And we can’t control it now. So once we saw the situation, I got pretty excited about the fact that we have an opportunity to still show it to people, still show it while they probably could use a splash into the water of the Mediterranean. I think it’s a joyful movie.”

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Luca is available on Disney+ starting June 18.


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Making Ghostbusters: Afterlife Was a Family Affair

Ghostbusters Afterlife director Jason Reitman with his father and original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman.

And the cat’s in the cradle with the silver spoon…
Screenshot: Sony Pictures

It’s always disconcerting trying to accomplish something with someone looking over your shoulder while you do it. It’s even more awkward when it’s a parent, especially if you’re trying to do something that they’re old hands at. So pity poor Jason Reitman, who had to make the entirety of Ghostbusters: Afterlife with his father and director of the original two Ghostbusters movies, Ivan Reitman, apparently standing next to him the entire time.

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I’ve not been excited about Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which has felt like a desperate, sniveling attempt by the studio to kowtow to the belligerent fan-bros who lost their minds over Ghostbusters: Answer the Call by leveraging every bit of nostalgia that can be wrung from the original movies. I’m guessing it still will be. But it’s really hard to not be touched by this video of the two Reitmans, discussing how Afterlife is such an important part of their family, as Jason Reitman (an Oscar nominee for Up in the Air and Juno) finds himself directing a follow-up to his father’s most famous film—a film he was on the set of as a child—at the same age Ivan was when he made Ghostbusters.

Honestly, having your dad backseat-driving for a major motion picture sounds absolutely miserable, especially when you’re trying to live up to his incredible legacy. And reading between the lines of this video, it’s obvious that having his father around for what seems like the entirety of the film was not always pleasant. But what an incredible, utterly unique bonding experience it must also have been for the two of them—with the flip side that it’s almost certainly going to be truly awful for them if Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a flop. After seeing this, it’s kind of hard not to root for the movie a bit.

Time will tell—specifically, the time of November 11, because that’s when Ghostbusters: Afterlife hits theaters.


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Dwayne Johnson to Produce New Action Film Starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Yahya Abdul-Mateen in Aquaman

Yahya Abdul-Mateen in Aquaman
Image: Warner Bros.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Dwayne Johnson are teaming up for the new Warner Bros. action film Emergency.

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The Hollywood Reporter states Emergency reunites many of the players from Black Adam, as writer-director Sohrab Noshirvani (The Mauritanian), and producer Rory Haines, and Beau Flynn are helping develop the project along with Johnson. Plot details aren’t forthcoming, but Emergency is described as a high-concept, action-packed movie set in Austin, Texas.

Abdul-Mateen has been on a winning streak. He rose to fame starring in Aquaman as comic villain Black Manta. Then he won an Emmy for his role in the limited HBO Max series Watchmen and stars in Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar-nominated Netflix film The Trial of the Chicago 7. The actor also has several high-profile projects in the pipeline starring in Nia DaCosta’s Candyman and debuts on August 27, 2021. Abdul-Mateen will also star in the fourth Matrix film and George Miller’s Mad Max prequel spin-off Furiosa.

I am looking forward to seeing more from the actor. He’s talented and has done great work so far, and he has an eye for action.


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Dwayne Johnson to Produce a New Action Film Starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Yahya Abdul-Mateen in Aquaman

Yahya Abdul-Mateen in Aquaman
Image: Warner Bros.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Dwayne Johnson are teaming up for the new Warner Bros. action film Emergency.

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The Hollywood Reporter states Emergency reunites many of the players from Black Adam, as writer-director Sohrab Noshirvani (The Mauritanian), and producer Rory Haines, and Beau Flynn are helping develop the project along with Johnson. Plot details aren’t forthcoming, but Emergency is described as a high-concept, action-packed movie set in Austin, Texas.

Abdul-Mateen has been on a winning streak. He rose to fame starring in Aquaman as comic villain Black Manta. Then he won an Emmy for his role in the limited HBO Max series Watchmen and stars in Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar-nominated Netflix film The Trial of the Chicago 7. The actor also has several high-profile projects in the pipeline starring in Nia DaCosta’s Candyman and debuts on August 27, 2021. Abdul-Mateen will also star in the fourth Matrix film and George Miller’s Mad Max prequel spin-off Furiosa.

I am looking forward to seeing more from the actor. He’s talented and has done great work so far, and he has an eye for action.


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

Disney’s Avengers Theme Park Is Nerdy in the Mighty Marvel Manner

The Walt Disney Company’s latest theme park creation opens Friday at Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, California and every corner of it is filled with winks and nods to all things Marvel. But the film, TV, and theme park giant’s new “Avengers Campus” won me over when I saw the Lego Death Star.

Fans will remember that in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and Ned (Jacob Batalon) built a giant Star Wars Lego set of the famous Death Star. In Avengers Campus, it’s sitting in the workshop holding area for Web-Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure, one of the park’s brand new interactive attractions. Web-Slingers is without a doubt the highlight of the new land that, frankly, is pretty dang small. But the Disneyland Resort (which includes Disneyland itself and California Adventure, which holds the Marvel land) has used the limited space incredibly well, packing it with non-stop reminders of why we love Marvel so much, just like that Lego Death Star. On Wednesday, io9 attended a media preview of Avengers Campus, which included free entry to only that section of the park. For three hours, the Campus was our oyster, and we enjoyed as many rides, live experiences, and food as we could. Here’s how it went down.


What are the rides at Avengers Campus?

The pre-show for Web-Slingers. It’s very dark but if you look above the film canisters to your left, Spider-Man’s right, you see the Death Star.

The pre-show for Web-Slingers. It’s very dark but if you look above the film canisters to your left, Spider-Man’s right, you see the Death Star.
Photo: Disney Parks

Officially, Avengers Campus is opening this week with two rides. There’s the aforementioned new Web-Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure and then Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout. However, the Guardians ride has been open at the park since 2017 (it took over Tower of Terror)—so for most fans, it’s been there, done that. You can read much more about that admittedly awesome ride at this link. The main reason Disney fans will flock to Avengers Campus starting this week (hopefully following all covid safety measures) is Web-Slingers and we think it’s worth the wait. The basic story is that Peter Parker (played by Holland, who reprises the role in the ride via voice and video) and a team of students working at a place called Worldwide Engineering Brigade (referred to as W.E.B) have created a few cool new pieces of technology. One of them is tiny Spider-Bots that can self-replicate, which of course quickly gets out of hand as the Bots begin to take over all of Avengers Campus. It’s up to Spider-Man, and you, to stop it.

You do so by shooting webs at the Bots on giant screens—it’s sort of like a virtual, interactive shooter game; for every Bot you hit with your webs, you rack up points. If you’ve been to a Disney theme park before, basically this is like a super high-tech Toy Story Midway Mania (which, it’s important to note, is my favorite Disney ride so I might be a tad biased here). Some robots are worth more points, and there are all kinds of cool different mechanics you can activate and new animations to unlock. Over the course of four different areas, the onslaught of bots only gets more overwhelming. Each ride vehicle has eight seats, four on each side, and it moves along a track stopping four times for four different areas of carnage. What’s truly awesome, though, is each stop is a major area of Avengers Campus, so it really feels like you’re playing a role in the entire space. You start in the W.E.B. labs, then move to the Pym kitchen, then the Guardians of the Galaxy ride, and, finally, outside in the park, right next to the large Avengers HQ building and its Quinjet. The ride basically just does a virtual circle around the park, fighting Spider-Bots.

You shoot webs with your real arms using motion capture technology.

You shoot webs with your real arms using motion capture technology.
Photo: Disney Parks

“But how do you shoot webs?” you might be asking. That’s the best part. You don’t sling webs with a gun or anything, and you don’t even need a Web Shooter (though you can buy one in the gift shop which makes it easier and, as a result, your score higher), you fling webs just by moving your arms. Disney has developed a new motion detection technology that allows you to just flick your hands like Spider-Man and shoot webs. And it works really well. I was fortunate enough to ride Web-Slingers three times and got higher scores each time, mostly because I figured out how to shoot faster and more accurately with every ride. Every time you go back, odds are you’ll be very excited to try it again. But note: when it opens, guests will only be able to ride once daily via a virtual queue system. Details can be found here.)

Here are the downsides: the ride seems short. I would have loved to spend another 15-20 seconds in each room, exploring all the places Spider-Bots are hiding. This might be because Disney is basically forcing you to exercise as entertainment—if you are really going all out with your web-slinging, your arms will get tired. (It should be noted that like most of Disney’s interactive rides, this one may be difficult for folks with disabilities.) I’m definitely down for more though to try and build up a rhythm and a strategy because there’s so much variety and opportunity in each room. One time you’ll pull down a ledge. Another time, you’ll make a pipe explode. It’s also true that you can kind of cheat with the Web Tech add-ons (Read more about those here). But, on the leaderboards posted on the way out, it lets you know which scores were achieved with Web Tech and which weren’t, so you’ll know how you stack up. In the end, Web-Slingers is pure sensory overload and a lot of fun. It’s leaps and bounds better than Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run over in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge (but not Rise of the Resistance), just because here you truly feel like you’ll be able to see, do, and achieve new things every single time you ride.


What live experiences are available at Avengers Campus?

The Dora Milaje take command at the center of campus.

The Dora Milaje take command at the center of campus.
Photo: Disney Parks

Since there’s only the one new ride in Avengers Campus, the bulk of what you can do there is… not that. The next biggest component is live entertainment experiences, areas you can watch and interact with members of the Marvel Universe. On our visit, three such experiences were available, though videos released by Disney have revealed that even more characters and experiences might be coming in the future (one includes Taskmaster from Black Widow fighting Natasha and Black Panther, for example). The first we experienced was Okoye and two other members of the Dora Milaje giving a recruitment demonstration. You know they’re coming because Ludwig Goransson’s Oscar-winning score to Black Panther begins blaring over the speakers and the Dora enter from almost all the way across the space. They walk through the crowd, stopping outside the large Avengers HQ building. During the roughly 10-minute performance, we’re shown some cool battle moves, participate in traditional Wakandan chants, and are regaled with tales of inspiration. It’s one of those “If no one volunteers it’s going to get weird” scenarios but the actors rolled with it and made it work.

This photo looks like a Hot Toys figure but it’s actually the park’s Doctor Strange.

This photo looks like a Hot Toys figure but it’s actually the park’s Doctor Strange.
Photo: Disney Parks

Next, we headed over to the Ancient Sanctum, a small section of the Campus dedicated to the mystic arts. There, Doctor Strange emerges from a portal and an encounter with Dormammu (both of which are seen on a large screen). He’s looking for help from people who will have talents using the mystic arts, which really means: get ready for a Marvel-themed magic show. Strange makes things disappear, change shape, move without his hands, and even time travel, if you can believe it, all of which is very entertaining. There’s crowd interaction here too, though not as much as with the Wakandans, and the show ends with Strange saving the world and sending everyone on their way.

The last big set piece in the land was a demonstration by Spider-Man. Up on a tall platform above his ride, Spidey does a few flips and spins before trying out some new tech that’ll allow him to jump very high. At which point the live Spider-Man disappears and a newly designed creation by Disney flies through the air high above Avengers Campus. Once it lands, the live Spider-Man comes back, attaches to a wire, and crawls down the wall before taking photos with the crowds. All of this takes under five minutes but it’s as crowd-pleasing and as exciting as both of the other events.

You’ll believe a Spider-Man can fly.

You’ll believe a Spider-Man can fly.
Photo: Disney Parks

To some, this might seem like a waste of space but in reality, it’s all very versatile. While I was walking around, I also saw Black Widow patrolling on the walkway of Avengers HQ. She saluted me when I waved. At other times, Ant-Man and the Wasp might be there, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Thor, you name it. Are any of these experiences mind-blowing? No. But it adds a really nice level of immersion to see the characters in the flesh, doing what they do best. The fact all the music and costumes look straight out of the MCU movies helps a lot too. Kids especially will eat this stuff up. Oh, speaking of which…


What kind of food can you eat at Avengers Campus?

For after defeating an army of aliens.

For after defeating an army of aliens.
Photo: Disney Parks

Avengers Campus wouldn’t be a proper theme park if you couldn’t eat and drink there. If you’re just on the run, multiple “Shawarma Palace” stands exist around the land, allowing you to try Tony Stark and the Avengers’ unforgettable post-victory meal (I had a “New York’s Tastiest” which is the meat version and it was fine, but nothing to get overly excited about.) There’s also something called Terran Treats, which wasn’t open. If you have some time though, Pym’s Test Kitchen is where it’s at. The story behind it is that Hank Pym and his crew (Scott Lang, Hope Van Dyne, etc) are using their shrinking and enlargement tech on food resulting in some really weird, different types of thing. You can look at the full menu here, but since I’m only one person and I’d already had a few bites of shawarma, I decided to sample only two things: the “Not So Little Chicken Sandwich” and the “Pym-ini.” And my god, were they both delicious.

The Not So Little Chicken Sandwich

The Not So Little Chicken Sandwich
Photo: Disney Parks

As you can see in the ridiculous image above, the chicken sandwich is basically a huge piece of fried chicken on a slider bun to make it appear as if some Pym tech is at work. You eat it with a fork and knife and it’s just a really well seasoned, tasty, piece of chicken with some sauces on it. Then, if you make it to the middle, you can finish it as a traditional slider. The Pym-ini has gotten a lot of press of late because it’s also available as the “Family Size Pym-ini” which costs $100. But that feeds up to eight people and if you were to buy separate meals for that large a group, $100 would probably be a bargain. The delectable sandwich has salami, ham, and provolone, with a sun-dried tomato spread on toasted focaccia, and comes with an awesome marinara dipping sauce and arugula salad too. It’s a legit great meal, with all kinds of flavors and spices—and that’s just a sample of the full menu you can see here.

Pym’s Tasting Lab—a bar—wasn’t open to us, but it will have cocktails, multiple beers on tap, snacks, you name it. Plus, in a wink to the way Doctor Strange served Thor his beer in Thor: Ragnarok, some of the beers fill from the bottom up. It sounds cool. Again, much like Web-Slingers, the food options of Avengers Campus made me want to go back just for them. Sure I’ve already tried a few items, but what about the big pretzel? The different sodas? All of the booze? I can’t wait. Nothing blew me away like a Galaxy’s Edge Ronto Wrap but it was still all really delicious.


What do I need to know when visiting Avengers Campus?

Avengers HQ, complete with Quinjet, is more of a set than anything right now. That could change in the future.

Avengers HQ, complete with Quinjet, is more of a set than anything right now. That could change in the future.
Photo: Disney Parks

Basically? That’s it. Not including Mission Breakout, Avengers Campus is one ride, one big restaurant, a store, a few shows, and food stands. If you wanted to do all of it, without crowds, you could cover it in probably two hours as I did. (Which, we know, is likely to never ever happen.) But even in that time, you’d never be able to see everything—like the Lego Death Star, which I just happened to spot by chance. Web-Slingers is filled with other cool stuff including joke-filled whiteboards, graffiti-covered lockers, a Mary Jane skateboard, you name it. I also noticed a few of the screens outside Pym’s kept getting text messages from multiple Marvel characters (“Hey buddy! Can you please do me a favor this one last time and pick up my mobile order? Thanks” read a text from Bruce Banner that popped up on the screen. I saw one from Korg too). All the rock formations around the area have mysterious crystals in them, and of course, who knows what Avengers you’ll see walking around and what they may say or do.

This is Marvel though so there are two questions every fan has about everything the company puts its name on: how does this fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and what’s coming next? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of corporate synergy to be had. Asked during a Q&A session about when during the MCU timeline Avengers Campus takes place, Executive Creative Director of Walt Disney Imagineering Brent Strong said the following: “The mission to inspire and empower the next generation of heroes is so important that we’ve assembled heroes from across all of space and time. And as we’re all about to discover in a couple weeks when Loki comes out, time is a lot more squishy than a lot of us think. So trying to put a specific date to it can be challenging but, to us, Avengers Campus is here and now. We get to live in the moment and these heroes are here with us taking part in that story.” That’s a long way to basically say the characters die in the comics all the time and the company didn’t want to make a land where Iron Man, Black Widow, and Captain America are dead. It’s sort of what Marvel said when Mission Breakout opened in 2017. Same character. Unique universe.

Black Widow keeping an eye on things from Avengers HQ.

Black Widow keeping an eye on things from Avengers HQ.
Photo: Disney Parks

As for what’s next, a few things were teased. Other Campuses will be popping up at Disney’s parks across the world, adding to this story of recruitment. We know a new big attraction will be added in the future, which will have the other Avengers in it, but no update was given. Also, as new characters are added to the MCU, they could also appear at Avengers Campus (no names were given but I instantly thought Eternals, and Shang-Chi himself, Simu Liu, appeared as a tease in a promo video). Disney has “baked in” flexibility, according to Scot Drake, Portfolio Creative Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering. That’s all very exciting—but also, the land as it stands now is rather lovely. It’s small, there’s not a lot to do, but everything is handled with such care for the characters, the world, and the storytelling that even if you drop by for one bite to eat, to see one hero walking around, or shoot down one Spider-Bot, you’d feel like you had a successful day at the park. It doesn’t quite reach the levels of detail or immersion you can get at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, but it’s a great start.


What kind of merchandise is available? What kind of alcohol?

The two park exclusive Funko Pops.

The two park exclusive Funko Pops.
Photo: Disney Parks

  • One thing I really didn’t get into too much was merch because I didn’t really buy any. (OK fine, one park exclusive Spider-Man Funko Pop but that’s it.) Most of the new items are geared either towards Spider-Man and the Web-Slingers ride, or Avengers Campus itself. The one standout (besides the Funkos) are the Spider-Bots, which come in multiple sizes, but those were revealed a while ago.
  • Unlike Galaxy’s Edge, none of the beers in Avengers Campus are exclusive to Avengers Campus. The cocktails, however, are: the Honey Buzz (gin, lemon juice, and honey syrup with a honey straw), the X-Periment (tequila, Minute Maid lime juice, and mango and habanero syrups with mango popping pearls), and the Molecular Meltdown (marshmallow milk stout and vanilla ice cream topped with miniature marshmallows).
  • During the Q&A, Drake said that Avengers: Endgame contains a tease of the Quinjet that stands at the top of Avengers HQ. Maybe the universes are more connected after all…

Avengers Campus opens at Disney California Adventure on June 4. If you’d like to go sooner rather than later, visit Disney’s site to read its up-to-the-minute covid-19 protocols and breakdowns on how to get tickets, make reservations, and more.


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Kelly Sue DeConnick on Her Relationship With Tarot, and a Magical New Kickstarter

A look at the cards and guidebook included in Brink Literary Project's new Kickstarter, The Literary Tarot.

Get ready for a new way to look at the arcana with The Literary Tarot.
Image: Brink Literary Project

Whether you assign any faith to the mystical fates of a deck or just appreciate the often lavish artwork that goes into interpreting the arcana, tarot has seen a resurgence in popularity recently, especially in fandom circles. But now a new collection of arcana cards wants to give the fates a literary twist, and is recruiting a host of stars to help out. io9 is excited to reveal the first look at some of the contributors to the Brink Literacy Project’s new Kickstarter, The Literary Tarot.

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Recreating a full 78-card deck covering all the major and minor arcana—with art and design from Samantha Dow, Shan Bennion, Ejiwa Ebenebe, Isabel Burke, and Bradley Clayton—the collection also comes with an accompanying guidebook featuring contributions from dozens of beloved contemporary cartoonists and writers. Each essay in the guide takes one of the arcana and examines it through a piece of classic fiction that embodies that arcana’s attributes. io9 is thrilled to tell you just some of the writers contributing to the project and their arcana/literary pairings for the guidebook—including site co-founder and Hugo-winning novelist Charlie Jane Anders! Check out the full list:

  • Starting off with the Major arcana, PEN/Faulkner Award-winning novelist K-Ming Chang (Bestiary) pairs the Magician with Wu Cheng’en’s 16th century novel Journey to the West
  • Amal El-Mohtar (author of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Award-winning novella This Is How You Lose the Time War) pairs the Star with Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Emily of the New Moon
  • Lev Grossman (The Magicians) pairs the World with King Arthur
  • Talia Lavin (the author of Cultural Warlords and the host of the Moby Dick Energy podcast) pairs the Devil with Herman Melville’s Moby Dick
  • Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award-winning writer Kelly Link (Get in Trouble) pairs Two of Pens with Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirlees
  • The bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng, pairs the Hanged Man with T. S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
  • Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Award-award-winning novelist Rebecca Roanhorse (Black Sun) pairs Death with Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  • Quill Award-winning novelist Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy) pairs the Fool with Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote
  • Simon Tolkien (No Man’s Land: A Novel) pairs the Chariot with Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island
  • Meanwhile, for the Minor arcana, Hugo, Nebula, and Locus award-winning writer Charlie Jane Anders (Victories Greater Than Death) pairs Knight of Cups with Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones
  • Margaret Atwood (Handmaid’s Tale) pairs Queen of Light (Cups) with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre
  • Tarot reader and host of The Word Witch podcast Charlie Claire Burgess pairs Eight of Swords with Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper
  • Bestselling writer Roxane Gay (The Bad Feminist) pairs King of Pentacles with Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Hart Hanson (creator of the TV series Bones and author of the novel The Driver) pairs Page of Wands with Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain
  • Erin Morgenstern (The Starless Sea) pairs Five of Light (Cups) with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
  • Novelist and biographer Alec Nevala-Lee pairs Two of Swords with Sophocles’s play Antigone

“I’m so humbled that the literary community has come out in such throngs to support our nonprofit,” Brink Literary Project CEO Dani Hedlund said in a brief statement provided to io9. “It’s dazzling to work with so many of my literary heroes on this deck and to share their enthusiasm for storytelling and creativity in such a unique form.” To celebrate the launch of The Literary Tarot Kickstarter, io9 is proud to share an essay from contributor, comics writer extraordinaire, and Captain Marvel legend Kelly Sue DeConnick about the guidebook, and her own personal relationship with tarot as a writer and fan.


My near-daily Tarot practice is difficult to square with my larger world view.

I’m just not very woo. I put no stock in astrology, or in divination of any kind. I have an almost-desperate concern about the fate-based “chosen one” narratives that have come to so dominate our modern mythologies. If our purpose as artists is to get closer to the truth by telling lies, they strike me as having veered miles off course in the wrong direction.

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I do love the world-building, but the notion that heroes are born as such, that Targaryens will be Targaryens and that the Force just runs in some families like a particular bacterial gut strain, rankles me. It rankles for many reasons, including the way I think it serves to subtly bolster existing hierarchies, but mostly it rankles me because it crashes headlong into my experience of the world and the constantly-evolving people in it.

Heroism, as I have seen it, is both a learning process and a series of choices. The people I have known who I could call heroes came to fit that descriptor over time, through hard work and humility, not birthright. And often, most often, they have changed dramatically along the way. Certainly, there is weight to be given the Nature side of the Nature/Nurture divide and yes, we are all big bags of chemicals, but even so, I must insist people change. Circumstances change. Nothing is set, nothing promised. And what a gift that is.

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Humanity is so much more beautiful for its dangerous imperfection and malleability.

All right, so where were we beyond “I am an unfun curmudgeon, determined to ruin all the things you love?”

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Tarot! Right.

So, for me, the cards do not have a consciousness. They don’t know anything I don’t, nor do they act at the behest of an unseen hand that somehow has nothing better to do than get all up in my dumbassery.

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Again I stress, for me, the cards are nothing more than what they are.

We can part ways on this, of course, and that’s fine, that’s good, many of my “Tarot friends”—yes, that’s a thing—see the cards as a means of communing with the capital-U Unknown. Oddly enough (given my opening tirade and assertions), it’s not particularly polarizing. I’d say we agree to disagree, but it’s such a non-issue we seldom even bother discussing it.

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But human beings are messy and contradictory creatures and try as I might, I cannot exempt myself from that. So, here’s where things get muddied: I do have time for some aspects of Jung. I own more than one dictionary of symbols and for a while, even took particular supplements in the hopes that they might trigger lucid dreaming in which I intended to learn more about my own language of symbols.

So it seems there is some part of me that is at least a little bit open to the idea of… what exactly? Either a collective unconscious, or, perhaps, a higher/deeper self, one that may not be able to divine the future or advise on practical matters, but one that might help the conscious mind make less-obvious connections.

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And that’s it, isn’t it? The ability to make or see less-obvious connections is—if not a definition of creativity by itself—at least a necessary aspect. First draft, I’d describe the process something like this: you begin like an explorer, a scientist even, searching for how seemingly unrelated ideas are connected. You turn over rocks, take notes of what you see, go spelunking, observes sounds and smells. You don’t judge. If you’re persistent and brave, you will uncover connections.

Sometimes they’ll be strong, like sinew, sometimes delicate, like spider webs. You collect the fibers and begin to line them up. Soon the fibers catch and snag and felt themselves into a thing that is both the same and different from what you started with. And that new thing will likely find its way into a composition you’ve been working on, revealing one more tiny piece of a larger picture.

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Did I say I wasn’t woo? I’m so sorry. Every time I make a declaration about myself, I think of four or five exceptions. It’s like trying to pin down mercury. As soon as I put my finger down, it isn’t there anymore.

But, as it happens, that crack in the door (or the logic) isn’t necessary for how I actually use the cards, or what I use them for: to reveal those unseen connections. They’re sort of… tools for the explorer.

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Without the metaphors this time: in my work, the cards help me solve problems when I’m stuck. I ask a question or present a character, then draw a card and look for ways to connect the ideas associated with that card to the matter at hand. The most blatant matches are no fun at all. The real gold comes in the ones you think are not helpful at all at first, but I continue mulling them over until I find my way in. If I fail, what of it? I draw another card or simply ask a different question.

In more personal matters, I seldom get more specific than “what do I need to know today?” I draw a card, look up interpretations and find what holds my interest. Throughout the day, I tend to come back to the ideas presented, sometimes in opposition to them. It’s always about reframing and finding connections.

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In both cases, she says, asserting her rationality, the cards are acting as mediums or facilitators, but not between me and a heavenly being. Rather, I see them as prompting a conversation with myself.

The needle swings back again when I consider that I own several decks and I assign them each different arenas of expertise. Moreover, there are cards that have particular significance to me, and when a suit, a number, or Major Arcana figure repeats more than once over a short period of time, I cannot help but feel like the Tarot is trying to tell me something that I haven’t fully understood just yet. Perhaps that is a begrudging admission of supernatural belief? Or perhaps just an acknowledgement that the mind craves narrative and imposes it often without my consent.

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These inconsistencies that I relish in other people are unnerving in myself. There is comfort and safety in knowing who and how you are. It’s easy to love fluidity in the abstract or the other but the intimacy of it in the self prompts an amygdala response. I want to assert, “no, I am this way!” and be done with it, even as I know that finding myself fixed in a mood or a mindset would be tragic.

Which brings us at (long, long) last to the Literary Tarot.

Dani, who oversees Brink and this project, gave a bunch of writers the opportunity to find and share connections between cards in the traditional Tarot deck and classic works of literature. The symbols on the card were then reinterpreted by an artist (one for each suit) through the lens of the chosen book, creating something new. There’s something delightfully meta about that isn’t there? To do with the cards, what I usually use the cards to do…?

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Add to that a reframing of the suits from an author’s perspective—quills for swords, for instance—and I didn’t just want to participate, I wanted to know everything! I want to have long conversations with the authors involved about their own language of symbols, how old they were when they read the books they chose, and what significance they hold. I want to see all the many connections. And have all those conversations with myself.

I will disagree with many of the choices, of course. But I will mull them over until I find my way in. Perhaps the ones I least understand will prompt me to read—or reread—the book in question. Perhaps in doing so, I will uncover a connection—an idea—that I would not have stumbled upon without.

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Perhaps that idea will change me in some way.

I sat down to write about the Tarot and instead, I’m afraid what I’ve done is illustrate the process of the Tarot by sharing with you a conversation I might have had with myself, turning over my own insecurities and closely held beliefs about growth, how we get there and what we must give up in order to do so.

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That is how Tarot works for me. It is never the thing. It won’t stay center. As soon as I put my finger down, it moves like mercury and looking at it means looking at my own dynamic reflection.

None of this even begins to get into the Tarot’s origins as a game, or its relationship to the modern playing deck, for which I also have a long-lasting and sticky affection! But I have gone on much longer than was my intension and so I will end in this way:

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We are messy creatures, full of contradictions. Those seeming inconsistencies are my favorite thing about you. I am charmed and nourished by your capacity to be many things, at once and in succession. And when I am my bravest self, on the days when I am drawn to the suit of swords, I can enjoy that promise in myself.

Even if it sounds a little woo.


The Literary Tarot Kickstarter is live now, and will run throughout June.


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Marvel’s Eternals Trailer Introduces Earth’s Secret Super Team

Marvel's Eternals heroes lined up on a beach in their fancy costumes.

The Eternals family.
Screenshot: Marvel

Trailer FrenzyA special place to find the newest trailers for movies and TV shows you’re craving.

Though most everything about the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date has made it seem as if all of the most pivotal moments in the fictional reality’s history have taken place relatively recently, the studio’s upcoming Eternals film is set to recontextualize everything with a story about some of Earth’s earliest, mightiest heroes.

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In addition to introducing the Eternals themselves, the new Eternals trailer is a multiple millenia-spanning recap of Earth’s history beginning when humanity first witnessed the Eternals’ alien ship uncloaking itself before the benevolent visitors took it upon themselves to make the world a better place. Primitive as humans are by comparison, Eternals like lkaris (Richard Madden), Sersi (Gemma Chan), and Phastos (Bryan Tyree Henry) all see the potential the planet holds, and commit themselves to cultivating it by sharing their own vast stores of knowledge and power.

It’s not clear what, exactly, pushes the Eternals to go back into hiding after initially establishing themselves as the closest things to gods humanity’s ever witnessed, but it isn’t until the Eternals’ ancient adversaries, the Deviants, surface in the present day, that the heroes remerge ready to defend their adoptive home. Save for a quick joking reference to the Avengers, it’s not quite clear how Eternals’ story will weave itself into the fabric of the larger MCU just yet. But with the planet still very much in need of new heroes post-Endgame, the Eternals’ arrival is almost certain to be a boon to the other capes fighting to keep the planet safe.

Kumail Nanjiani as cosmic-powered Kingo, Lauren Ridloff as the super-fast Makkari, Brian Tyree Henry as the intelligent inventor Phastos, Salma Hayek as the wise and spiritual leader Ajak, Lia McHugh as the eternally young, old-soul Sprite, Don Lee as the powerful Gilgamesh, Barry Keoghan as aloof loner Druig, and Angelina Jolie as the fierce warrior Thena. Kit Harington plays Dane Whitman.

Eternals also stars Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Salma Hayek, Don Lee, Barry Keoghan, Kit Harington, and Angelina Jolie. Eternals hits theaters on November 5.


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Mark Ruffalo Joins Emma Stone in Yorgos Lanthimos Film Poor Things

Mark Ruffalo as Hulk in The Avengers

Mark Ruffalo as Hulk in The Avengers
Image: Marvel Entertainment

Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo will star opposite Emma Stone in Yorgos Lanthimos adaptation of the Alasdair Gray novel, Poor Things.

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Willem Defoe will also star, with Rami Yousef rumored to be joining the cast as well. There’s no confirmation on Ruffalo’s role, but the cast is shaping up to be star-studded, just like previous Lanthimos films.

Variety also reports that Tony McNamara, who earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing The Favourite, will adapt the novel, while Stone will produce under her Fruit Tree banner. There is no specific date for when production begins, but the film is expected to premiere in 2022.

Poor Things’ story is a bit complex, but to break it down in simple terms: the story is a reimagining of Frankenstein—wherein Bella Baxter is resurrected from the dead by a surgeon who swaps Bella’s brain with that of her unborn child.

For a better understanding of the story, Collider goes in-depth and provides some context on just how wacky this plot is:

“Bella is Victoria Blessington, who drowns herself to escape her abusive husband, Gen. Sir Aubrey Blessington. However, a surgeon resuscitates her by removing the brain from the fetus she was carrying and placing it into her skull, giving the revived Bella the child’s mental faculties. Eventually, she becomes engaged to a Glasgow physician named Archibald McCandless. She then chloroforms only to run off with a shady lawyer who takes her on a whirlwind adventure all over Europe. As Bella’s brain matures, she starts to develop a social conscience, but all the progress she has made is threatened when she is recognized as Victoria by her lawful husband.”

At first, I was like WTF, but this is a project helmed by Yorgos Lanthinmos, and this kind of shit is right up his alley. He knows what to do with material like this. There hasn’t been a film of the director I didn’t love.


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Marvel’s Secret Invasion Series Taps Thomas Bezucha and Ali Selim to Direct

Illustration for article titled Marvel's Secret Invasion Series Taps Thomas Bezucha and Ali Selim to Direct

Image: Marvel Studios

Marvel’s Secret Invasion series is crazy stacked with A-Listers like Oscar winner Olivia Coleman (The Favorite), Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Bridgerton), with Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role as Nick Fury, and Ben Mendelsohn coming back as Skrull shapeshifter Talos.

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And now the show has its directors Thomas Bezucha (Let Him Go) and Ali Selim (The Looming Tower). They will lead this amazing cast of actors, with writer Kyle Bradstreet (Mr. Robot) will write and act as executive producer.

The Hollywood Reporter states there are no details of the show’s plot, but the series kicks off production later this year in Europe, but the specific location is under wraps. There is no word on how many episodes are in the series or if they’re 30 or 60-minutes long.

In the Secret Invasion comic series, Skrulls invade humanity while impersonating superheroes. Marvel.Fandom gives a good summary of what happened before war broke out on Earth.

“Located on interstellar crossroads, Earth was viewed as prime territory by many alien cultures. One of these cultures was the Skrulls. Due to a large number of superhumans on Earth, all invasion attempts were thwarted every time. The Skrulls, despite their previous inability to conquer the planet, still viewed Earth as rightfully theirs. After the Kree-Skrull War, the Illuminati took it upon themselves to travel to the Skrull throneworld to inform them not to involve Earth in their struggles again. Upon arrival, however, the Illuminati were captured and experimented upon before they were able to escape.”

Secret Invasion is suitable for the next phase of Marvel’s cinematic universe. Did you read Secret Invasion? What do you think of this new phase of the MCU? Comment Below!


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How Spiral Set Out to Make the Most Realistically Gross Saw Traps Possible

Chris Rock in his cop uniform, pointing a gun at a pickup truck with a pigman inside, for Spiral.

Chris Rock in Spiral: From the Book of Saw.
Photo: Brooke Palmer/Lionsgate

When Darren Lynn Bousman heard the news that Chris Rock wanted to make a new Saw movie, he had the same reaction many of us. “I paused and I was just like ‘Chris who?’ Because, of course, in my mind, never in a million years would that Chris Rock want to meet with me,” the director of Spiral: From the Book of Saw told io9 over the phone this week. But it was that Chris Rock.

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Bousman, who directed Saw II, III, and IV—not to mention cult classic Repo! The Genetic Opera—was in New York to direct a Broadway show when he got a call from a producer who said he was needed back in Los Angeles. Apparently, a certain person who definitely couldn’t be the former Saturday Night Live cast member, Oscar host, and mega successful comedian/movie star wanted to meet with him. So Bousman got on the flight and began reading a script sent to him called Brain Donor. “I’m on the flight and I open the script up and like on page 18, I out loud vocally said, ‘Oh fuck,’ because I realized it was Saw,” Bousman said. Rock had been working with Jigsaw writers Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger for a few months before they turned to Bousman and two met for breakfast the next day. “It was the most surreal bacon and eggs I’ve ever had,” he said.

As Bousman tells it, Rock had long been a Saw fan but had one major problem with the franchise. “He had made a couple of statements over the years about Saw II and said the one problem that Saw II had was it took itself too seriously,” Bousman said. “He said that movie would have worked a lot better if Donnie Wahlberg would have had one or two jokes.” Bousman continued, “One of our mandates when I was doing [Saw movies] was there was no humor. It was bleak. And so Chris was like, ‘I’m telling you. If you just make it a little bit funny—not a lot, just a little bit— you’re going to open up your audience.’ And so that’s how it started. Can we make a Saw film with a little bit of levity? And then it kind of spiraled into what it is right now.”

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Bousman with co-stars Samuel L. Jackson and Rock.
Photo: Brooke Palmer/Lionsgate

When Bousman left the Saw franchise in 2007, he was ready to be done. He had planned on leaving after Saw II but each film was such a financial success he kept coming back. Ultimately though, after three movies in three years, he didn’t feel challenged anymore so there was no guarantee he’d come back this time. Apparently, those bacon and eggs were very good. “When you find out you have a movie that could have Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson and Max Minghella, all of a sudden it opens up a world of possibilities for me as a filmmaker,” he said. “But that also comes with 15 years of being absent, knowing the fandom has grown, and knowing the expectations of these fans, specifically to say one of the original architects is coming back with Chris Rock. The pressure was just insane.”

That pressure also led Bousman to make a few key, potentially controversial decisions, early on. The biggest one is he decided actor Tobin Bell, who played the original Jigsaw, John Kramer, in all of the previous Saw movies, couldn’t reprise his character. “Even if they said to me, ‘Yes, Tobin wants to do it, he’ll come back.’ I couldn’t do that because no one will compete with Tobin. No one. It’s impossible,” Bousman said. “So the last thing that I want to do is make him a character in this thing when I’m trying to tell a new story.”

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Photo: Brooke Palmer/Lionsgate

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Bousman also decided the unforgettable image of Billy the puppet had to go. “He becomes so ingrained in people’s [minds],” Bousman said. “I was like, again, if we’re going to try to make something new, we need to make something new.” But Spiral isn’t totally new. The killer has a new puppet this time around (a pig) and one key crew member does make a triumphant return. “To me, the most important thing [to bring back] was Charlie Clouser’s music,” Bousman said. “That says Saw to me.”

And, of course, Spiral is again filled with terrifying, elaborate torture devices. Bousman and his team built them not just to meet the needs of the script, but actually made them in reality. Each device went through numerous tests to make sure that, in some horrible alternate universe, they would actually, hypothetically, work. For example, a trap in Spiral involving glass was built and tested on a mannequin. When the team saw what it could do to a body, it made the film. Another, involving a character’s mouth, was tested and didn’t quite work, so it was scrapped and reinvented to be more believable. “I will probably be arrested and or put on every government watch list for the shit I’ve had to look up online about different ways to kill people and what it actually looks like,” Bousman said. “[But] my favorite aspect of these movies is the monotony of ensuring these traps are as organic and realistic as they’re portrayed in the movie.”

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Rock and Bousman.
Photo: Brooke Palmer/Lionsgate

With Spiral hopefully hitting just that right balance of old and new, Bousman is looking toward the past to inform the future. He said when he made Saw II he didn’t think there would be another film. But when that was a hit and he came back for Saw III, he made it with Saw IV in mind. So, when asked if Spiral was made with sequels in mind, Bousman said yes—but also that he believes Spiral isn’t the end all be all of Saw.

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“There are things that are 100% seeded in [Spiral], 100% are not paid off or misdirections to give us room if we end up making a sequel,” Bousman said. “Now, the sequel only comes about if people go see the first one. So I hesitate to say there is going to be a sequel or anything like that, but if people go see part one I think what’s exciting to me is not only can I stay there [could] possibly be a part two, but that does not invalidate there being another Saw movie. Meaning, this is the ninth installment of Saw, but it’s not Saw 9. It’s Spiral. There still could be a Saw 9. There still could be a Jigsaw, Costas Mandylor Saw 9, as well as a Spiral 2, as well as a TV show, all happening concurrently. So that would be the hope, I think.”

All of that potential starts Friday, when Spiral: From the Book of Saw hits theaters.

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