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Huffington Post: Remembering Frank Frazetta, John Carter and Edgar Rice Burroughs

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This is a historical fable to be watched for its imagery and not analyzed for its plot. John Carter deserves and merits respect.

by Carole Mallory for Huffington Post:  Frank Frazetta rotoscoped me for director Ralph Bakshi’s Fire and Ice. Remember Ralph Bakshi’s Fritz the Cat which in the ’80s made him a star? Well, Bakshi cast me in Fire and Ice. We filmed the movie and then I was rotoscoped by Frank Frazetta. Rotoscoping is a process of creating a cartoon by drawing directly on the film.

Frank Frazetta also drew early images of John Carter. Edgar Rice Burroughs was a fan of Frazetta and they collaborated with Frazetta doing the book jackets for many of Burroughs’ novels. Joseph Stalin’s favorite writer, Burroughs flunked his entrance exam for West Point. He had more important things to do. In 1912, he created Tarzan shortly after he created John Carter. At the age of 74, he died alone reading the Sunday comics in bed. He wrote over 91 novels, 26 of which were about Tarzan. ” I write to escape… to escape poverty,” he said. In 1950, he died a wealthy man.

When I watched Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter, I was mesmerized by the fantasy of what had once been Frazetta images.

The reception that John Carter has received in lieu of Burroughs’ and Frazetta’s involvement is unfair. This is a historical fable to be watched for its imagery and not analyzed for its plot. John Carter deserves and merits respect. It is a bridge to cinema history from Tarzan to today. Bravo to all those who collaborated on it to make it as splendid as it is. And booooooo to those who were laying in wait for its opening to lambast it with a litany of grievances and schadenfreude all of which ignore the visual splendor of this Frazetta-influenced film. Pixar executive Morris and director Stanton felt Frazetta’s art was dated and this film should have a different look. Perhaps this was their mistake. But if you allow your fantasies to take over you can see Frazetta’s influence and spirit.

Read the rest at Huffington Post 

14 comments

  • What a pity Frank Frazetta could not have designed JOHN CARTER! Although I was briefly acquainted with Frank, I never really knew him well. My late friend, Gray Morrow and Frank had been close friends, though. Gray told me that before Roy Krenkel got Donald Wollheim to hire Frank for some of the Ace paperback book covers, things had been tough for Frank. Editors in the early ’60’s were dismissing his work as old fashioned. Frank’s cover for the Ace reprint of TARZAN AND LOST EMPIRE was a truly dazzling image. It made ERB fans acutely aware that an artist had arrived who seemed to capture the very soul of ERB’s work. Of course, anyone who knew Frank’s work on ME Comics’ THUNDA would have already been aware that Frank and ERB were made for each other.

    While I don’t want to attach Andrew Stanton, he is certainly not above criticism..

  • I do understand his larger point. And I agree that he’s only passively sniping at Frazetta, but it’s far from inadvertent. That isn’t the only time he made comments to that effect, and it’s clear he doesn’t hold the artwork in very high esteem.

    I don’t think it was especially good salesmanship to open his presentation by softly dissing the most well-known Barsoomian images in popular culture.

    That’s fine if he doesn’t like it (he’s certainly entitled not to), but alienating Frazetta fans with comments like that is another patch on the quilt of bad decisions regarding the making and selling of this picture.

  • Wow….but you seem to missing the context, at least for this quote. Stanton is not disparaging Frazetta – -he’s saying look at the heritage, this is a 100 year old epic book and people are more familiar with some 1970’s “van art” than they are with the original source material. To me that is only inadvertently dismissive of Frazetta — and is made in the larger point of, respect the master, ERB himself. Here’s the full passage (and I’m not looking for a fight, we have plenty of that over on IMDB…..I’m just saying that Stanton’s not being critical of Frazetta, he’s just saying there is a deeper heritage that goes beyond that.

    It’s a little bit like Christmas: I can’t wait to show some of the stuff. We’ve been working so long on this thing. A lot of people don’t realize I started working on this in 2006, so it’s been a long haul. I’ve still got a little under a year to go, so it’s nice to release a little steam and give you a little window. Let’s get started: How many of you guys actually know anything about the property that this is from? About half of you. Good, this shouldn’t be preaching to the choir too much. I want to give you a little inside into it. A lot of people seem to remember this: This is a Frank Frazetta painting from the late ’60s, very popular on vans in the ’70s. Sadly, this icon’s existed in people’s memories way longer than the actual property it’s derived from.

    Next year will be the actual 100th anniversary of the novelization of the first book called ‘The Princess of Mars.’ Believe me, that fact didn’t get lost on me at the time that I asked to possibly do this film. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fitting to have a film that’s actually 100 years in the making being made on the 100th anniversary?” That was a little bit of a carrot to try to see if we could get it done for that time. 100 years ago, it was first publicized in serial form, in February of 1912 in a magazine called the All-Star Magazine. The title of it at the time was called ‘Under the Moons of Mars.’ It was a serial adventure magazine; it was what you had for movies — it was cliff hangers. You would have the next chapter that would lead you to buy the next magazine. It received its proper publication as a novel with Edgar Rice Burroughs finally owning up to being the author of it, under the title of ‘Princess of Mars’ in 1912.

  • “Let’s get started… A lot of people seem to remember this: This is a Frank Frazetta painting from the late ’60s, very popular on vans in the ’70s. Sadly, this icon’s existed in people’s memories way longer than the actual property it’s derived from.”
    _Andrew Stanton

    http://www.slashfilm.com/interview-andrew-stanton-talks-john-carter/

    There are lots of other examples from similar interviews if you dig around. I’ve read 3 or 4 variations of that Frazetta ‘van-art’ joke made at separate events.

  • In interviews, Stanton and Morris threw Frazetta under the bus every opportunity they got. They even opened their presentations with his iconic ‘Princess’ cover and a joke about the 70s to contrast their take on the material.

    Unsurprisingly, the film works best when it edges into that visual territory (the awesome Warhoon slaughter minus the mopey flashbacks, for instance).

    Perhaps more people would have wanted to see the film if the imagery had been more vital or exciting. I’m not saying it should have looked like Frazetta, just that Frazetta was one of MANY artistic interpretations of Barsoom more compelling than Disney’s.

    Alas, Stanton repeatedly made clear he regards the Rembrandt of the 20th century as a purveyor of ‘van art’.
    You reap what you sow.

  • I agree 100%.
    A second point . . .When I fist saw a trailer 3 months ago it was “John Carter of Mars” the marketing dept dropped the “of Mars”
    Why do thes guys get paid for making blunders? They don’t know what their doing!

  • The one thing that was consistent in all of the art from Schoonover through Whelan was the element of chivalric romance layered into the adventure/sci-fi. All the covers featured John Carter and Dejah Thoris, or some sort of male/female juxtaposition. Disney just eliminated that completely from any of its treatments for the film — whether it was the a) Red background, John Carter silhouette series, b) JC and the apes, c) JC International with John Carter in the foreground, or d) JC international with JC and Sola on thoats, with Dejah almost invisible. Or in other words — virtually every other piece of Barsoom cover art over the years included both John Carter and Dejah Thoris. I remember thinking ….that is really strange but Disney has probably done research on the Disney audience and knows something we don’t know. In retrospect, I think they ended up embodying the famous line about Hollywood: “Nobody knows nuthin’.”

  • That would be “can’t” deny – sometimes no matter how much you proofread something, you just don’t catch it all…

  • Can’t deny Frazetta’s massive impact on Burrough’s works. But there were artists before him that made their marks on Barsoom. My introduction to the Mars tales was Gino D’Achille, but over the years I’ve been partial to Whelan’s covers. I don’t think the film would have been more successful if it looked more like a Frazetta painting – but I’d love to see an animated film that had the look.

  • I just saw the movie for the 3rd time and am reading the ERB john carter books… again. I bought them 32 years ago.This is an excellent movie,please don’t sell it short!Go see it and bring all your friends! I can’t wait for the sequel!!! Harold C

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