Disney Delays ’20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’ Remake Until 2014

Published 2 years ago by

20000 leagues under sea remake Disney Delays 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Remake Until 2014

The saga of director David Fincher’s delayed remake of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea is a long and painful one. There have been many incarnations of Jules Verne’s classic 1870 novel, both on film and television, but it’s the 1954 Disney production – the only science-fiction film produced by Walt Disney himself – which to date remains the most beloved and definitive version of the story.

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo director Fincher has been chasing this project for a long time. It was finally set to go into production a few months ago with Fincher’s Se7en screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker to rewriting a script by Side Effects scribe Scott Z. Burns. Now the project has reportedly been put on hold once again, with production due to begin in early 2014.

The delay was reported by the Sydney Morning Herald; filming was supposedly to begin next month in Sydney, with the production lured there by the promise of a $21.6 million tax rebate package by the Australian government. Despite speculation that the delay is due to Brad Pitt (Fincher’s preferred choice to play the lead, Ned Land) leaving the project, Pitt actually jumped the ship months ago (probably due to massive delays with World War Z).

world war z trailer brad pitt Disney Delays 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Remake Until 2014

By all accounts, Fincher’s version would be loosely based on the source material, but keep true to “the spirit” of the story, which follows sailor Ned Land and Professor Pierre Aronnax as they encounter the brilliant, crazed Captain Nemo and his powerful, steampunk-ian proto-submarine Nautilus - all while investigating a series of disappearing ships amid reports of giant sea monsters roaming the Pacific Ocean.

20,000 Leagues has entered production and been halted multiple times, with Terminator Salvation director McG once involved, and Will Smith, then Sam Worthington, eyed for the lead. McG left the project as Disney shut it down in order to focus on Tron Legacy and John Carter, and with neither film living up to its promise, (and the latter proving a real black eye for the studio in 2012), reports went dark until Fincher got involved.

David Fincher House of Cards Disney Delays 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Remake Until 2014

With Fincher’s involvement in Dragon Tattoo sequel The Girl Who Played With Fire (the second in the trilogy of novels by Stieg Larsson) evidently still up in the air, there have been no hard reports on what the director’s famously short attention span will turn to next. He directed the first two chapters of Netflix’s House of Cards, which debuted to great acclaim earlier this year, but word on his feature film projects seemingly dried up.

So will this remake ever really happen? These days, unless a major blockbuster-hopeful has either a superhero, a Pixar franchise or the words “Star” and “Wars” in the title, Disney is skittish about throwing money at it. Given the well-documented marketing fiasco behind John Carter‘s box-office failure (despite the movie actually being pretty good), this is to be expected from not just Disney but all the major studios. Given the skyrocketing costs of major A-list stars, ballooning production budgets and need for huge, international marketing campaigns, these big-budget tentpoles need to be huge hits, and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea is far from a sure thing.

david fincher 20000 leagues under the sea Disney Delays 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Remake Until 2014

It has the sea-faring angle going for it, which – if marketed correctly – could coast on the warm place we have in our hearts for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (well, the first one, anyway). The pure nostalgia factor – again, if the ad teams can effectively communicate with audiences – can (maybe) draw in the literary crowd while winning over a slightly older demographic, who may be familiar with the original film and its smattering of remakes. There’s also the matter of Fincher, a brilliant filmmaker who just isn’t known for his four-quadrant, all-ages output. His one attempt at this was the 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button which, despite its critical and commercial success, does not exactly qualify him a “crow-pleaser” filmmaker.

20,000 Leagues has potential, but will only connect with the movie-going public if the studio has confidence in its director and a unified vision of how to present this now-relatively-obscure title to an audience used to big movies based on comic book characters and board games. This project may be on hold for now, but it’s far from gone. Stay tuned for details as they emerge.


Sources: Sydney Morning Herald (via The Film Stage)


Follow Anthony Vieira on Twitter @malaclyptic
Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. Pitt, Worthington, and Smith no longer being in the flick are no great losses. They are all good enough actors, but none of them should be the make-or-break for this film with their presence. There are other actors, both well-known and obscure, who could probably do good grace to the rolls. The more faithful to the source material, the better, as far as I am concerned, in this entertaining adventure from the days of when sci-fi was sci-fi. I look forward to this one. It’ll be interesting to see how they present it (hopefully as a faithful period piece). I just hope no one tries to sex it up or inject a bunch of cornball humor, both of which can often be killers to a classic tale. For those of you who like “old vintage sci-fi”, as I do, I would recommend the old classic movie versions of War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, both by George Pal, based on H. G. Wells’ work, as well as the old James Mason/Pat Boone version of Journey To The Center Of The Earth. All three of those movies give me an appreciation for where our good sci-fi movies came from, back in their “roots” days. I enjoy my copies every once in a while during a self-imposed and cloistered-away classic sci-fi movie holiday, with me, myself, and I….and of course a big bountiful plate of my favorite sandwiches!

  2. Im all for this movie but the sad thing is it will be all cgi most of the time :/ Tired of it!

  3. Ned Land? Wasn’t Aronnax the main character of the story?

    • I casted Jude Law to play Ned Lad and Kevin Costner can also play Captain Nemo. How does that sound ?

    • Ned Lad is the main character in this movie not aronnax

      • In the book Aronnax was the main character, in the Disney 1954 Film Land was given more of a part than he has in the book by Vern. Also the Disney film was quite a bit shorter than the book with old Walt putting his personal touch to it with the play between Land & the seal.

  4. It’d be cool if David Fincher directed it and Brad Pitt starred and Andrew Kevin Walker wrote it. Probably it’d be released in 2015.

    So the Se7en trio would reunite 20 years later

  5. Great! Now he can focus on girl who played with fire! All thought I see No good ending coming : the studio needs to lower the budget and Craig after skyfall won’t give an inch even if his box office value outside jb remains dubious at best. I fear that A like green lantern they will scrap the sequel altogether B they are going to recast C they will cut massively in the budget and fincher will move on.

  6. There is very little, if anything, that is “pretty good” about JOHN CARTER, the almost singular reason Disney has postponed 20,000 LEAGUES. David Fincher, like Steven Sodenberg, is a gifted director but not in the CGI world of blockbuster movie-making. (Neither is Brad Pitt.) A remake of this Disney film smells more like a Passion project of the studio than marketplace wisdom. Maybe in six years, but not now.

    • I consider John Carter to be a very good film. Perhaps it was never destined to be marketable, which is hardly the case with 20,000 Leagues. I would be, and am, much more skeptical of The Lone Ranger.

      • I agree with Frederick that John Carter is a terrible movie. It bored me out of my mind.

  7. This is the rare case when I can understand the studios concerns.
    Fincher is my favorite director working today. Honestly, if I had to pick seeing a new David Fincher film over anything else, and I mean anything, I’d pick a Fincher film every time. But without a top of the A-list star attached and a huge budget coupled with a questionable demand I can see why the studio can get cold feet. I hope it all works out because it’s already been almost a year and a half since Fincher’s last film and at the rate things are moving it could be another 2 years minimum before we see another and that’s to long for me.

  8. “John Carter (of Mars)” was more than good — it was a terrific, skillfully-done adventure film with a good story (unlike many blockbusters). And yes, it did suffer from the title-change and from the lack of Disney support, due to various personnel problems at that studio. I am hoping that “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” will be half as good. Let’s just pray that Brad Pitt and Will Smith are not involved.

  9. I can understand Disney’s hesitance to commit lots of money to a new project at this point, but I think that 20,000 Leagues should be fairly easy to effectively market, not at all like the indecipherable John Carter campaign (love that film). It’s a clear story that already posseses relatively broad familiarity. Steampunk is an attractive style. My main concern would be that the great physical presence of the classic film would disappear into a whirlpool of souless CGI, as someone mentioned above.

    Is The Lone Ranger a Disney film? I consider that a much more sketchy proposition at the box office. I’ve seen the preview a couple of times, and am unconvinced why most anyone would be interested in it.

    • It’s worth noting that Disney owns ESPN where the company laid off 400 staff, as well as postponed production on big-budget film projects in which the studio is fully invested. This may be no more than for the sake of the upcoming fiscal quarter, to model the company as sound and profitable to stockholders. The “business” in showbusiness trumps everything.

  10. I don’t see why the studio should be so concerned with using a ‘”crow-pleaser” filmmaker’. Mystery Science Theater 3000 isn’t even in production anymore.

  11. I think Kirk Douglas will make a special appearance playing Old Billy in this movie How does that sound ? Just like he played Ned Lad in the original. I think it’s up to Kirk to decide.

  12. I don’t think anyone can surpass the original 1954 movie. The cast of Douglas, Mason, Lucas and Lorrie were superb, however I think the submarine Nautilus was the main character. Who can forget seeing the two yellow eyes attacking the warships.

  13. No remake of this classic sci-fi movie has so far come up to the standard of the 1954 Disney version. I agree that the real star of the 1954 film was the Nautilus submarine designed by Harper Goff, which I do not think could be bettered. Would a Disney remake work using the 1954 Nautilus or would 21st century audiences prefer a more “modern” design? Also would the period be brought into the 21st century instead of the original 19th century setting. Whatever the outcome, I hope the project comes off soon as I just love the story and would certainly go to see another Disney version.