Director Andrew Stanton Talks About His Passion For ‘John Carter’

Published 3 years ago by

john carter andrew stanton Director Andrew Stanton Talks About His Passion For John Carter

Director Andrew Stanton’s John Carter opened in theaters last weekend (read our review) and has been the subject of a plethora of online discussions and debates for the past several days. Whatever a given individual’s take on the elements that surround the film may be, one thing is clear: the man at the helm had a deep passion for the material. We had the opportunity to sit down with the director in a roundtable discussion at the Arizona press event for John Carter, to talk about the path to his live-action debut.

Stanton has a life-long connection to author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Barsoom” series, the first of which, “A Princess of Mars”, served as the source material for John Carter. The books were brought to his attention when he saw a friend’s drawings of – what he now knows are – Tharks (one of the alien species that Burroughs created for the Martian world). He was immediately hooked and waited for the next 30 years for someone to make a cinematic version of the imaginative tales.

A veteran of Pixar, Stanton had already completed production on Finding Nemo and was well into his work on WALL•E when it came to his attention that a John Carter film was being developed with Jon Favreau. Stanton was thrilled with the idea that he would be able to see his childhood favorite come to life, but a delay in production brought him closer to the project than he ever imagined was possible.

Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas in John Carter Director Andrew Stanton Talks About His Passion For John Carter

Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas leader of the Tharks in 'John Carter'

“It looked like they were going to do it for a minute. So here I’m getting really excited about it and then it fell through and went back to the estate, the property. I was really crestfallen. And it just happened to be at a point where I was three years out from finishing ‘WALL•E’ and had a serendipitous phone call the head of Disney at the time, Dick Cook, and I said ‘You know that property that went back? Maybe when I finish ‘WALL•E’, if I’m not a one-hit-wonder, would you consider letting me make it? It’s just a crime that it’s not going to get out there.’ And it’s like one of those ‘be careful what you wish for’ moments because then a month later, they bought the three books and said ‘do you want to do it?’”

Stanton had a decision to make: jump in with both feet, or pass on the opportunity of a lifetime.

“I had to make this tough decision where it was three years earlier than I was prepared to really be serious about it. But  you know sometimes you can’t time these things. And then I pulled in one of the few friends I had at Pixar that knew the property and loved it as well, Mark Andrews, and that’s pretty much how it all got started. He started slowly working on it while I was trying to finish up ‘WALL•E’ and would check in and then we brought on Michael Chabon and the rest is sort of history.”

John Carter and Princess Deja Thoris Director Andrew Stanton Talks About His Passion For John Carter

As many are aware, Burroughs inspired generations of fantasy, sci-fi and comic book properties, from Superman to Star Wars and beyond. So one of the challenges that the creative team faced was crafting a film that stayed true to the source material but did not, inadvertently, read as derivative.

“It was a tough property to tackle. How do you find the thing that made it special and unique when it was originally made? And, I felt like I found a way in, which was to make it feel almost like a historical piece of a place that you didn’t know about. My brother saw it and he goes, ‘oh, I get it, it’s masterpiece theater for guys.’ And I went, ‘yeah, I guess that’s kind of it.’”

Although a filmgoer may walk out with a clear understanding of what Stanton was communicating with the film, distilling the essence of the John Carter into a campaign proved to be a bit of a challenge.

“On the surface, when you’re doing these 30-second, 60-second sound bites, it’s really tough to capture that tone and flavor. And so I think that marketing’s been slowly just trying to figure out how to get this across.”

john carter movie clips taylor kitsch Director Andrew Stanton Talks About His Passion For John Carter

Despite the many hurdles and obstacles the production inevitably presented, Stanton never lost sight of what drew him to be a part of it to begin with.

“I just, you know if I love it…I saw that happen in commercials with Pixar. We would take ideas that we couldn’t do, but we loved the idea so much – it would make us rise to the occasion and solve it and figure it out. So we realized that the key is that you need to be that inspired. So I’ve always followed that muse since then. I just go with the idea I love so much because I know that every one of these films, whether it’s animated, whether it’s a hybrid, whether it’s live-action, is going to let me down and it’s going to fall apart and it’s going to go through a horrible puberty phase where it’s ugly and we still have to go to the prom. And what’s going to get you out of bed is going to be the passion. I just have always loved this idea so much and I’m dying to see it on the screen. So that’s what’s gotten any movie I’ve worked on made  — including ‘John Carter.’”

John Carter opens in theatres now.

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  1. It’s a shame that John Carter is not a Box Office hit because it’s a great movie not perfect but great!
    Also the peoble who saw the movie with me liked it realy much a few of them where shocked how great this movie is!:)

    • @Andy – Completely agree.
      I’ve seen it twice so far and I’ll go again, Always bringing new people with me to experience it. Everyone so far has enjoyed the film. You can tell that with it’s imperfections, the man (Stanton) put heart into it and it shows. I really hope it makes the money, it highly deserves it versus the crap they’ve been pushing out there.

    • The main problem I had with the movie is that many elements of the movie is geared for kids (felt much more PG than PG-13) while the original story was more adult oriented. While being a fun movie to watch with a Jar Jar Binks esque Mars Dog adding more to the kiddie factor the movie as a whole does not feel epic at all. I believe John Carter should have been more true to the book and less cartoony.

  2. i feel sorry for people like him that really love the movie they make and make a great film, only to have the general public care more about stupid party films (project x) and not give their films the attention it deserves, causing it to crash at the box office while films like project x make butt loads and warrent a sequel

  3. One weekend into release, people have called it a box office failure. I’ve told twenty or so people how much I enjoyed it, and quite a few of them are planning on going. So hopefully, a word of mouth campaign will help this movie improve this weekend.

    • wouldnt that be cool if it happened to improve 100% on its second weekend?

      • That would be so awesome.

  4. Great Movie,watched it,and just loved it !
    Not Perfect but for sure a much better Movie then what the Box Office Reflects ! I am sure a Sequel would just improve on all fronts !
    Andrew Stanton did a Fantastic Job in bringing the world of John Carter to live,really a shame that the Box Office crowd does not see that !
    Wish still for the best !

  5. I somewhat disagree with the assertion that he had a, “deep passion” for the source material. If this was really true he would have used the characters as they were portrayed in the books. That means 15′ tall bug-eyed Tharks, no silly nocturnal bestial white apes and sidekicks that look frog-like. I’m willing to entertain the possibility that Disney brought the hammer down on the Thark change but I know for a fact many of the other changes were superfluous and could have matched the source material.

    Of course all of that has little effect on how the film actually does since most will never have read the books and would be content with what they were presented (even though I think both the white apes and Tharks would have been much more visually imposing and impactful on screen in their original form).

  6. A word of mouth campaign and improve 100% on its second weekend!
    That would be cool.:)
    This is also a movie peoble say later when they saw the movie on DVD or Blu Ray…why was this not a box office hit?

  7. I hope that Disney doesn’t use the same marketing strategy with The Lone Ranger as they did with John Carter.

    Admittedly, omitting the “…Of Mars” from the title was an unfortunate mistake, but if George Lucas can slap an “Indiana Jones and…” to Raiders, Disney can (and should) do the same damn thing when it’s released on DVD.

    This early trailers did the movie a disservice, but that doesn’t negate the fact that Andrew Stanton created an excellent film.

  8. My wife and I loved the movie. Told our daughter to take her boyfriend to it this week on her date night. That and my wife’s 100+ facebook friends who basically responded “Really? The commercials looked like ‘Gladiator on Mars’”.

    Dear Disney Marketing, Please show shots of Carter’s painful sequences in the old west, and some of the love story. See how many women you add to your tally of viewers. Toss in one action shot at the end and call it a :30 commercial.

    Done. Just added about 4-6 million new viewers of the film in the US.


    • I’ll tell them for you. Thanks.


  9. I really do not know why this movie is not a great block buster. I loved every minute of it and saw it three times in 3D. I absorbed more with each showing. I keep telling my friends and relatives to see the show. I thought the casting was excellent and liked that none of the main characters were big name stars. I really hope it does well enough or has enough fan demand for the second movie to be made. Andrew Stanton has. for me anyway, made a great epic movie. It ruined me for any movies this summer. I really doubt I will go to another film, unless I see this one for a fourth time. I took my wife on my third trip and she absolutely loved the movie.