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!