Posted on Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by Germain Lussier
The first major interview with John Carter director Andrew Stanton has landed and, fittingly, it’s with Harry Knowles from Ain’t It Cool News. Knowles himself produced the property with four different directors over seven years before Paramount lost the rights and Stanton scooped them up. So he’s got a pretty good grasp on the material. His interview with the filmmaker gets incredibly geeky and detailed about the movie itself but is also very forward looking to the second, and even third, books in the series by Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Gods of Mars and The Warlords of Mars. (Stanton also revealed he’s developing a new short at Pixar with Up director Pete Docter).
Stanton spoke in depth about his fears about tackling those stories, but also revealed that he’s begun the adaptation process and thought long and hard about what story elements, characters and major plot points will appear in the films. If they end up happening at all.
After the jump, read a bunch of quotes from Stanton on the subject of John Carter 2 and 3.
A huge thanks to Ain’t It Cool News for the candid and enlightening interview. Fans of the series for sure will need to head there and read the whole thing. However, here are the highlights on the sequels.
First up, Stanton spoke about how he had to remove some elements from the first book, A Princess of Mars, and save it for later films.
What we basically did is we mapped out a trilogy and we took all the cool elements and all of the cool characters, all the cool creatures, and sort of made a grocery list. We said, “We don’t have the time to put all of the things that are mentioned in the first book or in any of these books all in one movie and we don’t want to short change anything, so if we can make them much more grounded and integral to the story some of these things may be worth waiting for later while some of these other things may be worth putting in early,” so you get Matai early, but the air plants will be later.
Later Knowles asks what things Stanton can’t wait to include in the sequels:
I can’t wait to see the goddess ISSUS herself and the plant men. I can’t wait… We kind of held back on really going full bore with air ships, because I knew what we were going to do in film two and I didn’t want it to feel redundant from film one, so I had to find that balance of “How much is just enough” to enjoy what you were seeing, but want a little bit more, “because we are going to give you more in the second one” and then more of… What I geek out on is just the character relationships and I feel like Carter and Dejah’s marriage is just getting started at the end of this movie and I really get to delve into a married couple’s first year of being together on this adventure in the second one and also delve deeper into what’s really going on with the Therns. It just feels like a great second season of a TV show that’s about to come up for me and I get to really delve deeper into all of the characters and the relationships. So that’s really juicy stuff for me.
Stanton, an Oscar-winning Pixar alum, thinks about a lot of things based on colors and was asked about the color scheme of the next two films:
Well I think it’s going to get a lot darker before it gets a lot brighter. (Laughs) It really does have a chart that works like EMPIRE to RETURN, but it’s fitting and my whole goal was that by the end of this whole thing he would earn the title “Warlord of Mars” and that’s where we are headed with it. So the color will just… We go underground and then we go back topside by the time we are in the third one.
This first film took several years and Stanton was asked if he would want to direct the next film. Or possibly films:
I was so intimidated by just the first one I didn’t have the balls to think that I would want to go farther, but now that I’ve kind of made it to the other side and it doesn’t scare me as much, yeah I’m very intrigued about seeing it all the way through. I mean I’m not interested… It’s not attractive to think that it will be the next ten years of your life and you wont do anything else. I’m hoping that I can somehow make that not be the case.
Even with his reservations, Stanton revealed that he’s begun work – on spec – for the sequel.
Yeah, well I mean if we go that way it’s going to be a huge movie again and you can’t get started early enough. Nobody has ever made a promise to me, but nobody has ever also led me on, it’s been a very honest discussion from day one with Disney of like “Look, this may work. This may not work and if it works then we will go for another one. If it doesn’t we won’t,” but I always need as much prep time as I can to get stuff right and I’m talking about the story. You can never be working on the story long enough. You need as much time as you can get, so if this ends up going on the shelf as a script I still consider it pretty damn good practice and we will be ready if we ever do go to it again.
He adds more details to exactly how far along the project is:
Well it’s all mapped out and we’ve got a very extensive outline. I tend to write outlines that are like 30 pages long sometimes with dialog scenes in them and all of the details of all of the beats in the scenes and we’ve gotten that and now we are, in this coming month, we are going to start working into a first draft me and Michael. Mark’s going to be approving from the sidelines, but he’s very busy finishing up BRAVE.
While developing the second film, Knowles asked if there were any visuals Stanton was using for inspiration, which lead to this answer:
This may sound weird being such a visual guy, but I actually am superstitious about getting too much, if any visual stuff for a while until I have an outline that works, because you can get really seduced by visuals and they can sometimes hide that you actually need to change the story or that your story’s not good enough and I’m very much a purist, like I should be able to just pitch you the story without any visuals and it holds your attention, so I do that almost to myself like I won’t almost reward myself with creating visuals until I’ve got at least an initial outline that I think already is an interesting pitch and it’s just sort of a self imposed test that I put on myself and so I’m at the place now where I think I can finally reward myself with very interesting visuals. Again, we’ll wait and see how it does and if so, then I will be pulling the trigger immediately on development artists and I will have a long list of stuff I want them to create.
As a John Carter novice, I didn’t quite understand this, but apparently an alien race called the “banths” are very important in the series and Knowles asked why they weren’t in the first film. Stanton revealed the struggle:
I wanted to show banths in the first… To be honest I didn’t have many compromises in the movie and I had one and it was when we were doing the visual effects budget they kept with “Hey, can we cut out the banths?” (Laughs) They got to the point where they were like “You can either have the banths or you can have the Warhoons.” I was like “I will have the Warhoons, please.” And then I said, “Alright, can we at least have dead banths? One dead banth that we can propagate around in the arena?” I really wanted to set them up so that you would be prepared for Subbiah in the second film and I lost that, but I didn’t fight that battle too hard, because it kept my war hones alone. There will banths in the second one. There’s already a design that we were almost ready to pull the trigger in and made articulated models that we can animate with them, so I already know what they are going to look like.
Finally, Burroughs wrote 11 John Carter books but because he didn’t quite plan on that, they didn’t all fit together perfectly. Knowles asked Stanton if he felt there was a way, because they were changing some of the elements, to make the entire series one cohesive story:
Edgar Rice Burroughs was really close. He was really close to making a solid through line and he just didn’t have the luxury or the time to do it and so I felt like “We have the luxury and time to do it.” Now we now have eleven books and we can kind of see the whole scope of it and we can go back and we can chiropractically adjust and shift things so that it does feel like one big grand master plan in design and so we decided to end it with the first three books and I think we’ve managed to do that, but to be honest there’s so much stuff. His stuff is so dense with stuff almost on a per chapter basis, at least in the first two books that there’s really more than I have to work with.
And that’s just the half of it. I urge you to head over to Ain’t It Cool for even more from Stanton about John Carter. And keep checking back here for more information on the film, which will be released March 9.