When it comes to cross-promotions, Magic: the Gathering has (until recently) taken the high road. Whereas many games and video games offer new characters or cards or versions based on characters from an upcoming movie or TV show, Magic never really bought into that sort of thing wholeheartedly. Sure, some cards came out in conjunction with other Magic related things like magazines, books, and even video games. But that was all still Magic related in the first place. It wasn’t as if McDonald’s was coming in with a proposal for a ‘toys for having Grimace having his own creature card’ deal (which, honestly, we'll leave it to you if that's a good idea or not).
That is until the year 2010.
That year, Disney had a new Nic Cage movie coming out called The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. We’ll let you investigate the full premise yourself, but very basically there are sorcerers and magic in the world and Nic Cage casts spells with Jay Baruchel as his apprentice. Hence the title.
As they wanted to tie this into the real world as much as possible, The Walt Disney Company had to find a cool magic-aubrelated thing to tie in. As it turns out there was a massively popular card game with that very thing in the title that had a built-in core of millions of fans worldwide.
Wizards of the Coast and Disney inked the deal, and they soon announced the exciting news of Magic the Gathering appearing in a movie.
The deal they came up with was having a minor character, the illusionist Drake Bell (Real name - it IS a Nic Cage movie after all), be a huge celebrity. So big that Wizards of the Coast sponsors him, complete with cutouts and cards with his likeness.
Magic: The Gathering R&D actually created five cards for the film, making Bell a planeswalker. These were to be linked into the movie showing just how big an illusionist he really was by treating him as a real wizard. It would be akin to having Magic cards with Penn Jillette or Harry Houdini on them in the real world, except that, you know, Bell could do actual magic.
You've really got to give credit to Wizards of the Coast for making them look a lot like real, playable cards (and, indeed, one of them is):
In the end Magic did have it’s shout-out in the film….for a few seconds. All we saw was a cutout of Stone with a Magic cardboard cutout in his office.
The Walt Disney Company
The promo cards fell even flatter. They were never released. They had been widely accused of reusing old Alara art in the backgrounds, as well as Swamp land art. Despite all that hype, they never appeared in the movie and barely even appeared online.
It also didn’t help that the movie was a flop, which realistically helped make sure that the cards were never released. WotC often gave out promo cards during movies, most notably at Pokémon movies, but in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s case, they didn’t.
And, as far as we can tell, MTG hasn’t given a movie any kind of promotion like this since. While it certainly isn’t ruled out in the future, WotC put in a lot of time, effort, and resources into this for a few seconds of screen time off to the side.
With a franchise like Magic, they can afford to be picky, and obviously, they’ll be doing that until just the right project comes along. If ever.
Which, honestly, we'll leave it to you if that's a good idea or not.