‘Wolfman,’ ‘Mummy’ producer Sean Daniel acquires ‘Dead Island’ rights

Well, that was quick.

Sean Daniel has been producing movies for 20 years now, and before that, he was a studio executive at Universal, having supervised films like “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and “Do The Right Thing.”  He’s a guy who has fairly broad taste as a producer, having worked on films like “Dazed and Confused,” “Tombstone,” “The Mummy,” and “The Wolfman.”

And now Sean Daniel is the producer of “Dead Island,” based on the video game that became a buzz sensation based on the animated trailer that premiered a few days ago.

For most of his career, Daniel was partnered with Jim Jacks in Alphaville, but he recently established The Sean Daniel Company, and they’re the ones who bought the rights to the game.  It’s really no wonder the rights sold this quickly.  When something blows up like that, there’s a momentum that can push things over, and this is a case where the heat was so instant, and so widespread, that it was a matter of who, not when.

Techland, the Polish developer for the game, has got to be dancing in the streets right now.  This is a game that had been delayed and that had fallen off the radar after being announced a few years ago.  As soon as that trailer, created by Axis Animation, popped up online, “Dead Island” went from “troubled game that’s taken forever to come out” to “game everyone will play this fall because the awareness on it is gigantic.”

The game takes place on a  resort island that has been taken over by zombies, and one of the novel ideas in it is that you don’t get the typical weaponry we’re used to in survival horror.  Instead, you can only use the objects you’d find in a resort hotel or scattered around an island, and it’s up to you to figure out how to use the things you find as weapons.

Techland has been careful in the wake of the trailer’s viral explosion to state that what you see in the trailer isn’t part of the game, but is simply meant to suggest “the sorts of things that could happen in this world,” which suggests that the characters in the trailer aren’t even part of the game.

Daniel is a tenacious producer, the sort of guy who can really muscle something through the development process, so if he’s onboard and convinced there’s a movie in “Dead Island,” we should plan on actually seeing it get made.

Right now, I don’t have details about how much he paid, and I’ve got an e-mail in to Sean to ask him to comment on the purchase and how it came together, but for now, congratulations are in order.  I wrote yesterday about the possibility of this happening, but didn’t realize it would be quite this fast.  I sincerely hope that whatever Daniel does with the material, there’s a good film on the other end of the process.  I may not be as head-over-heels in love with the trailer as some people are, but now that it’s in play, I’m rooting for them to make something that expands the genre, and not just something that imitates what has come before.

The trailer may not be the game, but based on the response to it, I’d say the main goal of the filmmaking team should be to tap into the same sorts of emotions that people are describing as their reactions to the trailer.  And now I’m dying to see if we’re going to be sitting in a theater in two years and see a trailer that is simply a live-action translation of the one that’s online now.  It would pretty bold to release a live-action trailer that is cut the same way, and it would be a nice nod to the thing that kicked off the feeding frenzy around this material in the first place.

We’ll have more on this as it develops, and if Daniel does respond to our attempt to reach out to him, we’ll update the story with whatever it is he has to say.