Sadly, Emma Watson will not feature in the title role in a Netflix Zelda adaptation. Nor will Tom Holland star as Link. In fact, the Netflix Zelda series doesn’t even exist, although we wish it did. And once again, it’s an AI art generator that’s to blame for the confusion.
Gamers went wild when a full set of promotional posters emerged for a Netflix adaptation of Nintendo’s Zelda franchise. They look superb, the cast is outstanding and Netflix has been rumored to be working on a Zelda adaptation before, so it sounds feasible. Alas, there was just one problem. The posters were created by a fan using an AI image generator (AI is responsible for so much these days. See our guide to how to use DALL-E 2 to learn how it works).
Google analytics show that searches for ‘Netflix Zelda’ have shot off the scale since a series of posters emerged presenting a cast for the video game adaptations to end all video game adaptations. Tom Holland as Link, Emma Watson as Zelda, Idris Elba as Ganon and Maisie Williams as Saria lead an all-star lineup that’s a little too good to believe.
Backed up with Jameela Jamil as Urbosa, Danny Devito as Tingle, Meryl Streep as Twinrova and Steve Buscemi as Dampé, Netflix’s Zelda looked set to have one of the greatest ensemble casts ever brought together. If it were real, that is.
The posters are the work of the developer and DeviantArt director of product marketing Dan Leveille, with a little help from a trio of AI image generators. Leveille never tried to pass his designs off as real, but that didn’t stop the internet from believing what it wanted to believe. His original Facebook post (opens in new tab) has been shared 30K times, with many people apparently believing the concept to be real, and it’s all got a little out of hand.
But the thousands of people searching for ‘Is the Netflix Zelda real’ on Google need only turn to Leveille’s original posts where he explains his process. He used the text-to-image AI art generator Midjourney, and then Dall-E 2 to correct specific features, Tencent ARC to improve the faces and finally Photoshop to add text and create the look of promotional posters.
We think Leveille’s posters look great, and, with some trepidation, we would love to see this series (although it’s hard to imagine Link speaking). With some gripes aside, the internet seems to agree.
Over on Twitter (opens in new tab), one person replied to Leveille: “Can we just make this become reality? Or I’ll have to hate you for making me want this.” “You suck for toying with my emotions, but this would be a very very cool idea,” someone else wrote. And some aren’t giving up on the hope that it might actually be real. “With Nintendo opening their own studio its safe to assume this is some sort of future project,” one person claimed.
Levelille has form on giving popular characters an AI treatment. Some of his previous pieces include a ripped Super Mario, Cher in Overwatch 2 and a real-but-not-actually-real Dora the Explorer.
Is Netflix really making a Zelda adaptation. We don’t think so. There were rumors last year that it had an adaptation in the works but that Nintendo had backed out of the project after it was leaked online.
For now the only Zelda TV series is the animated The Legend of Zelda made in 1989. But considering the euphoria with which the Zelda posters have been greeted, we think Netflix had better get its act together, respond to popular demand and make Leveille’s invented series happen.
In the meantime, the technology used to create the Netflix Zelda posters continues to generate controversy after controversy. We’ve seen a copyrighted AI graphic novel featuring a Zendaya lookalike and we’ve seen artists up in arms after an AI image that won an art competition.
We’ve also seen a photographer use AI to show how late celebrities would look today if they had aged. With DALL-E 2 access is now open to everyone, we expect we’ll only see more creative (and often controversial) uses of the technology.