Screen Shot 2012-04-03 at 3.27.19 PM

John Carter: More Grist for the “What really happened?” file–Lengthy edit bay interview with Andrew Stanton

What Really Happened

One of the issues that is central to the John Carter “What really happened” question is — who’s to blame for the marketing debacle.  A single article emanating from Vulture.com seems to have taken on a dominant position in shifting the blame from its natural home–Disney marketing–to the shoulders of director Andrew Stanton. That article, citing an unnamed “Disney marketing mole” (and no one else), basically makes the car that Stanton controlled the marketing and is effectively the author of the marketing campaign that has now been generally acknowledged as one of the worst, if not the worst, in cinema marketing history.

Here is the link to the Vulture.com article:  The Inside Story of How John Carter Was Doomed by its First Trailer.

I’m not ready to comment significantly on this article but would note that it appears to be sourced almost entirely (if not entirely) to a single source who has a vested interest in shifting the blame to Stanton, assuming the “mole” is still employed by Disney marketing.  Thus the article provides a riveting but one-sided rendition of the marketing story, much like what you would get in a trial where one side presents its case, then the other.  There is no counterargument here, and certainly no cross-examination of a witness who does seem to have had some access — but whose overall credibility is hard to assess.

Meanwhile, we’ve been digging into the various interviews and articles that bear on this, and have come up with a good one that has a great deal of solid primary source information emanating from Stanton himself.

 

 

The article is an “edit bay interview” where Disney took a number of journalists up to Pixar a week or so before the release of the trailer (the same one that “doomed” John Carter according to the Vulture.com article) .  During the visit, the journalists were presented the teaser trailer, and other clips.  Stanton spoke to them at length and answered questions.  So, buried in here are some interesting quotes from Stanton which bear on the issue of his relationship to the marketing.  It is clear from his quotes that he had strong opinions about the marketing — but it also seems clear that he was not in control of it.  At one point he talks about sending the teaser trailer back to Disney a number of times, saying:  “We were not nice citizens. We kept saying it’s not good enough.”  This shows that Disney sought to get Stanton’s concurrence on the trailer — it does not sound like he was the author of it by any stretch of the imagination.  Clearly it was being cut at Disney and being sent to him for coordination.  The fact that he had the power to send it back and ask for more changes is significant and does show his engagement in the marketing.  But who had final say?  It doesn’t seem to be Stanton.

In any event — I recommend giving the collider article a read.  It’s very long and I’ll just do the first few paras and a link here, but it’ good stuff with a lot of insights into the situation that we are trying to drill down into.

20 Things to Know About JOHN CARTER; Plus an Awesome Interview with Director Andrew Stanton and Your First Look at a Tharks

After hearing director Andrew Stanton (WALL·E, Finding Nemo) talk passionately for almost an hour about his first live-action movie, John Carter, in San Francisco last week, I’m convinced he’s the right person to finally bring Edgar Rice Burroughs celebrated novel to the big screen. Not only is he a lifelong fan of the material, but his behind the scenes team is packed wall-to-wall with lifelong Burroughs fans. In addition, while some filmmakers might cling to the source material and treat it like a Bible that they refuse to diverge from, Stanton is smart enough to know that some things that read great on the page won’t translate to the screen, though that doesn’t mean a Thark won’t still be a 9 to 10-foot tall green alien with 4 arms and tusks.

But let me back up a second.

With Disney releasing the first teaser trailer for John Carter later this week (it’ll be on Harry Potter and also online), today marks the very beginning of the Studio’s campaign to promote the movie. To help make that happen, they invited a few online reporters to Northern California to watch some footage, the teaser trailer, and also speak with producer Jim Morris and director Andrew Stanton. If you’ve been looking forward to John Carter, or you’re just a fan of Stanton and curious about his next movie, hit the jump for 20 things to know about the movie and an awesome interview (both audio and transcript) with the great director.

Before going any further, if you’re curious what I thought about the footage Stanton showed us (including the teaser trailer) and my thoughts on the movie, you should click here.

Since I know many of you won’t have the time to read an hour long interview, I’ve taken some of the highlights and created the “20 Things to Know About John Carter.” However, I know many of you will want to read the entire conversation and listen to the audio, so further down the page you’ll find the audio links and full transcripts. But before going any further, for those of you that have never heard of John Carter, here’s the one liner:

John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), who is inexplicably transported to mysterious and exotic planet Mars, becomes embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions and discovers that the survival of the planet and its people rests in his hands.

Here’s the full synopsis:

From Academy Award–winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton comes “John Carter”—a sweeping action-adventure set on the mysterious and exotic planet of Barsoom (Mars). “John Carter” is based on a classic novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose highly imaginative adventures served as inspiration for many filmmakers, both past and present. The film tells the story of war-weary, former military captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), who is inexplicably transported to Mars where he becomes reluctantly embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet, including Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and the captivating Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). In a world on the brink of collapse, Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes that the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands.

While it might have taken a long time to get to the big screen, I really think Stanton’s film has the potential to be awesome. John Carter hits theaters in March of 2012.

20 Things to Know About John Carter

Stanton and Co. worked really hard on the first trailer. They kept telling Disney it wasn’t good enough. They wanted to nail it on the first go-around. The trailer includes Peter Gabriel doing a cover of an Arcade Fire song.
The film will most likely be PG-13 as there are battles and dismemberments; things not suitable for small children.
Stanton says he most cares about whether this will be one of those movies people show their grandkids. He’s much more focused on making the film great and lasting rather than just having a good opening weekend.
Even though Disney will most likely wait until they can see how well John Carter does before moving ahead with the sequels, Stanton says he’s not waiting for a greenlight to get moving creatively.
In comparing the Pixar process of constantly reworking, scrapping, and re-doing the film until it’s great to making a live-action film, Stanton says he had to work with less reshoots. Even still, Disney was asking why he needed so many reshoots.
Stanton’s initial introduction to John Carter of Mars was in the comic-book form in the 1970’s. Through the comic, he discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books and started reading all of them in junior high school.
Disney has optioned the rights to make three John Carter films. If the first one does well and starts a franchise, Stanton wanted to ensure that the films would be interlinked, but still independent from one another. Saying that, he’s dropped a few things in the first film that can be used in the sequels.
Stanton approached the adaptation like a rewrite. He broke the book down, looked at it objectively, and then saw what came back together. He said he tried to find what he thought was universal and timeless about the sci-fi genre in order to make the film accessible to everyone.
Stanton wanted to approach the film realistically. He wanted to look at it as a period film about a period we just don’t know about.
The film was shot on location in Utah, and a large percentage of what we’ll see on screen has actually been photographed. They’ll use CG to add set extensions.
When casting two of the main characters who are Tharks—Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morton—Stanton went with “his Pixar gut” and chose his actors based on their eyes, their voice and their acting ability.
In doing motion-capture for the Tharks, the actors had to wear a grey suit with face cams and walk around on stilts in the 100-degree heat.
The film wasn’t shot in 3D and Stanton says he had no say over whether the film was 3D or not. Disney is post-converting to 3D. Producer Jim Morris says because there’s so much CG in the film, a lot of the elements of stereoscopic 3D are inherently in place. They pulled in Pixar’s stereographer Bob Whitehill to do 3D work on John Carter.
Stanton confirmed that Edgar Rice Burroughs, who appears as a character in the book, is also a character in the film.
Stanton says he wasn’t too keen on going to Comic-Con because he’s not a fan revealing things so far from the film’s release. He also didn’t want to get lost in the noise at Comic-Con, he wants people to be able to focus on John Carter and enjoy it.
One of the big challenges for Disney – and even the filmmakers – is that a lot of John Carter has been used in films ranging from Avatar to Star Wars. So how do you explain to people that John Carter came first and everything was lifted from a hundred year old book. Stanton said, “so much has been derived from this book over 100 years that my first dilemma was, “How the hell do you make this and not look like you’re being derivative yourself?”
Filmmakers for almost eighty years have tried to bring John Carter to movie screens. During the 30?s it was almost done as an animated movie and then “Ray Harryhausen tried to do it in the ’50s and then John McTiernan almost did it in the ’80s and they just didn’t have the technology or the means to figure how to translate it visually.”
While some fans might be upset that “of Mars” was dropped from the title, Stanton says “not everybody’s into sci-fi. I’ve tried really hard to capture what I thought was universal and timeless about this book that is above and beyond the genre itself. I don’t want to exclude anybody from a wrong first impression assumption about this movie or this property, so I didn’t want to lie and say it isn’t what it is, so I said, “Let’s sell the character that we put all our efforts towards.” Believe me, Mars is going to come into this thing, title and everything, before this whole journey’s over. You’ve just got to be patient. There was a grand design to all this thing.”
Another issue Stanton had to overcome was “How do I deal with these archetypal characters? Character was probably my biggest focus on the project: I needed to dimensionalize these heroes. Carter’s pretty much a do-gooder for most of these books; he can be very vanilla, very 2-dimensional at times. Dejah was too much of a damsel in distress. You’ve got to remember, they were the fresh adventure ideas at the time that became tropes. Could I make both characters and made a little bit more of them, but still retain what I felt was an innate sense of justice in Carter and the strength of Mars at the core of Dejah?”
Most of the effects work is being done in London. For a year now, Stanton starts his day meeting with them remotely. While it’s morning in San Francisco, it’s the end of the day in London and they watch dailies for an hour or two.

Before we watched any footage, producer Jim Morris came out and talked to us about the film. Moments later, Andrew Stanton took the microphone and explained why he wanted to make the movie and his history with the books. Here’s the audio. Further down the page is the Q&A that happened after we watched a few scenes from the movie as well as the teaser trailer.

Jim Morris: …where he made a lot of his films from here, including Amadeus. And recorded a lot of the records produced over the years here, a lot of jazz greats as Credence Clearwater Revival and so forth. We got the space for our art department and editorial offices, which starting now, we needed space and we thought it set a good local vibe. And the Pixar day care is here as well. It all gels beautifully. I had a chance to talk to many of you last night, at least. I’m Jim Morris, and I’m producing John Carter of Mars. You may have met Colin Wilson, those of you who got a chance to go to the set in Utah. Colin did a lot of the production of the principal photography. Lindsey Collins, my producing partner, is primarily focused on the visual effects. She couldn’t be here today with us, unfortunately, but the 3 of us are working on the show together. We’re very excited to show you some of the stuff we have today. Andrew’s going to go over many things of the show and give you a rundown.

Just to be clear, Andrew and I are both Pixar employees—Andrew, in addition to directing and writing there, is the VP of Creative there, and I’m the general manager of Pixar. But John Carter of Mars is a Walt Disney picture; it’s a live action picture. It’s not a Pixar film, it’s not an animated film, it’s not a G or PG rated film—probably a PG-13. There are battles and dismemberments and things such as that; things not suitable for small children. We are going to show you the materials here, but we’re going to take a trip over to Pixar since we’re so close, and we have some stuff set up over there to show you, and we’ll have lunch over there and have a look around while we’re here. I’d like to introduce Andrew; many of you know him already. Andrew has been a key creative force since the beginning of Pixar. He’s written a number of the films here: Toy Story films, A Bug’s Life he was co-director, Monsters Inc. writer and director, Finding Nemo and Wall-E. He is a great cinephile, music aficionado, great friend, partner, writer, director of John Carter, Andrew Stanton.

Andrew Stanton: 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 insight into it. A lot of people seem to remember this: This is a Frank Rosetta painting from the late ’60s, very popular on vans in the ’70s. Sadly, this icon’s existed in people’s memories way more 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 cliffhangers. 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. Since then, it has literally inspired tons of things: It inspired novelists and moviemakers and astrologists, some directly and some indirectly. To be completely forthcoming though, my initial introduction to this property was through this. It was the comic book form—short run of it in the ’70s—and like most of the set, my best friend was a latch-key kid and had all these older brothers and it was nothing but a comic heaven in their attic. I remember being introduced to this. They all used to draw, and they would draw these Tharks all the time. From there, turned out to find out about the books that they were from, and I started to read them. I decided to read them from cover to cover from my junior high school years bleeding into my high school years. My friends that were girls used to tease me and call them my romance novels.

So, everybody seems knows Tarzan; not many people know these books, even though I felt they were a little more compelling for me. I guess I just wasn’t into the jungle ape thing as much. There were 11 books, actually, written over a period of years. That’s how I was introduced as this: As a series. Most people know me at Pixar as the guy that doesn’t like to do sequels or very reluctant to do sequels. The irony wasn’t lost on me when I asked them to do this first book to option the first three. I said, “I really want to try to attack the first three like a trilogy and give us a fighting chance to introduce it to the world the way it was introduced to me,” which was as an ongoing series with a promise of something going on—not as a cold crafts franchise, but again, to try to capture what I felt as a young kid when I got introduced to them. There was already 11 books, and they were my Harry Potters. I wanted to see if we could do the same, get off on the right foot with this one. They were very receptive to that fact, and that’s exactly what we did. We tapped all three knowing that the first one was really going to be the only promise of what could be made and whether it succeeds and does well, then we’ll move on. I was very sensitive as an audience member to films that are part of a trilogy. Often they don’t end well, or they’re episodic in a bad way. The terms I try to use was I wanted them interlinked but independent. I wanted them to be able to stand on their own. I wanted it that if you came on film two, you’d be able to not have seen film one. If you came to film one, you aren’t demanding that you need to have film two to be satisfied. That’s easy to say, hard to do. I felt that I experienced that before in rare occasions with certain television episodes and with certain movies, and that was the worthy holy grail to try to shoot for. Once we had this scope in mind, we put all our efforts into the first book, A Princess of Mars.

I know I’m going to get this question all day and probably for the rest of my frickin’ life: Why John Carter? This has had quite an evolution of me figuring out what was the best thing to do for this book to preserve what I thought was timeless about it, what I thought was the resonant elements about it, but not be afraid to tweak or alter things for the benefit of it, so that it would translate the best it could to screen. Nobody’s a bigger fan of these books than me, or at least I could match myself with a lot of people. I’m also a huge cinephile, and I have witnessed that to honor the book literally word-for-word never makes a good movie. How can I somehow do that and make you feel like how it felt to read the books when you’re watching the movie? You have to be willing in private to be able to dismantle it all, break it apart, analyze it, and look at it almost objectively as if you were making it from scratch, and then see what comes back together. It’s actually not that different than when you have to rewrite anything that you’ve done once you’ve done the first draft. In doing so, I also found that—this is the wrong crowd to get this—not everybody’s into sci-fi. I’ve tried really hard to capture what I thought was universal and timeless about this book that is above and beyond the genre itself. I don’t want to exclude anybody from a wrong first impression assumption about this movie or this property, so I didn’t want to lie and say it isn’t what it is, so I said, “Let’s sell the character that we put all our efforts towards.” Believe me, Mars is going to come into this thing, title and everything, before this whole journey’s over. You’ve just got to be patient. There was a grand design to all this thing. That’s the most I want to say, because I don’t want to spoil it even for you guys. You’ve got to know that it was not a studio-driven hammer on me, and it was not a decision that came quickly. I put a lot of thought into what’s the most promising way to make a good first impression to a majority of the world that does not know anything about this, and invite them in and hopefully make them enjoy it as much as the people that do love it. That’s the best way I can put it. I’ve been following the Hollywood trail of this movie almost being made since I was a kid. It’s weird still to be on the other side of this thing, because all I’ve ever wanted is to see it on the screen: Somebody please do it; somebody please make it. I remember reading about possibly being animated in the ’30s and then Ray Harryhausen tried to do it in the ’50s, then John McTiernan almost did it in the ’80s and they just didn’t have the technology or the means to figure how to translate it visually. Certainly once I was in the know with the filmmaking community, I was always two or three separations away from people that I heard were possibly working development of it, almost get made and almost get made. I couldn’t believe it when it finally found itself back to the estate, and here I was already starting to think about what I wanted to do next even though I was in the middle of Wall-E—that’s when I start thinking about that—and made a call. Again, don’t take it lightly that for the fans that this is on my shoulders. I’m staying true to what I wanted to see all my life, and frankly that’s the most insurance I’ve ever had on anything I’ve worked on is you have to stop me from getting out of bed to work on it; that’s my best insurance policy.

I met a couple people along the way that turned out to be just as avid that I was already working with, that we just turned out to have an equal love. Mark Andrews you met last night: Mark Andrews was head of story on The Incredibles; he was thinking about working on another project at Pixar, and when I came to hear what his ideas were, I used a John Carter analogy. He stopped in his tracks and goes, “You know who John Carter is.” Then we started geeking out on each other and made this pinkie swear that if we ever got to work on it, we’d pull the other one in. And so we kept that pinky swear. He and I wrote on that together, and then I made friends with Michael Chabon through the Nemo years, more of an acquaintance, and then was needing another writer. Michael doesn’t live too far from here. He and I, at a Christmas party I think it was at, and somebody came back that was working on the development for this, and he goes, “You know, he’s a big fan of the books.” I was like, “Oh my gosh, what was I thinking?” I called him up thinking there’s no way he’s going to have time or abilities—Pulitzer Prize winning author, oh my gosh. He said, “Where do I sign?” We found out right away that all of us had this similar link: We’ve all drawn pictures as kids that we still had that we could prove that we were fans since we were little. I had mine from when I was 12, and I drew way too light; it’s really hard to see that. These were my Thark drawings. Michael brought his in, and he even gave himself Edgar Rice Burrough’s name. Mark is a bastard because he could draw this good when he was 10. I can’t believe that. He brought his in. We started to make this real like, “You can’t work on this film unless you can prove it.” It was a nice connection for the three of us that allowed us to have a bond together working on this and to trust each other to, at least in the safety of our writing room and the production, think outside the box and come back in. I would have never guessed this trio would be a trio, that it’d work well, but it works very well for the three of us to be in a room together. We work very independently; we’re very busy people, so we’re all very good at being able to take somebody’s stuff remotely, plus critique it and bounce it back and forth.

So much has been derived from this book over 100 years that my first dilemma was, “How the hell do you make this and not look like you’re being derivative yourself?” It wasn’t until Nathan Crowley, who was the production designer on Nolan’s film—and it was lucky that he was free for a while. He came in, and I wanted somebody that was not a famous sci-fi guy. I wanted somebody that would think more literally. He comes more from an architectural background. How would he attack some of these things? How would a different world come up with doors and windows? Not necessarily how we would do it—that challenge. When I was on a rant, like usually when I’m describing something, how I wanted it to feel, he had somebody mock up this image. It was totally the touchstone for me. I said, “That’s what I want. I want to feel like I’m really there. I want to feel like it’s really happening.” This is not what somebody wished for; this is what really happened. This is the source of the book. Then I realized that’s what it is: It’s a period film of a period we just don’t know about. It’s as if somebody has done their Martian history research really, really well and called in all the authorities. I thought that’s the way to approach this. I don’t want it to seem like this is images of creatures that people have been drawing on their notebooks their whole life and just want to selfishly see realized on the screen; I want you to go, “No, sorry, this is actually how people dressed in Aztec times” or “This is how people bargained in Japanese feudal times.” Can we capture that faux authenticity? Breaking that down was making things weathered, aged, having limitations, a sense of deep-seeded culture that you don’t really ever get to explore to the depths you’d like to, a sense that much has gone on in the world long before the times that we’re present to. Setting the time period on earth to match the books helped. I set the time period on earth to be what the books were, and it really helped put you in a past mentality for both planets, which I think was a real helpful way to make it feel fresh.

Petra in Jordan was a real inspiration, and we came up with this epiphany. I don’t know how many of you guys came to the Utah set, but you were on one of the examples of what we were trying to do, which was picking landmasses that truly exist, and just doing the tiniest Photoshop tweak to them. They become man-made or Martian-made. That way when you watch the film, it feels real. A large percentage of the screen space that you’re watching has truly been photographed, and it will hopefully help give it a sense of believability that I really wanted out there. This is an actual set location, and this is what we’re doing with it, seeing another angle. To those of you on the Utah set, this as you remember is ultimately what will happen to it. It’s having the effect we hoped it would: “Where the hell did they find this place to shoot it?” On a parallel track at the same time, my other main issue was, “How do I deal with these archetypal characters?” These four main characters in particular, John Carter and Dejah Thoris. Character was probably my biggest focus on the project: I needed to dimensionalize these heroes. Carter’s pretty much a do-gooder for most of these books; he can be very vanilla, very 2-dimensional at times. Dejah was too much of a damsel in distress. You’ve got to remember, they were the fresh adventure ideas at the time that became tropes. Could I make both characters and made a little bit more of them, but still retain what I felt was an innate sense of justice in Carter and the strength of Mars at the core of Dejah? After many casting calls and an elaborate week of film tests, I found my two heroes. I really struck gold. Taylor Kitsch as Carter and Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris. Taylor plays damaged goods really well, and the thing I lucked out on was he’s such a pantomime with things that aren’t there. I kept calling him my modern-day Bob Hoskins. He could act against nothing. That was required of him, as if it was there. That was an added bonus with what I was already getting with him. Lynn wasn’t really on my radar, and she came in with an inner strength and a demanding intelligence that I could not ignore until it translated on screen incredibly well. Neither are hard to look at, so that doesn’t hurt. Neither of them are incredibly familiar faces yet, and that’s a big thing for me too, if I can have any say, that I want to believe they are who they’re playing. If you’re going to play these characters that are going to be possibly seen again and again, it would be great to get off on the right foot and you can follow in belief that they are who they are. That’s all I ever want when I go with somebody: I want to be sucked in, and I want to believe it.

Casting the other two main characters was an entirely different challenge. They are Tharks in this book; Tharks are 9-foot to 10-foot tall green aliens with 4 arms and tusks. They’re all CG, so I went with my Pixar gut and experience and got actors because of their eyes, their voice, and their acting ability. That’s all that’s going to be left when all of this is said and done. Those are three things that can translate directly to the animated characters once they’re portrayed there. I got Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morton, and this is what I asked them to do, which was to be on stilts with gray pajamas on with face cams in 100 degree heat. That’s how I sold it. I didn’t know how else to get around this issue. I said, “How would you like to wear gray pajamas and be on stilts and wear face cams and stand in 100 degree heat in the desert for 6 months or 3 months?” They said, “Where do I sign?” I think it was being honest with the challenge and it was different than things they had done before, they were really up for seeing where this would go. The reason I really, really wanted to do this is because at least for me I can tell when somebody’s acting to a tennis ball or nothing there versus somebody’s really being there. I wanted every possible chance to make this believable, so by having them really there, people acted better, people acted differently, people had actual eye lines. People reacted to things they weren’t prepared for, and even down to the cameramen: The cameramen framed it differently because there was somebody there. Cameramen are trained to frame nicely, so if you take somebody out of the background and have nothing there, they’re going to use the background—whether they know it or not—to try to frame to make that look balanced and good. When you have somebody actually there, they’re willing to be sloppier and do all the stuff they would normally do. I learned a lot of this working on Wall-E. It all added up to hopefully a very visceral, believable sense of being there, that you’re talking to an actor. That’s exactly what people did, so we were out there with the gray pajamas, standing on stilts with a face cam. The face cams turned out to be great for the actors, because they could treat them like they could use them for the actual distance that they had to be from things. That was a real benefit. Then you get into weird situations like this, where you’d have people making sure they weren’t going to fall over. You’re doing your scene, and there’s going to be a huge crowd in that shot. I would stand out on days like this and say, “What the fuck was I thinking? This is either going to pay off, or… Well, it’s a way to go.”

I swear now that I’m seeing the end product, finally getting finished shots on the other side, if I were to shoot again tomorrow, I would do it all over again exactly this way. It was the right call, it was the right way to be, and I think Jim can attest to that. You were there for the whole damn thing. They even had Thark-on-Thark action. Technically, that could just be a plate with nobody acting, but we realized, no, this has been great, this is great reference for animators. Coming from the animation ranks really gave me an insight to how much you’d want to have as the animator, because the way I treat it is whoever’s cast as your animator is your actor, and you’ve got to treat them the way you treat your other actors. You have to cast them as smartly as you’d cast your other actors. They’re going to ask the same questions and need the same context and the same know-how that any actor’s going to have. To see a scene played out by two actors and all the choices made that are ultimately going to be taken over by one or two animators is gold; you can’t replace that. We would go through the pain of doing this. Even when I would take time of writing the thoats, we actually went through the pain of figuring out what it felt, looked like, animating it, figuring out what the lope of it and the gallop of it was, and then programming that data into an electrical cart so the saddle would move exactly at that, so that hopefully when it was all done and you put a Thark on there and you put a thoat in it, that real saddle would match, and it does. So hopefully if we’ve done it right, people will go, “How the hell is he sitting on this? How the hell did he ride around on this thing?” All in the desire to believe that it’s really happening and it’s really there. It’s all I wanted as a kid when I was to be there. The last piece of the puzzle was making sure that the manner and look of how everyone spoke in this world wasn’t silly. It’s very heightened prose, and I decided to round up everybody with the most seasoned actors, a lot of them British if I could. I would often make fun of the dialogue and call it “pulp Shakespeare.” I wanted to make sure when they say something out of their mouths, there was gravitas to it that you would believe it, that you would buy. Trying to retain the spirit and sense of the books without anything becoming laughable. I’m giving you where I came from, where it’s going to. The core of this film is about survival, it’s about a man rediscovering his humanity and the Martians, and that’s where I’m going to leave it.

Click here for full transcript and audio at collider.com

4 comments

  • I remember being disappointed from the first teaser onward. My problem was, first, that I recognized very few things from the book. Two, the look was too derivative (John Carter indeed looked like a Prince of Persia rip-off). Third, a trend that repeated itself in the subsequent trailers, no character beats at all, no emotion palatable.

    Was it Stanton’s fault for holding back, afraid of revealing too much? Was it Disney’s marketing department fault and inexperience? How on earth fans were able to cut better trailers than professionals? I can’t remember an occurence where fan trailers re-cuts were that much better than the official ones.

    There’s certainly a let-go attitude from somebody involved. I doubt it was Stanton, but it’s indeed not clear at this point.

  • It does not fly. So to speak.

    The movie strikes me as a labor of love, and Stanton does NOT strike me as some sort of micro-managing prima dona who has to control everything.

    Eat it, Disney. Oh, by the way, you a**holes are boycotted…the only way I will see another Disney-related movie is one titled ‘Gods of Mars’, and only if Stanton is allowed to make it and you keep your ruinous fingers out of it, including marketing. Preferably you bow out and don’t have anything to do with it. Arrogant, chickensh*t pr*cks.

    Disney now equals Dead On Arrival.

  • MCR — I think there were definitely two parties to the debacle. But I think the Stanton interview gives a good sense of how it worked. He was up in Emeryville cutting the movie at Pixar, and Disney marketing was down in Burbank cutting trailers and, when they were happy with what they had, sending it to him for coordination. He was nit-picky and they had to re-do it a few times to satisfy him. Remember this was the first trailer — the teaser trailer at that, meaning it was coming out early, before all footage was available. And interestingly, I think everyone would tend to agree that this was the most distinctive of all the trailers …moody evocative, “different” – as Stanton wanted it to be. So at this point my sense of it is that Stanton had what the industry calls “meaningful consultation” and he was doing what control freak director’s always do, and that is – try to get his way.

    But when he says “were were not nice citizens”, I think that says a lot about the relationship. They (Stanton and the film-making team) were trying to make Disney accountable to the film they had produced but there was no doubt who the citizens were, and who the “government” was — Disney.

    What is also interesting is …. what happened next? Did Disney really continue to try to appease Stanton at every step of the way in the marketing? Or did they pull back and eventually brush him aside? It would be natural for a studio to give the Director more say in the first teaser trailer since this is coming at a point when he’s been living with the film for 2-3 years and the marketing team is new to the material — and release is still 9 months away.

    There is also evidence that the approach to the December 1 trailer shows sign of having been influenced by Stanton, or by Stanton’s concern about spoilers. He was very vocal in this interview and at other times that he views telling too much of the story in trailers as a sign that the film itself is weak.

    So……I can see Stanton having a major influence on the teaser trailer, and some influence on the Dec 1 trailer, but here is where the “blame Stanton” mantra starts to fall apart. The marketing department is tracking audience interest levels at every step of the way but the it was only after the release of the Dec 1 trailer to theaters, and the beginning of TV ads on Dec 15, that there was enough ad spend happening to move the needle on audience reaction and THE NEEDLE DIDN’T MOVE. That was the point at which, if there had previously been a tendency to defer to Stanton, Disney’s marketing brain trust needed to kick in and react.

    But this period — mid Jan — was precisely when MT Carney had one foot out the door and everything was in flux. So no reaction/response took place.

    One scenario that I wonder about is ….. maybe Stanton was “given enough rope to hang himself” — meaning, if Disney’s objective in supporting the film after Dick Cook departed was just to appease Stanton/Pixar and keep him in the fold, then maybe a scenario did evolve where Ross just said “give him what he wants” as a way of laying the groundwork for precisely what has happened — Blame Stanton. The question is — isn’t that an abrogation of responsibility anyway? Disney pays a ton of money to marketing geniuses who have at their fingertips all kinds of audience data, historical data, tacking reports, etc etc none of which were in front of Stanton. Why would you just “give him what he wants” if you were really “in it to win it”?

    Anyway — these are still more or less half-formed thoughts, musings really, because I have a lot of reading and analysis to do before I can begin to really try and venture a “this is what really happened” scenario. But I think the truth lies somewhere within these parameters.

  • First let me say I never liked this interview with Stanton’s whole “I’m the biggest fan ever” attitude. That would have been great if we hadn’t gotten the useless dead wife, moving Zodanga and the shape shifting Sith versions of the Therns-all bad ideas no matter how you cut it.

    That said he does admit to sending the trailer back over and over so it does raise the question: Was it Disney having trouble coming up with something to please Stanton or was he just being nit picky about it? I don’t agree with a 100 percent with what was in the Vulture article due to the lack of any other sources but at the same time how hard was it to cut together a trailer? You guys were able to do do it. And why was Stanton being so particular, especially if you look at the trailer he supposedly did approve of? It sounds like both sides are to blame-not just Disney.

Leave a Reply