The idea of a Warriors movie based on Erin Hunter’s beloved book series captured the imaginations of fans worldwide. Yet despite initial excitement and promise, the film adaptation would never come to fruition. This is the story of the Warriors movie that could have been.

Cat warrior, Rusty, Red cat
Warrior Cat Rusty

The Announcement That Started It All

In November 2016, Warriors readers rejoiced at the news that Harry Potter producer David Heyman had signed on to bring the feral cats of the forest to life on the big screen. The movie rights were secured by Alibaba Pictures and STX Entertainment, with plans for a live-action/CG hybrid origin film following the first Warriors arc about Rusty joining ThunderClan.

David Heyman
David Heyman

Heyman and Alibaba Pictures President Zhang Wei expressed enthusiasm about the project’s potential for worldwide appeal. Chinese company involvement aimed to make Warriors a successful China-UK co-production. Heyman remarked on the story’s universal themes of courage, loyalty, and friendship having cross-cultural resonance.

Yet beyond the initial announcement, concrete details about the Warriors film remained sparse over the next few years.

Building Excitement with Vague Promises

While Heyman and Zhang Wei nurtured anticipation for the movie, they kept fans guessing about specifics. The number of planned adaptations based on the numerous Warriors books was left open-ended. Heyman commented cryptically that “there will be as many films as long as we can keep telling interesting stories and the audience is receptive to it.”

Casting decisions were up in the air, with Heyman noting the cat characters allowed flexibility for a multinational cast. The production schedule and budget were also vague, though Heyman confirmed it wouldn’t be a low-budget film. When asked about a director, he gave the opaque response that he sought “a humanist” who understood animation.

In short, the Warriors movie seemed perpetually on the horizon but never fully realized.

The Quest to Find the Perfect Script

A key factor in the project’s stalling was the difficulty of finalizing a script. Award-winning screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger were announced as writers in 2018. Yet well into 2020, Heyman admitted they did not have a finished script.

He explained his relaxed approach: “I don’t like working to release schedules. I always prefer to have the luxury of making something as good as it can be.” This contrasted with Zhang Wei previously promising fans the movie “wouldn’t disappoint.”

Zhang Wei
Zhang Wei

While the script languished, the CGI animation process also proved challenging. Heyman acknowledged the complexity of “getting that emotion across with animals — with cats.” Convincing CGI was needed to meet expectations.

The Warriors Movie Gets New Life as an Animation

After years in development limbo, the Warriors movie was officially canceled in January 2024. The next day, author Victoria Holmes announced a new partnership with Tencent Video to produce an official Warriors animation instead.

While the movie failed to get off the ground, the animation offered renewed hope. Perhaps an animated adaptation was better suited than live-action to capture the spirit of the beloved books.

A Dream Unfulfilled, But Its Legacy Lives On

The canceled Warriors movie joined the ranks of promising book adaptations that never made it to theaters. Yet the story of its brief lifespan demonstrates the project’s core appeal. For a few shining years, Warriors fans united in eager anticipation of seeing their favorite characters come alive in a vivid, cinematic way.

That sense of magic and possibility, however fleeting, is the true legacy of the Warriors movie that never was. Though dormant for now, the potential for a feature film or streaming series remains. After all, tales of fierce feline protagonists conquering adversity never go out of style. Perhaps one day the Warriors movie will rise again. But for now, fans can enjoy the journey of imagining what could have been.