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Andrew Stanton Explains 'John Carter' Name Change, Says Girls Won't See A Movie With 'Mars' In The Title

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by Drew Taylor
December 5, 2011 7:01 PM
21 Comments
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Many fanboys and literary fanatics became ruffled when Disney (and director Andrew Stanton) changed the name of this spring's Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation "John Carter of Mars" to simply, "John Carter." Apparently Stanton was in London to screen 20 minutes of footage from the hotly anticipated film and during the presentation he explained to assorted journalists (including someone from Bleeding Cool) why it had undergone a surgical title snip. And, well, it's not exactly going to silence those that feel Pixar (which was unofficially involved in "John Carter") is a boys club.

"Here’s the real truth of it. I’d already changed it from 'A Princess Of Mars' to 'John Carter Of Mars.' I don’t like to get fixated on it, but I changed 'Princess Of Mars'… because not a single boy would go," Stanton told the journalists.

Keep in mind that Pixar, the studio where Stanton wrote and directed "Finding Nemo" and "WALL-E" (and where he serves as part of the secretive, highly influential Brain Trust), has been loudly criticized for its perceived lack of interest in telling stories with strong female characters (or really, any female characters at all). The studio came under fire again when they fired Brenda Chapman, who was set to be the studio's first female director (on next summer's "Brave"), severing her ties with a highly personal project (and, indeed, forcing her out of the studio, including her own position on the Brain Trust, completely). Disney is trying to claim that Pixar had very little to do with "John Carter" but from what we understand it was conceptualized and developed almost wholly at Pixar (and when selected journalists were invited to preview footage out of the editing bay earlier this year, well, they didn't go to Disney, they went to Pixar). Basically, if you called "John Carter" "Pixar's first live action film," you wouldn't exactly be wrong. 

This title change, and the reasoning behind it, especially put into the terms Stanton uses, sounds like the big money equivalent of "ewww girls are icky," but Stanton tries to put on a brave face. With a move from "Princess of Mars" to "John Carter of Mars," well, apparently that still sounded too manly for little girls who can't handle things associated with the red planet (or the Roman god of war) and presumably only want to play with dolls and wear pink bows in their hair.

"And then the other truth is, no girl would go to see [a movie called] 'John Carter Of Mars'. So I said, 'I don’t want to do anything out of fear, I hate doing things out of fear, but I can’t ignore that truth,'" Stanton explained at the London presentation. We wonder if he's referring to "Mars Needs Moms" too, since that was a costly animated flop for Disney earlier this year (one that effectively ended their relationship with Robert Zemeckis and his ImageMovers Digital company). 

While the move was clearly a nakedly commercial one, he also dug down and tried to explain it away thematically, "All the time we were making this big character story which just so happens to be in this big, spectacular new environment. But it’s not about the spectacle, it’s about the investment. I thought, I’ve really worked hard to make all of this an origin story. It’s about a guy becoming John Carter. So I’m not misrepresenting what this movie is, it’s 'John Carter.'" Right. 

If there are more films (and, given the amount of cash Disney has sunk into this sci-fi money pit, that's a pretty big IF), Stanton promises that "of Mars" will be part of the title. "Mars is going to stick on any other film in the series. But by then, it won’t have a stigma to it." Andrew Stanton - clearing Mars' good name! Well we can all get a good look at the Mars-less "John Carter" when it opens March 9th, 2012. Get your ass to Mars!

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21 Comments

  • LifeOnMars | December 7, 2011 12:03 PMReply

    Edgar Rice Burroughs was a boring hack. Who cares what they have to entitle this CG fest in order for teenaged boys, who have legendarily horrendous taste in everything (I know, I was one once) to fork over money to see it...

    On the other hand I am willing to allow for the possibility that it may the next sleeper hit for Disney a la Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.

  • Jonathan Greene | December 6, 2011 10:59 PMReply

    It's beyond that. Since Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote these stories in the 1910's, Mars has gone from mysteriously exotic to cheesy cliche thanks to all the cheap 1950's films that centered on Martian invasions. I cannot remember the last successful project that actually put Mars in it's title - Mission To Mars, The Martian Chronicles, Tobe Hooper's Invaders From Mars, Ghosts Of Mars, Mars Needs Moms; all disappointments or bombs. Total Recall may have been set on Mars, but they didn't put that in the title, avoiding the jinx. I think they are just going with the best marketing angle right now, for non-fans of the series. We'll see in the film how they handle the Mars/Barsoom angle.
    If it's a hit and there is a sequel, maybe they might go with Warlord Of Mars. But most likely it would be John Carter: Warlord.

  • Winston Blakely | December 6, 2011 10:21 PMReply

    I just hope the movie is good... regardless of the lack of " Mars" in the title.

  • Ron | December 6, 2011 3:47 PMReply

    bleh. This doesn't fill me with desire to see the film. If "not a single boy would go" to see "A Princess of Mars", how does one explain all the boys, including me, who read the book?

    Add the Rock Quarry locals, the steampunk aircraft, miscasting, (I'm sure Lynn Collins is a fine actress, but she's too old for the part. And Taylor Kitsch is too young.) and horribly corny dialog (in the trailer, which is supposed to highlight the best moments), and now Stanton getting defensive and showing insecurity, and it's become apparent that as long as Disney has owned the property, they still do not understand it, and Andrew Stanton is out of his depth. Despite the gargantuan budget, it has the look and feel of a "B" movie, and not in a good way.

    I predict that the flawed production will damage word-of-mouth, and the combination of that and uncertain marketing will cause the film to crater. It might make its budget back eventually on DVD, but forget seeing any of the other books on film.

    It's too bad, because the property had an automatic following, if only Disney had had the guts to run with it.

  • katherine | December 6, 2011 3:46 PMReply

    But how do you explain Bruno Mars, huh?

  • Nate | December 6, 2011 12:45 PMReply

    RE Chapman; she recently joined Twitter and still seems to be willfully associating herself with both Brave and Pixar. Maybe her exit was really not as bad-blooded as you make it out to be.

  • Joel | December 6, 2011 12:12 PMReply

    RE: Brenda Chapman... I have seen a lot of vague rumors about her exit. But you talk like you know more to the story... Where can I find info about this?

  • haddocs | December 6, 2011 8:32 AMReply

    Douglassirk, I agree 100%. Who cares if the marketing department changes the title if they don't interfere with the film itself? If this ends up being a good film, I sure hope that it makes as much money as possible. It'll be easier to make more good sci-fi adventure films if JC is a hit.

  • Theo C | December 6, 2011 2:00 AMReply

    Still think they need a more by the numbers trailer to convince people. I think it looks OK i'll be willing to give it a go but I'm in already. I thought A princess of Mars would've been a good title but honestly don't care, maybe just call it JC and have people assume it's a retelling of the life of christ. Also this explains what Kristen Bell has been doing wrong, she should have gotten people to sign a petition to make a 'Veronica' movie.

  • douglassirk | December 6, 2011 1:47 AMReply

    you people need to get a grip. he's making an awesome movie that also happens to be incredibly expensive. if the marketing team crunched the numbers and they wanna call it "big mac" then let them, as long as they don't get near the film. they're the ones giving an artist with a great track record the equivalent of a small country's GDP to make a 90 min piece of entertainment, you should consider yourselves lucky guys like him and brad bird get to direct movies at all.

  • jimmiescoffee | December 5, 2011 11:36 PMReply

    i like the old title. and hate the new trailer.

  • buntyhoven | December 5, 2011 11:19 PMReply

    If you're going to change the name, why not go all the way? John Carter is just completely boring; some ordinary man-name. Might as well call it Peter Henderson. It's totally uninspiring. John Carter of Mars sounds alright. But if you don't call it that, give it another name. Space Man Against Martians or some shit.

  • Mike S. | December 5, 2011 10:29 PMReply

    There's nothing of interest here - this is just one hundred percent a focus group tested decision that Disney has made to protects its interests. Does it reduce things to perhaps antiquated gender categories? Well, yes, but welcome back to the world where a multi-billion dollar corporation isn't willing to forego an extra hundred million dollars for the sake of flattering your progressive framework. The reality, one that has no doubt been polled and focus grouped to death, is that less girls probably would see a movie called John Carter of Mars (and boys would probably avoid a movie with Princess in the title). Maybe not all of them, maybe not even enough to severely limit the box office, but enough to scare Disney into simplifying the title. If that shocks you and you want to take umbrage with it, fine, but the fact that you're passing this off as news is laughable, and what can so often make you guys read like wide-eyed teenage boys. Can you please follow this up with an article about how shocked you are that Sony wouldn't cast Donald Glover as Spiderman? Then can we all go back to being adults and acknowledging that - as terribly shocking as this is - a corporation might rely on sexist and racist policies and precepts to protect its bottom line?

  • StephenM | December 5, 2011 9:58 PMReply

    Oh, come on. It's a commercial movie, they decided to go with what they thought was the more marketable name, the old name was better, he's just doing press so he can't admit it. What's the big controversy here? I've never heard any girl complaining about Pixar movies not being girly enough, they've got Brave coming out next year, if that's a success they'll probably follow more of that template. There might be something to be vaguely irritated at here, but I see no reason for outrage.

  • Robert | December 5, 2011 9:47 PMReply

    Might I add that I have no interest in seeing this movie whether the word "mars" or "princess" is in the title.

  • ME!! | December 6, 2011 3:11 PM

    Well then why are you here?

  • Robert | December 5, 2011 9:42 PMReply

    I was 7 when 'Princess Bride' came out and I kicked a fit when my parents took me to see it. Of course I ended up loving it.

  • Kate | December 5, 2011 9:40 PMReply

    What an asshole. Seriously, he sounds like a huge asshole. He can keep the title whatever he wants, I doubt many people will have interest in it either way. I like Sci-Fi movies...and Mars for that matter...so up yours buddy!

  • padre | December 5, 2011 8:07 PMReply

    Wow, Stanton is a complete douchebag, as are apparently the other dick swingers at Pixar. I haven't been paying attention to Disney. Wasn't their animation studio set to be shut down after Tangled? Did that ever happen? They made the girl-friendly stuff: fairy tales, musicals, and cuteness. Are they dead now? So it's all penis-fixation world at Disney now with Marvel and Pixar and whatever remains of the animation studio? So who is going to tell the little girls of the world, "No more Disney movies catering to YOU!" Little girls have become Disney's undesirable demo. Wow.

  • Ken | December 12, 2011 6:37 PM

    Right, Steve, sure. We all know how "girlified" Disneyland is. There's fantasyland and... Well, fantasyland. Last time I checked, Disneyland focused mostly on the boys, and this is true of their films.

    Also, food for thought. If Pixar really isn't sexist, than how come John Lasseter removed rapunzel's name from her own film, even though it was her " journey."? I hate to say it, but Pixar is becoming the clubhouse bully who hases girls out of their premises because "everyone" girls are "yucky."
    Die, John carter, and all dick flicks like it.

  • Steve | December 6, 2011 3:37 PM

    Just want to jump in and say that little girls are definitely still a very large, highly targeted demographic for Disney. If you look at the giant expansion going on at the Magic Kingdom park in Florida, most of it is targeted towards little girls: more princess related attractions, an area for Tinkerbell and her pixie friends, etc. Do not think that just because the marketing for this movie may be towards boys, that Disney does not pay attention to little girls. And you might want to read more than one article before making such a far-reaching analysis.

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