I’ve spent a frustrating couple of days trying to research exactly when, and how, and why, the negative press for John Carter began and I want to share some of what I’ve found — and ask for some research help on a couple of items where I’m lost in the weeds.
Here is what I have been able to determine:
On June 16 2009, announcements went out that Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins had been cast, and some of the articles contained references to the film being budgeted at $150m. Here is a sample, from HollywoodNorth.com:
Canadian film actor Taylor “Friday Night Lights” Kitsch has been cast as the lead in Disney’s upcoming adaptation of author Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ John Carter Of Mars, to be directed by Andrew “Wall-e” Stanton in 2010. Stanton confirmed that the $150 million budgeted sci fi production, will be live-action. “There are so many creatures and characters that half of it’s going to be CG,” he said. “but it will feel real. The whole thing will feel very, very believable.” Author Burroughs of Tarzan fame, wrote 11 volumes of the Mars adventures, focusing on wounded Civil War veteran ‘John Carter’, whose retreat into a cave to avoid capture by Apache Indians takes an otherworldly turn as he’s deliriously transported via ‘time portal’ to the planet ‘Barsoom’ (Mars), taken prisoner by 12-foot-tall multi-limbed green Martians, meets the princess of his dreams, becomes a king, raises Martian rug-rats and lives happily ever after.
This is the first reference to the budget that I’ve been able to find. Does anyone know of any earlier reference? Or any other references to the budget being $150m?
To put this in context — Dick Cook was still chairman of Disney Studios at this point; he would resign on September 18, 2009.
Going forward, the film went into production in January 2010 and the announcements that production had begun went out on January 15th — and there was no mention of budget. During the production period I can’t find any articles mentioning the budget.
Principal photography was completed in July 2010 and on August 9, 2010, Disney announced the release dates for John Carter (June 8, 2012), and Frankenweenie (March 9, 2012). There was no mention of the budget and there was no chatter about the budget in any of the articles or comments. I also couldn’t find any real negativity anywhere in any of the comment threads — everything seemed generally positive at this point.
Disney made no announcements or released any new information about John Carter during the fall of 2010. The next announcement came on January 19, 2011, when Disney announced that it was moving Frankenweenie to October 5, 2012, and John Carter to March 9, 2012. Again, there was no mention or discussion of the budget in either the announcement or the chatter it provoked. The general tone of the reporting on the swap was focused on the fact that this created a showdown between John Carter and Prometheus, which was scheduled for the same release date, and the possibility that Prometheus might move, in effect swapping with John Carter. That’s what happened — on January 26, a week later, Fox announced Preometheus was moving.
The reaction to the announcement that John Carter was moving up from June 8 to March 9 is the first time negativity started creeping in, not to the articles themselves, but some of the comments — there was speculation in a few instances that the move was a sign of weakness and lack of confidence in the film. This was not widespread, but it was there.
Going forward through the winter and spring of 2011 — there was very little. About the only substance was a red carpet interview with Andrew Stanton on January 31 at the MTV Movie Awards. In the comment threads, there was discussion about the “radio silence” — i.e. long period between updates. No mention of budget, no negativity n the commit threads.
Next came the announcement on May 23, 2011, that the title was being changed from John Carter of Mars, to John Carter. This was the beginning of negativity in the articles (previously there had been a little in the comments) …… lots of writers questioned the change and began to question the marketing approach to the film. (Just for context, as this was happening, Stanton was doing re-shoots at Playa Vista in LA, and this was also the timeframe in which Disney marketing and Stanton were going back and forth about the teaser trailer, with Stanton rejecting a number of early efforts until finally, in May, someone at Disney came up with the Peter Gabriel version that Stanton liked.) I can still find no discussion of budget, nor any discussion in the press about reshoots.
On June 15, 2011, the teaser poster came out and got a very mixed reception. Some liked it; many didn’t, saying it looked like a cologne commercial (a comment repeated across many articles and discussion threads). Again — no mention of budget.
On June 16, 2011, an interview of Stanton by Geoff Boucher of the LA times came out in which Stanton mentioned having done “a month of reshoots”. This is the first solid reference to the reshoots that I can find. Also in June, 30 journalists went to Berkley for an “edit bay interview” with Stanton and producer Jim Morris. They were also shown the teaser trailer and some clips, plus props, costumes, etc. In these interviews — which were very lengthy — Stanton talked at length about the ‘Pixar process”, the fact that reshoots were an organic part of that process, etc, etc.
On July 11, 2011, a major barrage of articles came out, most of them sourced to an edit bay interview in which 30 journalists had been taken to the post production facilities where Stanton and producer Jim Morris gave a long presentation, and showed them the teaser trailer, etc. In these interviews Stanton talked in detail about the Pixar process, the 18 days of reshoots and how he felt that reshoots war normal and essential. No discussion of budget yet in the articles or comments.
On July 14, 2011, the teaser trailer was released. It got some very positive reactions, some negative. No discussion of budget.
With the release of the trailer, the number of articles increased. There was chatter about Disney not attending Comic-con, and then in August there was coverage of the D23 Expo. I’ve gone through hundreds of articles from this busy period and there is a mixture of excitement, some negativity — but no railing bout the budget.
The first reference I can find to the budget being 250m is August 13, 2011 news that Disney had shut down production on The Lone Ranger because the budget of $250m was too high. The reporting on this contains references to the John Carter budget having “ballooned to $250m” and the whole situation surrounding Lone Ranger leads to a lot of discussion of movie budgets having gotten out of control, etc. From the point on, the budget for John Carter is constantly referenced as $250m, and the issue of the budget is on the table and part of the growing negativism.
Now — my question is this.
Can anyone out there find a reference earlier than August 13, 2011, to John Carter’s budget being $250m? Because although I’ve spent a lot of time and can’t find anything, I have a nagging feeling that there might be something out there that I’m missing. This is a little hard to research because when you search for articles about the John Carter budget being $250m (or any other number) you are engulfed in the post release avalanche of articles talking bout it.
I appreciate anything anyone can add to the foregoing. Obviously — please provide links whenever possible.