Dominic West Says the Original Marketing Plan Was Much Better Than What Was Eventually Used

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I saw the orignal quote from Dominic West when it came out about a month ago, but missed this article from Kevin Jaegernauth who was one of the entertainment writers who followed the John Carter saga closely from beginning to end.  Jaegernauth notes:

The studio’s long-in-the works sci-fi adventure completely missed with audiences, divided critics, and was at best viewed as a missed opportunity, or worst as an expensive folly. Disney took a $200 million hit on the project, it may have cost Rich Ross his job, and while asmall contingent of fans are clamoring for a sequel, that’s probably never going to happen. Instead, we can continue to nitpick what went wrong with the movie, and most everyone can agree the marketing did “John Carter” no favors.

That to me seems to be a fairly reasonable assessment, although I’m not willing to go along with the “never” unless it’s modified to say “Disney under Bob Iger will never” do a sequel.

Jaegernauth then visits a quote from Dominic West, who played Sab Thaan n the movie:

The AV Club recently chatted with Dominic West, who played the villain in the movie, as part of their Random Roles feature, and he reveals that the original marketing plan he saw was leagues ahead of what was eventually used. “It wasterrible! And it was completely changed!” he exclaimed. “I saw it two years ago, after we shot it, and they had the marketing campaign already out and it was amazing. But for some reason they got rid of all that, and they failed to mention that this was the granddaddy of science-fiction adventure stories, so everyone was going, ‘Why haven’t they got people who sound like the ones in Star Wars?’ When, in fact, the whole point was that ‘John Carter’ inspired ‘Star Wars.’ So I think they did mess that up a bit.”

Having really researched this deeply, I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly what West is referring to, because there really were no campaign materials that pre-dated the teaser poster and trailer that came out in June and July 2011.

Indeed, it’s been reported that director Andrew Stanton spearheaded and controlled the marketing of the film, and rejected many of the ideas Disney’s own team came up with, which seem to be the materials West had seen earlier. In any case, it’s another interesting nugget in the story of “John Carter,” the kind of mistake Disney hopes to never make again. And indeed, it’s probably no shocker that their next space adventures are going to be founded on the safe and beloved “Star Wars” series.

This is one of the issues that I tried to look at closely in John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood, and there is no doubt that Stanton was a major influence on the marketing — but I dont’ think it’s fair to say that he controlled except in the sense that when Disney was trying to come up with the first teaser trailer, Stanton kept rejecting what he felt were generic “in a world where . . . .” efforts in favor of something more distinctive, which eventually became the Peter Gabriel teaser trailer which Stanton loved and Disney marketing did not.  He also exerted influence on the original teaser poster , and he was a consistent voice for not giving away too much of the story in trailers and other materials — a position that may be seen to have contributed to the much criticized lack of coherence n the second and third trailers (not that anyone saw the third trailer, which came out a week before the film came out).  .  .

On the other hand … the way that Stanton openly embraced our fan trailer, which does have a narrative structure and gives the basic story setup and follows traditional three act structure, suggests that he was resolutely opposed to any attempt to convey story elements.

Anyway . . . the arguments about this are not going to go away completely . . . I think that Stanton bears some responsibility for the marketing . . . . but was not the dominant factor.


  • It sounds like West is referring to some behind-the-scenes marketing plans that were never implemented. Perhaps those plans disappeared around the time the title lost “of Mars”, and were part of an overall shift in approach (for the worse).

    It would be very cool to see the next “go” at Barsoom get the marketing running on all cylinders. One key would be tap into the pop culture momentum that basically rules entertainment media today, as far as imaginative storytelling and superheroes, and which got its start more from ERB than from any other single source. Barsoom is a world that needs its marketing to tell the story about the story.

  • Sounds like stanton should have listened to the people at Disney which has a long and successful history of marketing films while he did not.

  • I don’t remember the marketing campain for Finding Nemo, but the Wall-E one was definitely on the “mysterious” side, as I remember it. Just Wall-E wandering on an abandoned planet. Perhaps that set the template for what Stanton wanted to achieve with John Carter.

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