Critical Role’s ardent fans have broken the Kickstarter record for the most-funded TV or film project ever, pledging over $5.79 million — in under four days — for the production of what has morphed into an animated series about a band of Dungeons & Dragons adventurers. And the campaign is set to run for another 42 days.
The team behind the popular live D&D role-playing show launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign on Monday to create an animated special, “The Legend of Vox Machina,” based on Critical Role’s first campaign. It hit its original $750,000 goal in less than an hour.
Now the “Vox Machina” campaign — at $5.79 million from 42,232 backers as of Thursday at 4:10 a.m. PT — has exceeded Kickstarter’s previous record-holder: Joel Hodgson’s effort to revive “Mystery Science Theater 3000” in late 2015. The “MST3K” campaign closed out with a total of $5.76 million raised and led to Netflix picking up the show.
On Wednesday, Critical Role announced that it plans to produce “The Legend of Vox Machina” as a series of four 22-minute episodes. (It originally was envisioned as a single 22-minute special.) Set in the show’s fantasy world of Exandria, the first two installments of the series will be an all-new story about the seven-member Vox Machina team at D&D Level 7 on their first “grown-up” mission, which occurs prior to Critical Role’s first RPG show. The next two episodes pick up the Briarwoods storyline, in which the Vox Machina crew avenge the murder of the rulers of the town of Whitestone and most of their offspring by the evil Lord and Lady Briarwood.
With the Kickstarter having topped $5.75 million, Critical Role plans to produce two additional 22-minute episodes on the Briarwoods arc. CR has added additional rewards to backers, and says it will continue to expand content production plans if the campaign hits higher funding levels. At $7.5 million, Critical Role said it will produce two more Briarwoods episodes.
Critical Role originally launched in 2015 in partnership with Legendary Digital Networks’ Geek & Sundry; Critical Role last month parted ways with Legendary and now distributes its shows on Twitch and YouTube.
“Now this has been highly requested and believe me, for five years it’s been our dream to tell these stories in animation,” Matthew Mercer, who serves as the group’s Dungeon Master, says in the video on the group’s Kickstarter page.
For the animated series, Critical Role is teaming with animation studio Titmouse for “The Legend of Vox Machina.” Writer Jennifer Muro (“Justice League Action,” “Star Wars Forces of Destiny”) has signed on to script the special.
“The Legend of Vox Machina” is slated for fall 2020 release. Critical Role says it hasn’t settled on a distribution plan right now but is promising Kickstarter backers that they’ll be the first to get access to it. Rewards to backers are slated to begin shipping in May 2020.
The Critical Role cast members and their “Vox Machina” characters are Travis Willingham (Grog), Marisha Ray (Keyleth), Taliesin Jaffe (Percy), Ashley Johnson (Pike), Sam Riegel (Scanlan), Liam O’Brien (Vax) and Laura Bailey (Vex), with Matthew Mercer serving as Dungeon Master.
Fans of Critical Role — known as “Critters” — have inspired to the team to release books and comic books, stage live events and now an animated series based on the franchise. According to Critical Role, its original proposed budget of $750,000 for a half-hour special was more than any media company they approached was willing to bite on.
Rewards dangled to Kickstarter backers of the “Vox Machina” project include downloads of the “Your Turn to Roll” theme song, production art prints, a dice set, playing cards, stickers, character pins, and a plushy of Trinket the bear. Contributors who give $1,000 or more are invited to a private screening of “The Legend of Vox Machina.”