FROM LA TIMES, FEBRUARY 24, 2012
For independent filmmaker Michael D. Sellers and his creative partner, Mark Linthicum, the main attraction for this year’s Super Bowl happened during one of the commercial breaks — the premiere of the new film trailer for Walt Disney Studios’ “John Carter.”
The spot scored high marks among hard-core gamers, according to research firm Bluefin Labs, which monitors social media conversations about TV. But the “John Carter” trailer failed to resonate with an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan like Sellers, who has been waiting decades for Hollywood to animate the 100-year-old character, around whom Burroughs wrote a series of 11 adventure books.
“The 30-second version was an incredible disappointment,” Sellers said. “I was like, ‘Come on, let’s fix this thing.'”
After the game, Sellers and Linthicum re-cut the trailer in a way that chronologically took the viewer from America circa the 1860s, where John Carter is seen riding on horseback in his Confederate gray uniform, to the war-weary veteran waking up, disoriented, on Mars.
The unofficial trailer and music build toward an epic conflict on Mars, with text that acknowledges the filmmaker’s pedigree (Andrew Stanton directed Pixar Animation Studios’ “Wall-E” and “Finding Nemo”), and hints at Burrroughs’ influence on generations of science-fiction writers, including Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury.
Sellers, who is working on a Burroughs documentary, called the re-edit a “therapy session.”
Since he posted it on his fan site, The John Carter Files, the trailer has attracted significant notice.
“This fan-made trailer seems to do what the official ones have not — sell the legacy of the stories as well as show how good the story is,” wrote the movie-buff site Ain’t It Cool News. After Stanton retweeted a link to the fan trailer, it logged some 85,000 views on YouTube and has been embedded on more than 100 sites.
“Great fan trailer!” Stanton tweeted. “They get it!”
Disney’s “John Carter” could surely benefit from such loving fan attention. The film registered low interest with prospective film-goers when research companies began monitoring interest. Early pre-release surveys have shown the movie, which cost a reported $250 million to make, could bring in less than $30 million on opening weekend.
The studio still has time to create momentum for the high-profile project, which opens March 9. One person close to the movie’s marketing, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak about the project, noted that James Cameron’s “Avatar” met with similarly low pre-release expectations — and went on to shatter global box-office records.
Online buzz since the Wednesday premiere has been mostly non-committal, according to a preliminary analysis of tweets, blog mentions and conversations in online forums conducted by social media agency Banyan Branch. President Blake Cahill said 88% of the comments about “John Carter” are neutral in tone, with equal percentages offering negative and positive remarks.
Sellers is urging readers of his fan site to join in a grass-roots effort to promote the film by using Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, and encouraging them to visit message boards on the Internet Movie Database website. He’s even developing a press kit to help fans of the literature to talk up the film.
“Believe me when I tell you that if Disney — and we — don’t get enough warm bodies in seats on opening day, word of mouth alone won’t save it,” Sellers wrote on his site.
Walt Disney Studios did not comment for this story.