Andrew Stanton was an accomplished creative force behind two of Pixar’s most successful and critically acclaimed animated features, having directed Finding Nemo and WALL•E, when Disney tapped him to take on their long-in-development John Carter. It proved to be a difficult property for audiences to wrap their heads around, to say the least.
Based on the 1917 novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs – the legendary sci-fi/fantasy author who also created Tarzan – John Carter had seen a series of directors come and go over the years, but fans of the book series remained hopeful that Stanton’s proven storytelling vision and knack for the more fantastical side of the film’s elements might prove successful.
While we liked the film, audiences in general stayed away in droves, making it a huge money pit for Disney and the world’s new reference for a potential box office bomb. Some blamed Stanton, some blamed the confusing marketing, but as we’ve seen with The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet, connecting modern audiences to certain lesser known, decades-old franchises can be problematic.
With Stanton returning to the Pixar well with Finding Dory, he may not have much of a reason to look back, and he’s gone on record to say that everyone tried their best to make John Carter a success. Still, he appears to be feeling nostalgic, as he recently shared the titles and logo mock-ups for two additional would-be sequels.
The first sequel would have been Gods of Mars:
Could have been cool. Had big plans... pic.twitter.com/xtL0KuLyAf— andrew stanton (@andrewstanton) June 7, 2014
And the follow-up, Warlord of Mars:
...That would have led to even bigger plans. pic.twitter.com/GCXet6iZ3g— andrew stanton (@andrewstanton) June 7, 2014
In the past, Stanton seemed upbeat about the possibilities of John Carter sequels, and these potential titles share the names of Burroughs’ second and third books of his ‘Barsoom’ series. The tone of these tweets, however, suggest that fans hoping for more John Carter shouldn’t hold their breath. There’s certainly plenty of source material – beyond these first three books, there are seven other novels in the series, along with various interconnected novellas and short stories.
Disney clearly wanted John Carter to launch a franchise, given the film’s extensive (and sometimes off-putting) world-building and sequel bait of an ending. It’s been a couple of years now, and while the movie is an entertaining mashup of Western, sci-fi and fantasy tropes (along with par-for-the-genre convoluted plot), it hasn’t really generated the kind of devoted cult following which movies like this need to justify a sequel.
The estimated production budget for John Carter was $250 million, not counting the cost of marketing and distribution. The movie ended its domestic theatrical run with just over $73 million and a worldwide take of just over $280 million. And that’s not including what it cost to develop the project over the years or the money that went back to theaters.
Disney lost money on this film, that’s beyond argument. Will glowing reviews and massive success for Finding Dory allow Stanton to jump back into live-action features, a la fellow Pixar alum Brad Bird? We’ll have to wait until 2016 to find out.
Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars may or may not ever make it onto the big-screen. Stay tuned for more details.
Source: Andrew Stanton