Posted on Monday, March 14th, 2011 by Russ Fischer
Talk about awkward. The last headline below this one is an endorsement of mocap filmmaking from Steven Spielberg. But the major industry talk today that wasn’t centered on SXSW was all about how the mocap film Mars Needs Moms absolutely tanked in its debut weekend. There is some significant fallout from that failure: Disney has passed on the mocap remake of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, which Robert Zemeckis had planned to make this year.
THR makes it sound like the low first weekend returns for Mars Needs Moms ($6.9m against over $150m — this one is a fiasco) were just the latest issue with the project, saying that there were budget problems and that a meeting scheduled between Robert Zemeckis and the various Beatles heirs had been rescheduled several times, then finally scrapped in December. So, bascially, “don’t call us, and we’re definitely not going to call you?” (Deadline explicitly says that ‘Disney insiders’ claim the film was dead before this weekend. Wonder if David Tennant was right when he said back in October that the film was off?)
Disney already walked away from ImageMovers Digital, the mocap company that counts Robert Zemeckis as a primary member, and his last mocap feature, A Christmas Carol, also fared poorly at the box office. Ironically, his mocap work has been getting better. I thought Carol was the best-looking one yet, at least at the time. Mars Needs Moms looked creepy as hell, like the animation accidentally tripped and fell right back into the uncanny valley. I’m not sure whether that did in the movie, or whether audiences just didn’t know the film existed, but the fallout is the same. Yellow Submarine, in the incarnation that was set to feature Cary Elwes (George Harrison), Dean Lennox Kelly (John Lennon), Peter Serafinowicz (Paul McCartney)and Adam Campbell (Ringo Starr), is dead.
Robert Zemeckis can shop Yellow Submarine to other companies, and if Tintin does well at the end of this year, it could help him get it set up somewhere else. Tintin has the benefit of not aiming for the same realistic look as the characters in the movies Mr. Zemeckis has made via mocap, but Yellow Submarine might not have gone for anything like photo-real characters, either.