The industrious Tim Bartholomew has put up another interesting post, this one about the eternal challenge that will face any future John Carter movies — how to cut cost so as to get the budget in alignment with the size of the market. Tim correctly notes that animating the Tharks, Pixar style, and integrating them with the live actor was the main reason the film’s budget went so high. So he has done some research into other alternatives.
One additional “alternative” is the fact that subsequent stories don’t, for the most part, have as much Thark content as Princess, so every minute of Thark/Human in the same frame screen time that get reduced and replaced with humans and humans in the same frame. I know there is a lot of resistance to the idea of “cutting corners” — but it’s time to get real about this. John Carter 2 or John Carter: The Reboot at $140M is a much, much better proposition than John Carter 2 at $250m, which is a non-starter.
Anyway, here is Tim’s piece — please be sure and click and read the whole thing on his site, not just the intro that I’m pasting in here:
The Problem: Money
The problem with the Tharks is that they cost millions of dollars to show on screen. The integration of the live characters with the CGI motion tracking is even more expensive than if the scene was all CGI like in Avatar. It’s time consuming and expensive.
What if there was a way to keep the Tharks using practical methods that are tried and true while mixing new science and still using some computers and motion tracking to keep the acting experience genuine? (Now that was a run on sentence) How about Animatronics?
Animatronics were used all of the time in the 1990’s from the raptors and T-rex in Jurassic Park to TNMNT and more. They were used as recently as last year’s Prometheus and were used earlier for Narnia’s creatures like the minotaurs and Aslan. As computer graphics have improved and are now in almost every single summer blockbuster, animatronics were left behind on the small screen, TV. Falling Skies, Doctor Who and other science fiction shows use them to bring life to alien creatures and robots. There is a downside however to the lower cost, the uncanny valley. But first let’s look at what could have been a nineties attempt at making a Thark.
Goro from Mortal Kombat
In the 1990’s one of the most remarkable feats of visual effects using animatronics was Goro from Mortal Kombat. The suit had four arms and was about 12 feet tall. Sound familiar? That’s the dimensions and proportions of a movie Thark. The suit even worked in basic combat, taking hits, giving them etc. This suit is quite cumbersome because of Goro’s size, Would it look convincing now? Only if we cross the uncanny valley, and we are close. Jump below the making of Goro photos and I’ll explain more. What’s more, it’s actually Disney who’s figuring it out.