May 11
THE MISADVENTURE OF JOHN CARTER by Alex J. Socorro  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Fri, May 11, 2012

The senior citizens of today grew up with Popeye, the sailor man, Looney Tunes and the Walt Disney cartoons headed by Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Dominated by Walt Disney, the cartoons were the secondary features when television was first marketed.

As a cartoonist, Walt Disney was ahead of his time. Aside from his love of cartoons, he was also gifted with a good business sense. Admittedly, creating a cartoon is much difficult than filming an ordinary movie.

Creating a cartoon movie required a lot of effort. Drawn by hand, the frames denote the actions, not only of the character but of the entire frame. One second of the movie involved 24 frames so the 5 minutes of cartoon would need a ton of paperwork.

Founded in 1923 by brothers Walt and Roy Disney, The Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio evolved to The Walt Disney Studio and later on to Walt Disney Productions, Ltd. The company earned fame thru its cartoons.

After the premiere in 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was released in 1938. The success of Snow White encouraged Walt Disney Studio to come out with Pinocchio to be followed later by Fantasia.

In the 1980s, Walt Disney Studio specialized in feature animation. Mostly musicals, they also employed the computer-aided animation techniques. It was marked by their release of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a movie which was partly animation.

The animated fairy tale series was started by The Little Mermaid in 1989. After 5 animation movies, the series was capped by The Lion King, touted to be the highest-grossing animated feature for an animated fairy tale in 1994.

In the year 2000, Walt Disney Feature Animation converted to CGI (computer-generated image) that did away with the traditional cartoon production. This resulted in a massive layoff of staff and disposal of traditional animation equipment.

In 2006, after years of being on the red (financial losses), Walt Disney purchased Pixar, the animation company behind the great success of Finding Nemo in 2003. It also spearheaded the successful Wall-E in 2008

Despite the newfound dominance in pure animation movies, Walt Disney still comes out with non-animation. Walt Disney’s non-animation movies are mostly musicals and with themes intended for children.


Walt Disney’s Mirror Mirror starring Julia Roberts

In 2011, Walt Disney released Prom, a non-animation for the younger generation and Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2 for the children. There was also the success of The Pirates of Carribean: On Stranger Tides.

Back in 2009, Walt Disney Studios started filming John Carter, a science fiction action movie created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan. The action movie is about the inter-galactic adventures of the hero named John Carter.

John Carter is the debut of writer/director Andrew Stanton who also handled the successful Finding Nemo of Pixar and Wall-E. But this time, it’s a straight film (not animation). Co-writing the screenplay were Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon.

The cast is headed by Taylor Kitsch as John Carter, Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris, Samantha Morton as Sola, Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas. Also in the cast are Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds and many others.

Adding figures to the budget, John Carter is a period film set in the 1800s. The hero is a gold prospector who accidentally meets a white Martian and eventually kills the alien. The alien’s device transports John Carter to Mars which they call planet Barsoom.

Being an earthman, John Carter’s physical strength is much superior than Martians. But despite having super power of sorts, he was captured and eventually got embroiled in the tribal wars in Barsoom.


The movie John Carter

Aside from the costumes and prosthetics, the filming of John Carter needed a good location that would fit the terrain of Mars. And the creatures also require careful and precise description to be credible enough.

In spite of the big budget and good promotional strategies, Walt Disney’s science fiction movie did not suit the taste buds of the moviegoers. Contrary to expectations, John Carter did not earn a good review from the critics.

John Carter received varied reviews from the critics. Rated 51% for positive versus negative, the science fiction movie was on even terms with the critics from the Americas and United Kingdom.

Shown in both 2D and 3D (Digital 3D and IMAX 3D) versions, John Carter showed box office strength abroad. However, it fared badly at the North American box office since it only grossed $184 million in the first 10 days of showing.

Media dubbed John Carter “the science-fiction megaflop.” Walt Disney Studios admitted the low revenue and even estimated that they may lose up to $200 million if the trend will not change for the better.

Win or lose, Walt Disney is bent on following up with a sequel. Hopefully, John Carter: The Gods of Mars will fare better next time. And to be sure, perhaps Walt Disney Studio should make it an animation movie.

Comments to this article can be sent to ajsocorro@yahoo.com