UPDATE: This is moving very quickly, and today we decided to move the release date up to May 30, 2012 — and change the title to HOLLYWOOD vs MARS. See new draft artwork below, which is still work in progress.
As many of you know, I’ve been working on a documentary film entitled 100 Years of John Carter, so I have been deeply immersed in the study of the long history of the property that would eventually, in 2007, become the basis for Disney’s JOHN CARTER, which we have all been following on this blog for some months now. The documentary is going to take a while to finish — and in the meantime I have been doing a series of Special Reports here which have led me to conclude that it’s time to “go for it” and complete an EBook that dissects this story — and get it out just before the DVD comes out on June 5. Fortunately, the research and much of the writing is done — so while the timetable is tight, well — there’s nothing like writing to a deadline.
What will the book cover?
The first third will cover the backstory — the writing of Under the Moons of Mars; Burroughs success with the series magazines — but difficulties in finding book publishers willing to publish Tarzan and the Mars series. There will be a section on the early art and illustration, and an overview of Burroughs story and his writing, culminating in his death in 1950 at which point his books were selling more than Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner combined; had been translated into 58 languages; and Tarzan was the world’s most famous literary character. This section will cover the Clampett animation experiment that almost made A Princess of Mars the first animated feature. It will then go on and trace the various efforts to develop the property into a film in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s; the Ace and Ballantine paperbacks and their influence on writers, scientists, and film-makers.
The second third (this one is probably more than a third — almost half) will cover the entire Disney story from the first phone call from Andrew Stanton to Dick Cook in 2006, to the theatrical release and aftermath. It will follow both the production story (some of which has been published already in rough form in my Special Reports), and the creative story — the quest to adapt the film, the challenges faced, and the strategies employed. It will cover the critical response; the response from Burroughs faithful; and it will end with an acknowledgment of the emergence of a motivated and activist fan base.
The final section will examine the evolving alliance between fans, film-makers, and ERB Inc and their efforts to change the negative narrative that has sprung up around the film. It will examine social media and its effect on fan activism, and attempt to get at what it is about Burroughs and Stanton’s Barsoom that has spawned, so quickly, a fervent fan base for a film that is better known as the flop of the century.
A big part of what convinced me this is a worthwhile endeavor has been the reaction to the Special Reports — I really would like to thank the regular readers and commenters on this site, and ask you to keep the dialogue going and continue helping me with your comments. I may be asking some of you to expand some of your comments with the goal of incorporating them into the book. This includes the both the “friendlies” out there, and those whose point of view differs from mine. Much of this book will be journalistic in nature, meaning it will be neutral as opposed to polemical, and where appropriate will present opposing views. My commentary will be part of it, but much of it will be simply an attempt to get at the truth of what happened.
There is an old expression — something about tossing your hat over the fence. The theory is, once you do that, you have no choice but to climb the fence. By announcing this now, I’m basically tossing my hat over the fence. There is no turning back; the timetable is set and I’m going to make it happen. Your help and encouragement is much appreciated as I’m sure I will falter a few times … but come June 1, the first edition will be available and it will be thorough, well-researched — and I hope compelling. This is a story that has grown bigger than our little circle of fans. It’s now a Hollywood story of substantial proportions — they’ve been making movies for more than a 100 years and this is the biggest financial failure of them all. It’s also a film that was 100 years in the making, and there aren’t many with that kind of history.
So there’s much to write about. Onward.