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Bruckheimer is leaving and Iger is Staying at Disney: Implications for John Carter?

John Carter (The Disney Movie)

The news broke this week that Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney are  parting ways in the aftermath of The Lone Ranger, which turned out to be a John Carter sized misfire for Disney with an estimated writedown of $190M.  Meanwhile, on July 1, Disney announced that the Disney Board of Directors had extended Robert Iger’s contract as Disney CEO by fifteen months to summer 2016.  Previouly Iger’s contract had been essentially coterminus with Disney’s rights to John Carer Sequels — with both ending in March 2015.   All of this taken together creates a situation where anyone with an interest in the longterm literary and cinematic future of Edgar Rice Burroughs martian series has some new information to chew on.   What follows is my attempt at some Sunday morning mastication.

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What Do We Learn From Bruckheimer’s Departure?

Bruckheimer’s split with Disney is a side issue and not directly related to the fate of the ERB Martian franchise (and I’m calling it that intentionally instead of the “John Carter franchise” for a reason, which I assume you can discern) except insofar as it might shed light on Iger’s overall corporate strategy, and thus on what Disney under Iger will do or not do when the rights for John Carter come up for renewal in March 2015.

David Poland is one of the more insightful observers of Disney and he has written a good piece on Disney and Bruckheimer at Movie City News where he makes the case that Iger’s vision of what to do with his filmed entertainment division (i.e. the studio, which we must remember only accounts for 7% of Disney revenue but plays a relatively larger role than that in shaping opinion and perception of Disney) since taking over in 2005.  Poland argues that Disney 1.0 under Iger, which ran from 2005-2009 and included the origination of the John Carter of Mars project, was to support Dick Cook, who was then the Studio head, in the quest to develop Disney Branded Products — and that this idea was overtaken by Disney 2.0 in 2009.

When Iger took over from Eisner in 2005, his first take on the movie business was to get behind Dick Cook and to make The Disney Brand the #1 priority. That lasted until September 2009, when Iger pulled the trigger on Iger’s Disney 2.0, which would be a distribution and marketing company led by TV guy Rich Ross. That first year of clearing out the pipeline had some lows and some big highs, including the Cook-generated Alice in Wonderland, the second $1b+ grosser in the history of the company and the car wrecks Prince of Persia (which did over $300m worldwide) and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which was taken on by Ross’ outsider marketing chief MT Carney as the first movie for whose marketing she would be completely responsible. It bombed. And both of those bombs were produced by Bruckheimer.

The philosophy of Iger’s Disney 2.0 was to bring in companies that were self-funded. Disney would only make/fund a few small Disney Channel-level movies and established Disney franchise films – including both Disney and Pixar animation – in-house… except for Bruckheimer. The new philosophy started, as Cook was being shown the door, with the purchase of Marvel. When Marvel was purchased they came to Disney with their own funding. Honestly, I have no idea how that may have been adjusted since. Disney also did a distribution & marketing deal with DreamWorks, their production funding coming from Reliance. But DreamWorks wouldn’t deliver their first film to Disney until 2011.

Poland then goes on to make the case that the Disney/Bruckheimer split needs to be seen in light of what is evolving as Disney 3.0 under Iger where Disney is once again funding major franchise movies instead of relying on outside funding — and is likely to be making and releasing at least three big  movies with total investment in excess of $1B a year for the next few years.

My own sense is that he’s got a good point, but it may be a little too early to reach that conclusion.  Iger was very committed to his Disney 2.0 vision of Disney as the marketing machine — but the acquisition of Lucasfilm  and other developments, including the split with Bruckheimer, may indeed be causing the pendulum to swing back (in spite of Iger’s instincts) in the direction of Disney as the creator, not just distributor, of branded entertainment.

What Does Any Of This Mean for ERB’s Martian Series

I know there are diehard fans out there still hoping that Disney will have a change of heart and undertake a John Carter sequel.  As long as Bob Iger was scheduled to leave Disney in March 2015, there was, perhaps, one could argue (I wouldn’t, but one could) that maybe there was a flicker of hope that some new management at Disney would, perhaps, somehow, reach a conclusion that a second John Carter film was something to be considered.   But even if that flicker existed in reality (as opposed into the wishful thinking minds of fans who honestly want a sequel), it was extinguished by the news that Iger is staying on  until the middle of 2016.

Why?

Because Disney under Bob Iger is never going to undertake John Carter sequely.  Iger has gone way too far with his personal statements about the folly of John Carter to ever leave room for him to reverse himself and say ya know, John Carter actually makes sense if you do it at the right budget, etc.   It’s just not going to happen.

Bob Iger is on record as thinking that John Carter was a huge Disney mistake and is not a viable franchise as a Disney branded product.   One example: when he was asked by Business Week if there would be any John Carter attractions at the new Disney California Adventure theme Park:

No, no, no. You know, you try things creatively all the time, and while you want every one of them to be great, and you set out to do that, that’s not always going to end up being the case.

Then there was his earlier interview with Bloomberg’s Carol Muller: , in which he placed the failure squarely on the shoulders of the filmmakers and, perhaps, the underlying material itself, when Muller asked him about John Carter and he replied:

Iger: They’re all our babies and we root for all of them to do well….we’re relatively realistic about the prospects of our film when we see enough of each film…I mean, you get a good sense if you’ve been in the business long enough whether something is going to do well or not, before it comes out, research aside — it’s more…it’s an instinct.  There was a point before Carter came out that I had a very strong sense that it was going to be very challenging……

Muller: But at that point you were just too way in, right?  you have to run with it?

Iger: Yes. we weren’t going to not distribute it.  nor did we really run away from supporting it fully because i felt that given the size of the investment, we owed it to ourselves, to at least give it the shot that it deserved.

Muller: And you never know…..

Iger: No, you never know…..but we had a strong sense…i was very worried about it … not that I wasn’t cheering for it …..but I was worried about it.

Translation:  Iger is saying he knew it was a turkey with no chance before it ever came out, and he does NOT in any way see lackuster and generally incompetent Disney marketing as being relevant to a consideration of the merits of John Carter.  His analysis starts and ends with the property, both literary and cinematic, which he sees as deficient and not a good bet.

How Will Iger Play It In March 2015

So, anyone not in complete denial knows that Iger  does not have the slightest intention of ever allowing Disney under his tenure to make another John Carter movie.  That option is long gone.

So, when the rights for renewal come up three years after the March 2012 release date, Disney will pass and John Carter will be back on the open market, available to other producers and studios to develop and produce.  Right?

Not exactly.

Even though Disney has no plans to do anything with John Carter, if the company’s historical behavior is any indication, we should fully be expecting that come March 2015, Disney under Iger will be ready to pay whatever pittance has to be paid to extend the rights, not because there is any intention whatsoever of making another John Carter movie, but rather purely and simply to keep the ERB Martian Series off the market so as to bury it as a possible  competitor that could emerge under another studio and impact his Star Wars franchise in the “interplanetary adventure” category.

Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

Plus it’s an easy sell to Disney shareholders (not that it really has to be sold to them — it’s too small a transaction to really come up on the radar of analysts) to say that it’s prudent to “never say never” and thus holding the rights allows Disney to keep “all options open” at a relatively low cost.  Such an explanation would not come right out and say “we’re holding the John Carter rights to make sure we don’t inadvertently allow a competitor to Star Wars to spring up” — but that would certainly be the understood subtext.

And the loser in this would be, of course, — the Burroughs estate, the Burroughs legacy, Burroughs fans, and fans of John Carter.

Can Anyone Do Anything?

Is there anything that anyone can do to change that equation which, as I see it now, will inevitably lead to Disney renewing the rights to John Carter in 2015 even though they have no intention of doing anything with them other than hoarding them and keeping them off the market?

I see two possibilities, neither of them very easy to pull off.

The PR Nightmare Scenario

If fans, journalists, ERB Inc,  and other interested parties are able to shine a bright enough light on the cynical nature of such a decision, perhaps (and this is a long shot, admittedly) enough heat and light could be generated to make the PR downside big enough to cause Iger to reconsider.

In other words, if Disney is allowed to just quietly renew the rights, that’s what they will do.  It’s a simple transaction.  I don’t know how much it will cost them, but it’s got to be a tiny investment when looked at in the context of the overall scheme of Disney priorities.  If the $200M writedown was a “pinprick” …. well, you get my point.

So if, for example, the John Carter Sequel campaign were to transform itself into “Free John Carter” by returning the rights, and if that campaign were to figure out ways to make enough noise to cause real embarrassment to Disney (keep in mind who founded the company, and what he stood for) for cynicaly hoarding rights it has no intention of exploiting — then perhaps this would persuade Iger that the PR downside is not worth the trouble of keeping the rights.

I realize that’s not an easy proposition to sell — but I’m putting it out there because it could conceivalbly work, and it’s an option that exists and is there to be grabbed and run with.  Maybe it would end up being a futile gesture — but it would be a glorious futile gesture to rally the fans to “Free John Carter from the Disney Dungeon”……

Just Buy The Rights Back

The other option is more practical, but harder to pull off.  It’s eighteen months until Disney has to make a final decision about the rights.  If, during that time, ERB Inc and/or any producer working on behalf of ERB Inc and the franchise were to be able to cobble together a play from another studio or coalition of studio/foreign partner/financing resource . . . .then such an arrangement could include within its makeup some money to make Disney an “offer they can’t refuse” to relinquish rights.   Is the precedence for such a play?  Absolutely.   In 2010, for example, Haim Saban bought back the rights to the Power Rangers franchise from Disney.  How did he do it?  Read this NY Times piece for the details but basically he wired the whole thing together in advance of the transaction with Disney as follows:

  • He did an output deal with Nickolodeon to ensure that the franchise would have a home when he got it back.
  • He used the existence of that output deal and the previous performance figures for the franchise to demonstrate the viability of the franchise, and by doing that was able to line up the financing necessary to reacquire the rights for $45m.

Can ERBdom (the collective that includes the ERBophile fan organization, ERB Inc, and the “new fans” of John Carter on Facebook and elsewhere)  pull off something similar?

Can we afford not to try?

 

 

31 comments

  • “Also, Stanton’s JC would be anything but “mopey” based on two things: JC’s actions in the ten year quest to return to Barsoom and Taylor’s comments about a Stanton outline for the sequel.”

    Really Rob? You might want to reread Kitsch’s comments about the outline. All he said was it was going to be “awesome” and that Mark Strong would had a bigger part as Shape Shifter Sith Lord Shang. There was no mention of Carter’s character in his statements. Also you’re still clinging to the belief that Stanton would have ditched Mopey after one movie based on what exactly? Stanton stated over and over that he hated the “Galahad” John Carter and that’s where this character goes in the novels. Do you think Stanton-who has shown a stubborn streak wider than any filmmaker in recent memory-was suddenly going to embrace a character he flat out hated? Also when has any filmmaker embraced Tarzan the way ERB wrote him? It wasn’t like after the first Weismuller Tarzan film that the filmmakers said “let’s make him more like the book.” In fact the character only got further away from the original as the movies went on.

    “As far as a reboot of JC, using a somewhat literal transcription of “A Princess of Mars”, that is a fantastic dream. Generally, reboots of Sci-fi classics crash and burn. “Planet of the Apes”, “The Time Machine”, and “The Day The Earth Stood Still” are just a few examples.”

    I guess you forgot Phillip Kaufman’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” And John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” David Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” the “Battlestar Galactica” reboot series. There are just as many reboots that succeeded or even are more widely hailed than the originals. A reboot of John Carter of Mars is a dream but after the nightmare of Stanton’s debacle that is a dream worth having.

    “Cliches. You can’t get away from cliches. The other day, I saw “Riddick” and and trailers for about a dozen new films, eveything from dumb, stupid comedies to true stories, all were rife with cliches!!!”

    Except that Riddick was an “original” concept, not an “adaptation” (as poor as Mopey Carter is) of a book. An “adaptation” whose makers so hated the original source material their solution was to throw in such worn out clichés like dead wives, shape shifters and broken “damaged goods” heroes that were not in the original novels. So try to come up with some other defense for Stanton’s botch jon since as we know he never met a cliché he didn’t like (and if you don’t believe that just take a look at his Pixar movies. But at least they were not trashing another person’s creation).

  • I would settle for Stanton’s sequel to JC, however that will not happen. Only Stanton with “one million fans” could make it so. Also, Stanton’s JC would be anything but “mopey” based on two things: JC’s actions in the ten year quest to return to Barsoom and Taylor’s comments about a Stanton outline for the sequel.
    As far as a reboot of JC, using a somewhat literal transcription of “A Princess of Mars”, that is a fantastic dream. Generally, reboots of Sci-fi classics crash and burn. “Planet of the Apes”, “The Time Machine”, and “The Day The Earth Stood Still” are just a few examples.
    Cliches. You can’t get away from cliches. The other day, I saw “Riddick” and and trailers for about a dozen new films, eveything from dumb, stupid comedies to true stories, all were rife with cliches!!!

  • Yeah Bob Jr. it’s not the books. We’ve heard that defense so many times for Stanton’s utter botch job in adapting them or coming up with such clichéd ideas and made the disaster he made. I still can’t understand why so many so called ERB “fans” still cling to this or why someone believes that Mopey Carter would have become “Warlord of Mars” with Andrew “I hate the characters and the books” Stanton at the helm. Care to explain how this would have happened?

  • Rob wrote…

    I hope a reboot that compares to JC will be made in my lifetime but I have my doubts.

    That “in my lifetime” caveat is one that is increasingly on my mind too. Oh well. I saw this usher at the Pittsburgh Pirate game last night who is 95 years old and still waiting for the Pirates to win. It’s been 21 years since the last time they were in the playoffs — when he was a youthful 72. So he waited it out. Maybe we can too.

  • In response to MCR, I am oe of those “movie fans everhwhere” that loved “John Carter”. I have been an ERB fan ever since I read “At The Earth’s Core”, over fifty years ago. I believed ” A Princess Of Mars” would never be made into a live action movie, and then I saw the first Disney trialer. I saw the film four times at the theater. The film is not the books, but it is still great: the direction, production, acting and cinematography are good. The soundtrack is supurb.

    Peter, I read your book and Iger is responsible for JC being a box office bomb. There will not be a sequel and that is a shame. Based on the comments by Taylor, I believe “mopey” JC would become “All he can be” in a Stanton sequel, effectively becoming the “Warlord of Mars”. Howvever, thanks to Iger, John Cater (of Mars) will be a stand alone film. I hope a reboot that compares to JC will be made in my lifetime but I have my doubts.

  • Disney was never going to make a sequel to this film regardless of whether Iger left or not. Films that lose their studios hundreds of millions of dollars don’t get sequels.
    Here is a unofficial list of the biggest box office bombs, There is no chance of a sequel for any of these films and only a couple have a chance at remakes or reboots. Someone will probably make another Alamo film down the line but at a much reduced cost. The Lone Ranger will probably also be remade at some point but with a $50 million budget not a $200 million plus budget. Green Lantern is the only one with a chance at a big budget reboot and that’s only because Warner will want to create a series of inter-connected superhero films like Marvel.
    Mars Needs Moms
    The 13th Warrior
    The Lone Ranger
    R.I.P.D
    John Carter
    Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
    Jack the Giant Slayer
    Sahara
    Stealth
    The Adventures of Pluto Nash
    The Alamo
    Green Lantern
    Cutthroat Island
    Evan Almighty
    Treasure Planet

    If someone does want to remake John Carter, the first 3 books are in the public domain as MCR stated so Disney owing the rights is irrelevant. Asylum was able to make that crappy SyFy Princess of Mars movie without any problems from Disney. From my understanding so long as the makers of the film adhere closely to the books their can be no copy right infringement brought against the makers. That would seem to be an ideal situation for those who want a faithful adaptation.

  • Anyway: if the renewal clause is mutual and automatic unless one party objects AND the fee is enough to make the estate happy whether or not a film is made AND low enough not to cause Iger heartburn, then yes, they’ll renew it for the purposes of A: making sure no one else makes one and B: to keep Disney from being embarrassed by someone making a successful one AND C to keep another studio from possibly creating a franchise that would compete with Marvel/Star Wars. (Prediction there – Star Wars is going to become a series of “super hero” movies, just like Trek is being turned into super heroes in outer space)

    I don’t have a ton of inside information but I’m reasonably certain it’s not “mutual and automatic” …… the question in my mind is whether they have to commit to a sequel in renewing it — or can just renew the rights and warehouse them. I fear it’s the latter and I can’t imagine the renewal fee being big enough to really give Disney pause.

    Note that “the fans” do not play a part at all in my assessment. Quite frankly this particular fan-based effort has simply not had the voice, the reach or the influence to impact the decision in any way. It bears absolutely no resemblance in scope or import to say, the original keep Star Trek alive campaign (which saw virtually every major writer name in the biz involved, not to mention just about the entire science fiction fan base at the time: amazing that a small group of folks in the pre-internet era managed to use a snail mail writing campaign to do what no one else has managed with the possible exception of the Browncoats in aiding support for the film – but they didn’t get the show renewed…)

    Of course you may be right. But it’s only been 18 months and if you’re comparing to Star Wars you have to also compare the timelines. What I think the current movement is lacking most is a champion from within the principals of the film. Stanton has made it clear he’s not willing to play that role, and no one else has emerged. The most supportive member of the core team is Lynn Collins, but while she’s been friendly to the movement, she hasn’t shown any real willingness to put herself out there.

    I also think the movement is muddied by the fact that as time goes by, the ERB-oriented fans are gradually dropping out and moving into the reboot camp, and the film-oriented fan movement is somewhat depleted as a result. I think this is because the ERB fans who were satisfied enough with the film to be willing to join the sequel movement at the outset have a tendency to gradually revert to “it could be done better” and with Disney emerging as a kind of evil empire that is blatantly unfriendly to the film and theoretical franchise . . . .it just becomes pretty easy to disengage and put whatever energy is available into the idea of a reboot with a different studio. I may be just projecting my own feelings onto this — but I think I see enough of this in other people to make it a valid observation.

  • Whether Disney will tie up the rights hinges on four calculations:

    1. how the renewal clause in the rights contract reads
    2. the cost of renewal
    3. Iger’s assessment of how badly JC “screwed up the market” for ERB-based product
    4. a variety of other relatively minor factors including the Tarzan effort, inter-studio rivalry etc.

    Note that “the fans” do not play a part at all in my assessment. Quite frankly this particular fan-based effort has simply not had the voice, the reach or the influence to impact the decision in any way. It bears absolutely no resemblance in scope or import to say, the original keep Star Trek alive campaign (which saw virtually every major writer name in the biz involved, not to mention just about the entire science fiction fan base at the time: amazing that a small group of folks in the pre-internet era managed to use a snail mail writing campaign to do what no one else has managed with the possible exception of the Browncoats in aiding support for the film – but they didn’t get the show renewed…)

    Anyway: if the renewal clause is mutual and automatic unless one party objects AND the fee is enough to make the estate happy whether or not a film is made AND low enough not to cause Iger heartburn, then yes, they’ll renew it for the purposes of A: making sure no one else makes one and B: to keep Disney from being embarrassed by someone making a successful one AND C to keep another studio from possibly creating a franchise that would compete with Marvel/Star Wars. (Prediction there – Star Wars is going to become a series of “super hero” movies, just like Trek is being turned into super heroes in outer space)

    IF the estate has any ability to re-negotiate upon renewal or refuse to renew, they’d be smart to ask for fees equivalent to estimates of what JC would have earned had the film done what everyone was hoping it would do – in other words, a fee so high that Disney would have the choice of either renewing and making a film to justify the expense or in dropping the rights.

    Which brings us back around to rights being bought and sold based on books that are in the public domain. Then consider that when it comes right down to it, we really don’t know that Barsoom is OUR Mars or that Jasoom is really Earth. Then consider that Otis Adelbert Kline and Lee Brackett (among others) turned out very similar works, the rights to which are not nearly as encumbered as ERB’s; then consider Hollywood’s penchant for buying a title and then writing whatever damn story they want to put behind it….

    I honestly don’t think that anyone has to go through ERB or Disney to make a “John Carter” film – though they should probably hire a good IP law firm as budget line item #1.

  • MCR, thanks for the kind wishes. A little scary but I’m looking forward to it. Going to spend sometime putting new wood flooring and remodel a bathroom, oh yeah, and create a home theater room. First flick up I’m considering is either Dune, John Carter or Pacific Rim.

    If I run into RR at Fantastic Fest, Butt Numbathon or Stubbs, I’m gonna pitch it for all I’m worth.

    Seems Tarzan might still be alive. Read that they have now lined up Christoph Waltz as the villian. Might help its chances of being greenlit.

  • Michael wrote:

    “You know perfectly well I wrote a whole damned book about what went wrong and out of 400 pages, maybe 200 of which address what went wrong, there is exactly one paragraph about the Star Wars deal and the fact that it might have had some impact — along with all the other things you cite (and other things you don’t cite) . . . . you KNOW this yet you keep beating this drum. For the umpteenth time I will repeat that all I ever said is that along with all the other factors — having Lucasfilm in his sites was one more reason for Iger to not want to do anything special to support JC. Neither you nor I will ever be able to prove whether the prospect of a Lucasfilm deal factored into it . . . all either of us can do is speculate”

    I know but it seems that recently all the speculation just points to Star Wars being the main reason for the issues surrounding Carter’s failure and nothing else. It seems a lot of people-especially the Stanton worshipping Back to Barsoomers-all want to put the blame on this deal. Even your comment ” purely and simply to keep the ERB Martian Series off the market so as to bury it as a possible competitor that could emerge under another studio and impact his Star Wars franchise in the “interplanetary adventure” category” comes across as someone with a grudge against a series that he has made clear he never cared for. All I’m saying is that there are other factors for this film’s failure but now it seems those are being pushed to the side in favor of this. I mean why is Marvel not getting any of the blame since they solved Disney’s “boy franchise problem” in Iger’s eyes and made Carter obsolete as a franchise to him? Yet it’s all concern about causing competition for Star Wars when there are several series and films that compete for the same audience dollar.

    Let me make it clear I want another rebooted John Carter of Mars film and agree about trying to get the film rights away from Disney but who was responsible for this mess to start with? It wasn’t Lucasfilm or even Robert Iger despite the mess he has made of Disney.

  • MCR wrote:

    I understand that you feel indifferent to Star Wars and that’s fine but you are using it as an argument to support your theory that Mopey Carter had to be “buried” in order for only Star Wars to be made and that does come across as sour grapes. It comes across as needing someone or something to blame for Disney’s poor handling of this film and since you are lukewarm it is easier to blame the Lucasfilm deal instead of all the other factors-the budget, lack of big stars, poor marketing and Andrew Stanton’s “I’m a God” complex-that added up to Carter’s failure. It is easier to blame something you are lukewarm or indifferent and that is how this has come across.

    MCR, I enjoy arm-wrestling with you but in this case I just don’t get it. You know perfectly well I wrote a whole damned book about what went wrong and out of 400 pages, maybe 200 of which address what went wrong, there is exactly one paragraph about the Star Wars deal and the fact that it might have had some impact — along with all the other things you cite (and other things you don’t cite) . . . . you KNOW this yet you keep beating this drum. For the umpteenth time I will repeat that all I ever said is that along with all the other factors — having Lucasfilm in his sites was one more reason for Iger to not want to do anything special to support JC. Neither you nor I will ever be able to prove whether the prospect of a Lucasfilm deal factored into it . . . all either of us can do is speculate . . . .but what perplexes me is that the comments I have made, I would have made regardless of whether it was Star Wars or, let’s say, Avatar which Iger was somehow poised to buy. I love Avatar — but I would be saying the same thing about it if it turned out that somehow Iger was eyeing the franchise as an acquisition at the same time John Carter was rolling out……. It really, really, truly, truly has nothing to do with whether I like Star Wars or not.

    As for whether they can co-exist — sure they can, although probably not in the same studio, especially if that studio is Disney.

  • “you keep wanting to think that I have some grudge against Star Wars. I have absolutely nothing against Star Wars, Lucas, or Lucasfilm. I’m just indifferent to it. It just never really resonated for me but I don’t have any antipathy toward it”

    I understand that you feel indifferent to Star Wars and that’s fine but you are using it as an argument to support your theory that Mopey Carter had to be “buried” in order for only Star Wars to be made and that does come across as sour grapes. It comes across as needing someone or something to blame for Disney’s poor handling of this film and since you are lukewarm it is easier to blame the Lucasfilm deal instead of all the other factors-the budget, lack of big stars, poor marketing and Andrew Stanton’s “I’m a God” complex-that added up to Carter’s failure. It is easier to blame something you are lukewarm or indifferent and that is how this has come across.

    As a fan of ERB’s Barsoom and Star Wars I do see that both can co-exist and not have it be an issue for future films if they are done right. For all you know JJ Abrams might make a Star Wars film you actually like and another director might bring Barsoom to life and get it right, not just become Michael Cimino on steroids and give everyone the finger.

    Two other quick comments: There are probably people out there who would want 50 more Friday the 13ths than suffer another round of Mopey Carter (and where are these “Movie fans everywhere” who loved this film? Clearly we know they didn’t come out since we are having this discussion) and second to Bob: I know we have our differences over this movie but I do want to wish you a happy retirement. And yes talk Rodriguez and any other director who can get us to a Non-Stanton Barsoom!

  • John Carter was as good as just about any box office monster and if it is called a failure it is only because of Disney’s lack of belief in the project in the first place and their subsequent lack of full scale marketing the project. Movie fans everywhere would love another John Carter as opposed to the 50th friday the 13th or a star wars with old castmembers or another pirates or any of a hundred tired remakes. Burroughs was a creative genius and the Carter series of books would make excellent box office movies.

  • I would so love to see Robert Rodriguez make a rebooted Princess of Mars. He has the perfect Dejah Thoris in Alexa Vega, and he already knows a great Edgar Rice Burroughs in Daryl Sabara. He has the right sensitivity and Sin City proved that he knew perfectly how to translate a story to film without reinventing the wheel storywise, using all that works as it was written. But would he still be interested in that regarding to his zillion projects? And could he find a studio interested?

  • Although, I quite enjoy the film and I know he put a real lot of real effort into details and design, I don’t really want another Andrew Stanton iteration of the stories. I don’t need a complete reboot, it works as an introduction and albeit with a couple of miscalculations, it basically sets the stage for the story to continue on with Gods of Mars. I want another director’s vision to up the ante and make it more adult and closer to the source material with the character as written by ERB. There is precedent for this in the way that Harry Potter’s films matured and became darker as they went along.

    I am retiring at the end of the month and moving to Austin, TX. I am going to stalk Robert Rodriquez and tell him he is the man to save John Carter and that he should move Heaven and Earth to make Gods of Mars. He has the right pulpy credentials and can pull off special effects on low budgets. With audience awareness growing from the blu rays and cable screenings and a slightly more lurid and action-y approach, the sequel could be a big success.

    I mean I would love for James Cameron, Ridley Scott or Peter Jackson to take it on but this is more realistic. But, after the second one becomes a surprise hit, maybe one of them would come in and crown John Carter as Warlord of Mars in epic style.

  • Whatever is the future of John Carter will lie with the next Disney regimen, and Andrew Stanton’s will (until he says “I definitely won’t do it” I’ll still believe) and figurative “weight” (in $$$ form when Finding Dory will be released). If the rights revert to ERB inc, I’m pretty sure that if Stanton ask them to hold them for him they will do it. If they don’t and if Disney renews the rights, he will have them when he will be ready. In both cases, it’s possible to have a continuation if he wants to, and that’s to me the big “if”.

  • MCR wrote

    Finally Ok we get it . You hate Star Wars and see it as the major reason that Disney allowed Mopey to fail. I guess Guardians of the Galaxy, the Black Hole remake, Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland all should be stopped since they could also infringe on the sci-fi area Star Wars exists in. I’m sorry but this is just sour grapes. Star Wars had nothing to do with the critical reception, low word of mouth or general lack of interest in the sequel. Heck the Dredd sequel petition has 80,000 signatures and the backing of both the filmmakers and the publishes behind 2000 AD. What support has Stanton or anyone connected to Disney MC shown towards the movement other than a “give it up” attitude?

    MCR, MCR, MCR …… you keep wanting to think that I have some grudge against Star Wars. I have absolutely nothing against Star Wars, Lucas, or Lucasfilm. I’m just indifferent to it. It just never really resonated for me but I don’t have any antipathy toward it, and as far as the “future of John Carter” issue is concerned, I view the whole Lucasfilm deal as just another nail in the coffin of the Carter “franchise” (that never was) . . . .I don’t think there was some grand scheme to cause JC to tank to protect the prospects of the Lucasfilm deal . . . the point I’ve tried to make is the “buyafranchise” approach is what Iger has been trying to do for some years now, and yes, he saw Lucasfilm/Star Wars as the perfect fit with that strategy and John Carter as a longshot and a lot of heavy lifting for Disney to build it upfrom scratch. That’s just not his MO …. and remember that WAS the Disney MO in 2005-2009 when Cook was there. It began to shift when Iger put Rich Ross in to implement Iger’s vision of Disney as a marketing hub.

    As for competing with Star Wars ….. the movies you cite are similar but not really a direct corollary to Star Wars the way that a Barsoom franchise would be. But look, if JC had done the numbers it needed to do for a sequel, I agree that Iger would hold his nose and make the sequel. But it didn’t.

    I’m trying to evaluate whether I even have some subsconscious ire toward Star Wars …. I don’t. I’ve told the story, how I went to opening day of the first one with high hopes and I was disappointed — but I didn’t hate it, didn’t trash it. I dutifully went to see each one up to about the fourth one (Episode 1) . . . . .then I quit going to see them in the theater but I bought them on DVD-Blu-ray….they’re on my shelf. But they don’t stir my passion ….they just don’t.

    Oh, and I really agree with you that the JC sequel movement is absolutely lacking in having a director who’s willing to put himself out there on behalf of the fans. Without that, you’re not going to get 80,000 signatures or members of whatever. Not gonna happen — not happening.

  • This is such a sad predicament. The reality is that “John Carter” was a well written, well acted and beautifully directed film. The special effects were “Spot on” and the casting was excellent. The real reason why the film did not do so well in the box office and Robert Iger knows it, is because it was not Marketed properly. Had they done so, it would have been as big a hit as the “Star Wars” franchise or the “Independence Day” film. The proof of this theory is in the success and popularity it has had once it went to Cable TV. If the movie was in fact so flawed as Iger claimed, then it would have equally faired poorly on premium channels. Instead, the movie gained a huge cult following once it became available to everyone at home.

    Of course Robert Iger doesn’t want to release the rights to the film. He has put his whole reputation behind the premise that Disney should focus on just Marketing films, not producing them. Therefore, if “John Carter’s” failure was due to Marketing (Robert Iger) then it would be his fault and not the films writers, directors and actors. Iger can’t afford to let another company come behind him and make a “Blockbuster” sequel (Especially now that the movie has a huge cult following) because then it would mean that the failure was in fact due to poor Marketing (Robert Iger) Get the picture?????

    Basically, Robert Iger afraid everybody will discover that he suffers having a very small……”Marketing appendage. He’s rich, why doesn’t he do what every other guy does who has his problem??? Go buy a big Sports Car to make up for his short comings!!!! (Or is it cummings?)

  • I think your spot on with everything you’ve said. Iger is definitely not going to make a John Carter sequel, but, from his position, its also a smart business decision for him to not to let the rights go. Its a bummer, but I don’t see it happening any other way.

    But if we are going to look at campaigning to get the ERB estate to get back the rights…how much money are we talking about here?

  • If you see another version of this message please delete it.

    A couple of comments. Does anyone realize that the first five books are in public domain? I know ERB Inc only cares about getting paid (as shown by their support of Stanton and his lackeys) but if another film studio decides to make A Princess of Mars or The Gods of Mars there is a way to get around it. After all Disney couldn’t stop those Snow White films so that is an option.

    Also it maybe helpful to know this: old Andrew is working on Finding Dory, which was just announced as moving to 2016. If the Back to Barsoomers do some calculating Iger is set to leave the same year so the decision to proceed with Mopey Carter 2: The Whiny Strikes Back could still happen if Dory does huge numbers and Iger is gone.

    Finally Ok we get it . You hate Star Wars and see it as the major reason that Disney allowed Mopey to fail. I guess Guardians of the Galaxy, the Black Hole remake, Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland all should be stopped since they could also infringe on the sci-fi area Star Wars exists in. I’m sorry but this is just sour grapes. Star Wars had nothing to do with the critical reception, low word of mouth or general lack of interest in the sequel. Heck the Dredd sequel petition has 80,000 signatures and the backing of both the filmmakers and the publisher behind 2000 AD. What support has Stanton or anyone connected to Disney MC shown towards the movement other than a “give it up” attitude?

  • A couple of comments. Does anyone realize that the first five books are in public domain? I know ERB Inc only cares about getting paid (as shown by their support of Stanton and his lackeys) but if another film studio decides to make A Princess of Mars or The Gods of Mars there is a way to get around it. After all Disney couldn’t stop those Snow White films so that is an option.

    Also it maybe helpful to know this: old Andrew is working on Finding Dory, which was just announced as moving to 2016, around the time. Iger is leaving. If the Back to Barsoomers do some calculating Iger is set to leave the same year so the decision to proceed with Mopey Carter 2: The Whiny Strikes Back could still happen if Dory does huge numbers.

    Finally Ok we get it . You hate Star Wars and see it as the major reason that Disney allowed Mopey to fail. I guess Guardians of the Galaxy, the Black Hole remake, Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland all should be stopped since they could also infringe on the sci-fi area Star Wars exists in. I’m sorry but this is just sour grapes. Star Wars had nothing to do with the critical reception, low word of mouth or general lack of interest in the sequel. Heck the Dredd sequel petition has 80,000 signatures and the backing of both the filmmakers and the publishes behind 2000 AD. What support has Stanton or anyone connected to Disney MC shown towards the movement other than a “give it up” attitude?

  • I feel that the answer to all this lies with how much Stanton wants to do the sequels. There is no doubt he has clout at Disney,otherwise he would not be doing the Finding Nemo sequel. This clout will almost certainly multiply with the success of the Nemo sequel ( which is almost assured),In this event,could Iger afford to say no to his request for low cost ,minimum risk,Carter sequels? I doubt it.

  • I haven’t chatted with either Lucas or the #1 Disney stockholder (the Jobs estate’s excutor) yet. But both could get Iger to change his mind. We could argue that holding the franchise and doing nothing is “actionable” and would hurt shareholder’s value.

    Another workable pitch would be the profitability of sequels and the Barsoomian property being used beneficially as an inhouse active training ground for economic VFX for the Star Wars “money makers.”

  • The “buy the rights back” plan could work, if the right industry-leading people could be gathered and, when ready, approach Disney ready to make a deal. The PR nightmare approach is also interesting, for its involvement of the fan community, but I suspect that ultimately it’ll be industry clout and money that’ll have to talk. But that’s no reason not to pursue every angle in the meantime.

  • Diana wrote

    If Disney tries to renew the rights, can ERB, Inc. refuse their offer, or would they, on the grounds that the offer was too low? As I recall, that happened with Paramount when it came time for them to renew, so Paramount elected to let it drop.

    Normally if there is a renewal clause, there’s a renewal clause — and the price is already set. The interesting question would be whether the renewal carries with it anything other than monetary obligations . . . . in other words, an actual commitment to make a film. I doubt it, but I don’t have any “inside info” on that. My understanding is that the renewal date is three years after the film was released, and that if Disney is willing to pay the renewal fee, they can keep it. That would be “the norm”, pretty much.

  • If Disney tries to renew the rights, can ERB, Inc. refuse their offer, or would they, on the grounds that the offer was too low? As I recall, that happened with Paramount when it came time for them to renew, so Paramount elected to let it drop.

    I would agree with some sort of deal to get the backing of a different studio and producer. I wouldn’t think there would be any problem with getting the same cast. I doubt that Andrew Stanton could be involved since he is so closely connected with Disney, and the same may be true of the production crew unless they are working as independent contractors.

    I suppose any scripts of Stanton’s for the sequels would be considered as property of Disney, and the same for the scenic designs, but these could be redone. Hopefully the scripts would fit with the original books and what has already been filmed. It’s a shame since all that research has already been done.

    Has anyone done any serious inquiries into other studios or interested parties to approach?

  • Steve, I would put it this way. The writing was clearly on the wall from even before the film was released, so yes — you didn’t have to be a genius to know that a sequel was highly unlikely. The marketing sucked, and reviews were not as strong as they needed to be to generate the kind of word of mouth that would have overcome the negativity.

    But while you were prepared to write off the whole enterprise from day one . . . others noted, accurately, that the film did have a tendency to generate passionate fan/advocates, and this is not something that happens to every film that comes out. (Find me some passionate Prince of Persia or Van Helsing fans . . . .) and thus a fan movement calling for a sequel sprang up. You can call them foolish — but no one can deny that there have actually been voices out there calling for a sequel. Just not enough to actually get a sequel (but far more than films like Prince of Persia and Van Helsing, two “comparables” in terms of box office gross, ever got) . .

    The “news” now is Iger, who said he would be leaving in March 2015 and thus might have recused himself from final decision making re renewal of rights for JC on the grounds that his watch was going to be over when the rights came up for renwal, now clearly will be the one making the decision, and Iger is definitely not about to make a sequel. It’s just not going to happen with him at the helm (and probably wouldn’t happen with someone else).

    But will he renew the rights anyway?

    What’s your opinion on that?

    And should the fans and ERB Inc object to the idea of Disney tying up the rights while having no intention of doing anything with them?

    I will also note — this issue is a lot more about the rights to ERB’s books than it is about Andrew Stanton’s film…..

  • I feel compelled to note that this current turn of events – in so far as Disney’s relation to the material and the likely future prospects – is pretty much the same outcome as what I “predicted” it would be in the comments on various threads here early on in the JC sequel push.

    It didn’t take a crystal ball or a time machine, only a basic understanding of human nature, a slight familiarity with H-wood, a greater familiarity with ERB and the genuine disappointment with the film I and the majority of (caring) fans felt after watching it.

    It wasn’t difficult at all to see that the film itself had not generated the necessary ‘buzz’ – regardless of the reason; it’s fairly easy to see when someone has walked themselves into a corner (iger) and it really shouldn’t be surprising at all that an independent, licensed property lost out to wholly-owned subsidiaries – and that even before taking into consideration that the wholly-owned properties are tried, true and tested money-earning franchises and the licensed property was a completely new unknown quantity.

    Sad as it may be, the no-ERB future was pretty much a foregone conclusion YEARS ago.

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