The odds were ever in favor of Hunger Games fans when Suzanne Collins released the highly-anticipated prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes earlier this year. Serving as both an origin story for the Hunger Games villain President Snow and the actual Games themselves, it has already been greenlit for a movie adaptation. That's why EW gathered the creative forces behind The Hunger Games books and movies during New York Comic Con for an inside look at the prequel book and its upcoming film adaptation, as well as a wide-ranging discussion on bringing the original book trilogy and movies to life.
"I found out about two and a half years before I was allowed to tell anybody else [about the prequel] so that was its own challenge in a really exciting way," Hunger Games books publisher David Levithan said during Saturday's panel. "[Suzanne] approached it because she wanted to talk about the philosophy behind [the Hunger Games] and human nature, and how does human nature and the Locke vs. Rousseau battle turn into who Snow becomes. That was fascinating to me ... I don't like him but I really am fascinated by him."
Set 64 years before the events of the original trilogy, Ballad revisits the world of Panem from the perspective of its future tyrannical dictator, President Snow, as he’s assigned to mentor District 12’s female tribute at the 10th Hunger Games in an ironic twist of foreshadowing. The book opens on the morning of the reaping, an event that Hunger Games fans know all too well. But this time, we see the heartbreaking holiday through the eyes of a very different protagonist and the story unfolds from there.
"We see the evolution of Snow and that's interesting. But to me, the more interesting part was seeing the evolution of Panem and seeing the Hunger Games in its 10th year and seeing how rudimentary it was," Levithan said. "And seeing how all of the themes and all of the ideas that we'll see later in the trilogy are having their origin story. When you see them in the trilogy, it's a foregone conclusion: The Hunger Games is what it is, it is evil, it is punitive. But seeing where it didn't have to go that direction, seeing how it sort of wobbled, and seeing how the forces pushed it into existence, that was fascinating to me because there are lessons to be learned about human nature and about societies and governments that we would really do well to listen to."
The initial shock over Collins centering the story on such an evil character was shared by Levithan's own colleague. But he explains why the prequel is more than what people assumed. "Everybody at first thought it was going to be a fallen angel story, like Snow's going to be a hero and then something happens and he becomes bad," Levithan said. "What Suzanne shows is that it's so much more complicated than that. His personality was what it was but it was outside forces that either amplify pieces of who you are or help you go a different direction. You see a tug of war in this book."
Meanwhile, Nina Jacobson, who produced The Hunger Games movies, is already hard at work adapting the prequel into a film that she says is going to be very different from the original four movies.
"I've very excited about introducing Lucy," Jacobson said about the new female District 12 tribute. "I love, for fans, the connective tissue between Lucy and District 12 and Katniss and the Hunger Games movies. The weaving of that connective tissue of what Snow's history is with 12 and the way it comes back to Katniss, the first movies will be even richer for living in a world with this prequel. And Lucy is a character who is much more aware of the power of her femininity. Katniss is much more quiet, a woman of few words. Lucy as a performer is a very different kind of character ... Lucy is more mysterious because she is an entertainer. She is playing, in her own way, to the crowd."
Admitting that "it's very early on" to be discussing the prequel movie, Jacobson did tease that since the prequel takes place in a very different time from the original movies, it's going to look and feel quite different.
"This is the 10th Hunger Games as opposed to Catching Fire's 75th," she said. "The Hunger Games are considerably less fancy than they ultimately become, so there's a lot of fun in that and seeing what they used to be. And seeing a Capitol character with a point of view that takes you through a good part of the story is something we've never really done. We've had great Capitol characters but we've only really ever seen them through the eyes of our District protagonists. We've never seen the world through the eyes of a Capitol character, especially a Snow."
Check out the full panel below to learn more about the prequel book and movie, plus find out what the challenges were in bringing the original The Hunger Games adaptations to life, the potential for more prequel books, and more: