Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

Other Stuff

Emma Coates, a Pixar Storyboard artist, has been compiling a list of “Pixar Rules” of storytelling that she has picked up during her time at Pixar, and has been publishing these via Twitter.  Since Andrew Stanton is Pixar’s Head of Story, this is interesting to read with an eye on the John Carter story handling:

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.


  • That’s an encouraging interview! Maybe the new boss at Disney will see the Avengers revenue on one hand, and the continuing potential of a John Carter franchise on the other hand, and put the two pieces together!

  • Your lucky day. I shall inflict my latest, somewhat parodic climatic battle ending upon ya.

    Rachel Weisz – Thuvia
    Rose Mcgowen – Phaidor
    Emily Blunt or Eva Green – Tara
    Salma Hayek – Valla Dia
    Megan Fox – Sonama Tora
    Natalie Portman – Tavia
    Mila Kunis- Janai
    Jessica Alba- Llana

    Ras Thavas and I are going to crack a bottle tonight.
    He is going to whip up a culture that in a weeks time will grow into a 26 year old Raquel Welch who will portray Dejah in a upcoming adaptation.


    Scene – Helium’s only remaining large dock and current location of Tardos Mors and Mors Kajak.
    Peering out from a window the jeddak, his son and officers watch the dust settle from the collapsed gate of Helium.
    Behind them in the shadows moviegoers get glimpses of the bow of a battleship in a construction bay.
    Heliumites work feverishly readying it for combat. One men hanging from his harness attaches herioglyphics to it’s side.
    Bombs explode on the roof. The dock does not collapse. The officers look relieved.
    The dust settling from the gate collapse reveals Helium’s fleet coming to the rescue.
    The men cheer, Tardos (Charlton Heston stature) announces that he will command the battleship in the bay and then orders Mors to ready the forces hidden in the catacombs.

    Halfway thru the climatic battle Tars Tarkus marshalls his forces for a renewed charge that pushes back the staggering Zodangan ranks leaving behind a crushed carpet of dead and dying red men. Maddened and squealing, thoats leap across a ditch and onto the bulwarks beyond, many of them impaling themselves on sharpened stakes. With mighty oaths on there lips Zodangan pikeman rush the bulwarks in a desparate effort to push the green men back. Tars Tarkus leaps off the back of his dying mount to the top of the bulwark each sweep of his sword hewing 2 or 3 Zodangans in half. Inspired by there leader’s ferocity the green men heedless of death storm the bulwarks. Cannon shots start ripping thru the green men ranks. The shots are coming from cannons strapped on the backs of 25 foot tall Zodangan armor plated zitadars (barsoomian tanks). The green men start to waver but then a squadron of Heliumite one man fliers led by Kantos Kan attack the Zodangan zitadars. Kantos the designated comedy relief is whooping and hollering and practicing his newly acquired Jasoomian gesture. Flippin the finger.
    A great shadow covers that portion of the battlefield. Everyone Thark and Zodangan look upward. With sickening thuds Heliumite and Zodangan airmen (many on fire) fall like rain onto the battlefield. A dozen battleships grappled together, bouyancy tanks blown apart, plummet downward and exploding on contact with the ground, crush and burn a massive wad of combatants.

    The moviegoers gasp! Is Tars alive? Of course he is! He leaped clear but unfortunately the main mass of flaming wreckage landed mostly on his troops and now he is cut off, Zodangans on one side, flaming wreckage on the other.

    JC who was on the flaming wreckage as it plummeted leaps onto a passing by Zodangan one man flier.
    After tossing off the unlucky Zodangan JC notices two things.
    Sab Than’s personal flier with Dejah aboard, docking onto a mass of battleships grappled together floating above.
    Tars Tarkus knocked off his feet and about to die!

    (JC recognizes the peculiar wire mesh cover that surrounds the propeller of Sab Than’s personal flier. The cover is due to Sab Than’s bizarre phobia of whirling propellers.)

    The movie goers gasp! What will JC do?

    The bromance is strong! JC crashes and crushes a couple of Zodangans and then the bromance partners fight back to back. Awwww id’nt that bromantic? A Zodangan officer watching the corpse pile grow at the feet of the bromance partners orders his men back. In awe he asks the white man “Who are you?” JC flips the finger and says “John Carter”. Before the astonished gaze of the Zodangans and before they can react he grabs Tars Tarkus and leaps 500 feet in the air, clear over the flaming wreakage and into the green men ranks on the other side.

    The tharks dismayed at the loss of their vanguard and percieved loss of there jeddack were milling around in confusion.
    Some were exhorting vengence while others contemplated retreat.
    Upon the miraculous return of there jeddeck they gave forth an exultant cheer.
    Leaping onto the back of an abandoned thoat Tars brandishes his blood caked sword and yells “Leave a thark his head and one hand and he may yet conquer”. Brandishing there own weapons and galvanized the tharks give forth another cheer then rally around there jeddak.

    But then JC does the unthinkable. He leaps 500 feet in the air, clear over the flaming wreakage and back into the Zodangan ranks on the other side.
    JC bows out his chest then yells, “behold zodangans, the mightiness of my nipples!”
    The zodangans blanch, they packpeddle in fear and confusion, they shield their eyes from the mightiness of JC’s nipples.
    Uncontested, nipples proudly displayed and radiating deadly menace, JC makes his way to the one man flier he had crash landed while coming to Tar’s rescue.
    JC with a grim smile opens the throttle and points the nose of the flier towards were he had last seen Sab Than’s personal flier.

    Scene switch to Zodangans at Helium’s gates.

    Smoke spewing canisters launched from the shattered gates of Helium obscure the vision of the Zodangans.
    Sheltered behind their breastworks and trenches the Zodangans tighten their grips on their weapons.
    Muzzle flashes are seen dimly thru the smoke. Zodangans duck and cover as shells explode around them.
    A huge column of armor plated Heliumite zitadars emerge from the smoke pushing carts in front of them.
    Hinged to the front of each cart is a thick metal ramp in a upright position.
    The Zodangan riflemen fire a volley but it has little effect on the advancing Heliumites sheltered behind the ramps.
    Ramps drop, bridging the trenches and smashing the zodangan breastworks.

    When a ramp drops do the Zodangans underneath it manage to scramble out of the way?
    Of course not. Moviegoers enjoy watching bad guys getting crushed and pulped.

    A ramp drops crushing and smushing a dozen Zodangans.
    Behind it on top of a Zitadar is revealed Mors Kajak.

    A Heliumite battleship suddenly appears thru the smoke above Helium’s shattered gates.
    Majestically she turns presenting her broadside to the startled Zodangans below her.
    Upon her prow named in honor of Helium’s lost princess, DEJAH THORIS.
    1 1/2 times longer then any other ship in Helium’s arsenal, she bristles with armaments from stem to stern.
    She boasts a complement of 10,000 men and launching from her decks and hangers are a swarm of one man and two man fliers.
    Barsoom’s most potent instrument of death and destruction trains her massive guns on the soon to be deceased zodangans below her.

    A zodangan mumbles a quick prayer to Issus and deficates his tunic.
    With a massive roar a salvo rains annihilation.

    A battleship escorted by two cruisers turns towards the Dejah Thoris.
    Thru his feild glass the battleship commander sizes up the Heliumite juggernaut and on its deck spots Helium’s Jeddak Tardos Mors.
    Excitedly he exclaims to his officers, “A worthy prize indeed”.
    He didn’t know what he was in for.

    Like a angry mass of baby siths defending their nest hive, Dejah’s fliers swarm the doomed battleship and her escorts.
    The one men fliers rake the battleship and her escorts with gun fire while two man fliers dive then drop bombs from above.
    Detonations and gore galore.
    Dejah administers the coup de grace. The largest shell ever fired from the deck of a battleship burrows it’s way into the heart of the stricken ship and detonates the magazine. The shock wave from the gargantuan incandecent explosion rocks the nearby cruiser escorts. Flaming debris covers the cruiser escorts and a zodangan filled portion of the battlefield below.
    Juggernaut Dejah Thoris then trains her massive guns on the cruiser escorts.
    Afterwards the burning hulks of the cruisers are left in the Dejah’s wake.
    JC doing his thing on his one man flier quips, “That don’t look like a fair fight”.

    Kids and sci fi geeks who will never get laid.
    Order your Juggernaut Dejah Thoris model now.
    And for extra bucks your model will come with rotating cannon turrets.
    Pickup the phone and order now.
    Now! Now! Now!

    Scene switch

    Flags unfurl from the top of Helium’s loftiest tower. It’s a signal from the jeddack to Helium’s citizens. The battle still hangs in the balance and Helium’s citizens respond. From all quarters private aircraft lift into the air.

    Even Helium’s most famous dillettante (or perhaps infamous) answers the call. Stumbling out of a night club, Ren Aldo (Woody Harrelson) and his passengers board his personal pleasure boat. They lift off and fly straight into the maelstorm of death and destruction. Ren Aldo pilots his ship with pizazz and flair. Behind his ship Ren Aldo’s personal banner scintallates in the sun. For the entertainment of his guests he engages in aerial acrobatics (loop de loops and barrel rolls). Passing by Zodangan ships they shoot their pistols and hurl molotov cocktails. A explosion rocks the craft. Dom Iniche (Charlie Sheen) laments when he upsets the party platter and stains his favorite harness. The other guests laugh then out of chorus sing Helium’s national anthem. They spot a zodangan destroyer beseiged. Pulling up along side they leap aboard with rapiers in hand. Half would lose their lives.

    Scene switch
    JC lands on the deck of Dejah Thoris.
    Tardos Mors asks, “Are you that crazy cracker”
    JC replies, “I know were the princess is”.

    Scene switch to mass of battleships grappled together and still afloat.

    The mass starts to buckle.
    The side that is mostly Zodangan ships (and men) remains stable.
    The side that is mostly Helium ships with more ruptured bouyancy tanks tilts with men sliding off.
    The Zodangans jeer and start cutting loose the mooring ropes that hold the two fleets together, knowing that will cause the Helium side to plummet to it’s doom.

    Juggernaut Dejah Thoris grapples to and lifts up the sagging Helium side.
    JC leads a fresh influx of troops onto the floating battlefield.

    Aside from a rep as a super douche, Sab Than had trained with Zodanga’s most notorious assassins and was regarded as a viciously cunning swordsman.
    Pointing his sword at JC, Sab Than bellows, “do not interfere men, that stunted white ape is mine”.
    Twisting Dejah’s arm, Sab Than with remnants of his last meal still stuck to his teeth plants a slobbery kiss on Dejah’s sumptuous lips.
    Wet, gross and even some tongue action.
    The Zodangans part and make way for the combatants.
    Outraged at this latest affront to Dejah’s dignity, JC leaps forward and nearly impales his self on Sab Than’s outreached sword.
    Fueled with murderous intensity JC lunges at Sab Than repeatedly, only his jasoomian strength and agility saving him from Sab Than’s lightning fast ripostes.
    The fight is awesome but Sab Than’ sword arm gives out from the strain of parrying the repeated power of JC’s blows.
    JC leaps up in the air and as he is coming down he yells “Yuuuurrrgh”.
    Sab Than with both hands lifts his blade in desperation.
    Both blades snap at the hilt!
    JC punches Sab Than in the face with his broken sword hilt.
    Sab Than falls hard, but only manages to spit blood and splintered teeth before JC is on him.
    Sab Than is pinned facedown to the ground with JC choking the life out of him.
    Sab Than’s face turns purple, his eyes bug out of his head, as JC wrenches backward his vertebrae pop from the intense pressure of JC’s knee in his back.
    The world kalediscopes inward around JC, his only awareness the savage need to kill.
    Only one thing could have impinged and it did, it was his beloved, his princess.
    Beating her small fists on JC’s back, Dejah cries out” You must not kill him, you must not!”
    Shocked, JC rises and faces the woman he had risked all for and would do a million times more.
    Unable to face his own secret fears, he croaks out “Why Dejah, Why?”

    “Know JC that I am the proud daughter of a thousand jeddaks”.
    “I am betrothed to Sab Than and due to tradition can not marry the man who kills my intended husband”.

    Sab Than rises off the ground.
    The men of Zodanga look towards their jeddak Sab Than. Whooped.
    They look towards Helium’s jeddak Tardos Mors (Charlton Heston Stature). Not whooped.
    They look past Tardos Mors at the bristling cannons and guns of the Dejah Thoris.
    The men of Zodanga throw down their swords.

    Tardos Mors steps forward and proclaims “Sab Than, looks like you just got knocked the F out.”
    The men of Helium cheer.

    Sab Than wipes his face, holds his hand out in appeal to Dejah Thoris and asks, “One last kiss”
    Dejah vigorously shakes her head no.
    Sab Than looks around, the mock sadness not masking his desperation. He looks across the battlefield and every where he turns he sees Zodanga vanquished.
    Looking at the remnants of his navy he observes a sad tradition.
    Zodangan commanders with flags in hand, leaping off the bridges of surrendered ships.
    Emboldened by their sacrifices, plucking his self up and with one last bloody spit, Sab Than picks up the Zodangan jeddak flag and leaps off the deck.
    He yells “Zodanga number one beyatches, Helium blows sorak nads”.
    He thought he would fall several thousand feet during which time he would reflect on his life and make peace with Issus.
    But he leaped before he looked. He lets out one bleet of terror then lands on a whirling battleship propeller.
    His body explodes into a million pieces

  • Perfectly put, Mr. Sherman, and more eloquent than the rest of us.
    Agreed on every letter.
    Someday we shall see this come to pass.

  • The scale of a Barsoom air and land battle, and all that it could contain, evokes an unrivaled cinematic prospect. We’ve never seen anything on film that has outdone what could be done in a no-holds-barred Barsoom battle epic. Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Avatar got close, but none of them really brought together all the elements that are present in a battle on Barsoom:
    -massive armies of hundreds of thousands of warriors
    -green and red warriors astride thoats, and on foot, followed by snarling calots, meeting enemy forces in twisting tides of destruction
    -armadas of thousands of capital airships pouring broadsides into each other and into whatever enemy buildings are nearby while thousands more fliers of all shapes and sizes swarm about them locked in dogfights or landing boarding parties for hand-to-hand combat
    -the interplay between the air and ground forces and the heroism of those who lead the charge onto enemy ground or onto enemy airship decks.

    And behind all of this the burning desire in every warrior to get within sword fighting distance of his enemies to deal and/or receive what he sees as the most honorable death.

    We have never seen anything like it. And we never will until we get the full-fledged genuine article of Barsoom in its 100-year ground-breaking glory on the screen.

    Obviously a great film is about more than battles, but man-oh-man, a HUGE, multi-layered battle can be a magnificent cinematic externalization and culmination for deeper, character-driven conflicts.

    Heart-wrenching, tragic, heroic, inspiring, beautiful characters, thematic conflicts of mythic scope, warriors of honor, fearsome, lovable, loyal beasts, breathtaking airships and advanced cities (with mechanical restaurants!), and always the face-to-face immediacy of the sword.

    This “granddaddy of modern imaginative fiction” would be Star Wars meets LOTR meets The Last Samurai meets Avatar. Strengths in synthesis.

    Geek rant over (for now).

  • Amen to that, CB.
    Avatar had comparable resources and managed a climactic scale far outstripping anything in Disney John Carter, on top of revolutionizing all the technology necessary to tell it’s story.

    Then again, that was James Cameron
    – an actual cinematic genius who can back up the title.

    Holding back for a sequel is understandable, if disagreeable.
    The problem is there’s nothing to replace such an air battle in the film. The final action setpiece is incredibly small-scale for a movie of this price-tag.

    Alas for some, for they are unlikely to see a Stanton air battle between [white people with red lines drawn on them] vs. [white people with black lines drawn on them] vs. [bald floating white people] that he sacrificed this film to preserve. I’m ahead of myself, though – we have nothing to suggest Stanton was actually going to include the First Born. Just that he ‘really wanted to visualize the Goddess Issus’ – which leads one to believe she’d be some kind of creature instead of just an old woman, no?

    A fair point, Michael, but you forget LOTR:Fellowship of the Ring also had a bigger and more memorable battle in it’s first five minutes than anything in DJC.

  • JC leaping from exploding ship to exploding could be somewhat comparable to Jack Sully leaping around in the Avatar climax but far exceeded it.

    Due to jungle canopy the ground battle and air battle were not interrelated in Avatar.

    Cannons firing up at the ships and ships firing down would have made for a dynamic battle enviroment in JC.

    A think tank committee could brainstorm endless possibilities.

  • Crustbucket wrote:

    Helium and Zodanga’s massive fleets stroking it out.
    Ships erupt into incandescence.
    Other ships grapple onto each other, resulting in growing massive ship conglomerates with crews hacking and slashing away at each other.
    The flaming debris of the titantic conflict rains down on the 1,000,000 men army of Zodanga
    as the 150,000 green horde charges on thoat back with lances lowered.
    Throw JC, Sab Than and Dejah into the mix.
    JC leaps from exploding ship to exploding ship until finally he rips Dejah Thoris away from
    Sab Than’s lecherous clutch.
    50 battleships grappled together, floating high in the sky is were the showdown occurs.
    Sab Than explodes when he lands on a whirling battleship propeller.

    Stanton said in a couple of interviews that they were holding back the epic air battles for the sequels. It’s so true — what you describe would have far outclassed the wedding battle and would have truly been memorable, and could have been done. In retrospect, I’m sure the thought of “holding back” doesn’t seem like such a good idea. Keep in mind, though, that in LOTR at least, the first episode was nowhere near the third one in terms of battles/production value…..Ah, but they were assured of the trilogy going in…..

  • Rule # 23

    If you are going to spend 250 million dollars do not have an ending that is on a par with a sci-fi channel not so special special.

    Rule # 24

    If you are going to have a super hero that leaps vast distances, have your climatic ending outdoors so your superhero can showcase his awesome leaping skill.

    Rule # 25 Starwars, Avatar and LOTR raised the bar, surpass it.

    Sadly, Stanton was overwhelmed, so he diminished Barsoom to something he could cope with. Relying on Hollywood trope did not help either. – Dead wife, etc.

    In ERB’s APOM, 8 fleets comprised of 100 battleships apiece, (if I recollect correctly) set out in search of Dejah Thoris.

    Stanton’s Helium was shrunk, were was the infrastructure, the mighty docks, to support such a massive fleet.

    In the movie, I believe at one point Kantos Kan or was it Tardos Mors states, “Sab Than trashed our fleet with a blue ray because Stanton can not cope with a climatic air battle that would have involved at least 1600 capitol ships. (Not to mention all the one man fliers launching from their decks adding to the chaos)

    Were was Zodanga’s 1,000,000 men army
    Were was the green Horde, 150,000
    Were was the 250,000,000 dollars

    Imagine the lost potential of an epic battle that should have went down in cinematic history.

    An air battle on a par with anything seen in Star Wars or Avatar.
    A ground battle on a par with LOTR’s, Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

    Combine the two.
    Helium and Zodanga’s massive fleets stroking it out.
    Ships erupt into incandescence.
    Other ships grapple onto each other, resulting in growing massive ship conglomerates with crews hacking and slashing away at each other.
    The flaming debris of the titantic conflict rains down on the 1,000,000 men army of Zodanga
    as the 150,000 green horde charges on thoat back with lances lowered.
    Throw JC, Sab Than and Dejah into the mix.
    JC leaps from exploding ship to exploding ship until finally he rips Dejah Thoris away from
    Sab Than’s lecherous clutch.
    50 battleships grappled together, floating high in the sky is were the showdown occurs.
    Sab Than explodes when he lands on a whirling battleship propeller.


    JC and Disney, a match in hell.
    What a waste.

  • In ERB’s APOM, JC can’t initially escape the tharks due to Woola hampering his efforts.

    In Stanton’s movie, JC is a superhero. Writers are forced to compensate. Woola now moves
    at super sonic speed.

    Almost everyone in the audience loved Woola.
    Despite the short stubby legs, Woola’s tremendous speed was a cool by-product of taking the super power enhancement route.

    Sadly that route resulted in super powered therns. Super sucked and deflated the movie tremendously.

    You go to all the trouble of writing in the therns in the first movie, Guess what happens?

    The average pop corn munching over saturated moviegoer forgets, (average moviegoers will not watch this movie 20 times), so you are forced to repeat and explain the whole thern mythology again in the second movie. – A colossal waste of time.

    Imagine, if PJ had thought it would have been awesome to go into great exposition
    detailing Rohan and Gondor in the first installment of LOTR. – A colossal mess.

  • To Bob Page:

    Sorry I snapped earlier. I’m just tired of hearing how much Stanton loves John Carter yet all of the changes and some of his own comments seem to contradict that. I also agree with Therns in that they overcrowded the film and their goal-if they had one since I couldn’t tell that they did-made the film even more confusing.

    Also since you asked about the comics, I’ve been reviewing them on my blog and probably the best one so far both story and art wise is the Fall of Barsoom series. As for the rest-

    The Dynamite Warlord of Mars has been uneven with the artwork though I do like that they’ve adapted the novels pretty faithfully. The Dejah Thoris series is a little more hit or miss with stories that haven’t been that good-the recent story arc slides into sword and sorcery territory with Dejah possessed by a witch. This is also the series that ERB Inc reportedly is having a fit about due to the over exaggerated drawings of Dejah. Dynamite also has been running two miniseries-Dejah and the White Apes of Mars which has her and some friends being picked off by the apes in a secluded building which I like due to combining ERB with some horror elements and Warriors of Mars which combines John Carter and Gulliver Jones from Gulliver of Mars. It’s OK except that the writer has combined Gulliver’s Mars with John Carter’s (for example the princess from Gulliver is now Dejah’s mother). Artwise Warriors is a lot brighter.

    Marvel has published three series: John Carter:A Princess of Mars; JC: World of Mars and JC: The Gods of Mars. Princess was terrible with awful artwork and bad writing-John is basically an idiot through most of it-so skip it. Gods is slightly better. World of Mars is the prequel to the movie and I actually enjoyed it except for the last issue. If it has any failings it has more to do with being stuck trying to match up to Stanton’s vision of Barsoom than anything the artist or writer did on it.

    So I guess go with World of Mars next since you looked at Warlord and Dejah.

  • Superhero leaps and rock twirling.

    The good – Visual spectacle fiils seats.

    The bad – Reduces gravity of bad situations. JC can simply leap away.

    Audience asks, Why all the hack and slash when he could have just leaped away.
    Writers are forced to compensate so they turn villians into super powered villians.

  • On a totally unrelated note. I recently went looking in the comic book store to check out the Dynamite Comics line of Barsoom related stories. Some interesting finds on that front. They have a John Carter featured series called Warlord of Mars and a Dejah Thoris series. These are a little more salacious but I found the actual story art to be a little underwhelming. But I did find a compilation of the first 5 isues of a series called The Fall of Barsoom that is much better than the rest. This has beautiful art work at the level of the very best of Heavy Metal type work and it has a very interesting setting taking place a thousand years before the time of John Carter. The oceans are there but they are dramatically receding, the writing is on the wall that the atmosphere is dying and one of the main characters is trying to build the Atmosphere plant that will keep everybody alive. During the course of it’s overall story arc many things that we are familiar with from this world are put into place and given a rationale for their existence.

    I enjoyed that one quite a bit. There is also another one that is a direct prequel to the Disney movie explaining the Martian side of things before JC got there. I only bought the one I described above on this visit but I am now intrigued. Has anybody else read any of these and have any advice which one I should purchase next ?

  • I am not defending Stanton on these points that you raise, I am more in agreement with you, but it didn’t destroy the whole experience for me and I have enjoyed the movie immensely for what he did get right in the environment, some of the characters and the visualization. On the night of my first viewing I was fully aware of the fact that this wasn’t the JC of the books that I have enjoyed for all these years. But your objection to the dead wife duly noted, I did enjoy it as a dramatic update of the character to flesh him out.

    I was much more disturbed by the addition of the Therns into this story. This movie was already going to be a learning experience of new names and cultures as it was, the Therns just doubled that and is the most detrimental thing to this adaptation. There was plenty enough dramatic frission with the martian civil war and the princess being sought after by the enemy, and JC having to rescue his love and the possible extinction of the whole planet if the Atmosphere factory went down. The introduction of the Therns just didn’t belong here and overloaded people new to these stories with too much information to absorb, it killed the pacing of the movie to some extent.

    I have always viewed the first three books as follows:

    APOM – A Confederate soldier from Earth’s Civil War, the side that was fighting to keep slavery and segregation, gets zapped to Mars only to be embroiled in another Civil War and ends up in the mother of all interacial marriages to a Red woman of another species.

    GOM – Was a pretty clever rip on organized religions being used to dupe and cheat people for their own materialistic gains. The reveal of the ulterior machinations of the Therns being the surprise and plot driving device of that book. Oh, yeah, and rescueing the woman he loves.

    WOM – Finish off the battle with the Therns, along with the other factions that are revealed, bring a united peace to the planet, bring his family together, which entails rescueing the woman he loves, again. Becoming the Warlord of Mars.

    I really do wish Stanton had stayed true to that form for his proposed trilogy instead of trying to weave it all together.

  • Bob Page wrote:
    “Stanton loved the world that ERB created”

    Yeah he loved it so much that he changed Zodanga into a silly moving city and the Therns into shape shifters with the Force. I don’t know if I would call that love.

    Also: “, because his first introduction to the character is the marvel series of comics. Even if he did read the books subsequently he never got that idea out of his mind and that is why we got these super exaggerated leaps and, as someone else pointed out, twirling a ridiculously heavy boulder around to kill the white ape”

    Then maybe he should have done with George Lucas and James Cameron did: create his own world with some homages to ERB instead of trashing the place like he did.

    Also I have to laugh at the whole thing with the boulder. He can twirl a big rock over his head and slam into a white ape’s head, yet he can’t break a chain? Sort of like Matai Shang’s “we’re eternal” yet they can be shot nonsense. I guess Stanton needs to reread these 22 rules since he’s broken most of them.

  • MCR – I recently listened to the audio commentary with the movie and it became very clear to me that Stanton loved the world that ERB created but he views the character of John Carter as a surrogate Superman of the comics, maybe, of his own admission, because his first introduction to the character is the marvel series of comics. Even if he did read the books subsequently he never got that idea out of his mind and that is why we got these super exaggerated leaps and, as someone else pointed out, twirling a ridiculously heavy boulder around to kill the white ape.

  • #18 ties my brain in a bit of a knot, with the Pixar emphasis on “plussing” and on doing revamps of their films. I suppose it could mean something as simple as “don’t spend too much time trying to fix an idea, when a different idea could work better.”

  • I can see why Taylor was picked after reading #15. Sure, the rest of the cast has all the charisma, but he balances their melodrama with down-to-earth

  • Henried wrote:
    “Also, I have no idea where #14 comes into play here. ‘I always wanted to see these creatures and this world onscreen’ is the most I’ve heard from AS about that. Am I wrong?”

    No that’s pretty much been his reason for wanting to make this film and even then he didn’t want to see Burroughs’ “vanilla” John Carter on screen so you have to wonder what was his “real” reason.

    Also I think Stanton failed at #8. I guess it’s “do as I say, not what I do” in that instance..

  • Hey MCR, you must be on xanax today. I thought for sure this would get a bigger bite out of you than that! 😉

  • Thanks for posting this — an excellent set of good story advice I have bookmarked now.
    As for the question at hand…

    #5 and #22 seem to have been real issues in the vastly overcomplicated plot with extra villains, as well as Stanton’s [admirable?] desire to include as many weird Barsoomian names as possible, etc.

    #12 can be a problematic rule if you have good instincts…
    “Tars Tarkas and DJC in an arena facing monsters, what now?
    Have them fight heroically fight together, back to back?
    No, too obvious.
    Have Tars Tarkas do something to reclaim his honor and meaningfully impact the plot?
    Still too obvious.
    Have DJC unloop the chain from the obviously loose stake holding it to the rock?
    Don’t be lazy.
    Have Tars Tarkas faint and sleep through the entire fight, and have DJC swing the impossibly huge rock around his head like it weighs nothing?
    That’s it! No one will see that coming.”

    Also, I have no idea where #14 comes into play here. ‘I always wanted to see these creatures and this world onscreen’ is the most I’ve heard from AS about that. Am I wrong?

    Apart from this film, #4 is a formula that implies everything is mundane and repetitive until the events of your story begin… which works as a guideline but I think can be very limiting.

    Good rules overall, from people who know. I especially love #17-20.

  • Hey it doesn’t say anything about shape shifting supervillians or dead wives being necessary to storytelling. Is that rule 23?

  • I think all of those points were covered in John Carter which I believe to be a very good mesh with the live action.

Leave a Reply