With the second of this year's live-action "Snow White" adaptations nearing release (Universal's dark, fantasy-driven commercial for milk-bathing "Snow White and the Huntsman" will follow Relativity's candy-colored, slapstick-laden "Mirror, Mirror" on June 1st), it appears that Disney, the home of the beloved, animated "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" adaptation, isn't going to move forward with their Asia-set, kung-fu samurai take "The Order of the Seven." Even though the Mouse House has been working on the project for more than ten years, the move isn't exactly a surprise, becoming collateral damage in the wake of the $200 million flop that was "John Carter."
Like director Andrew Stanton's adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough's pulp hero, "The Order of the Seven" has suffered through years of development, starting out as a kung-fu-tinged take written by Michael Chabon ("The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay") before undergoing various shifts under the supervision of screenwriters like Michael Arndt ("Toy Story 3") and directors like Francis Lawrence and fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping, all of whom were associated with the project at one point.
The project seemed to have settled earlier this year, with Saoirse Ronan ("Hanna") attached to star, and commercial director and visual effects supervisor Michael Gracey set to helm. "Iron Man" writers Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby were just recently hired to polish the script, one that had most of its fairytale beginnings stripped away in lieu of a story set in 19th century Hong Kong, where British expat Olivia Sinclair (Ronan) seeks the protection of an ancient group of warriors from an evil empress. Production was set for the fall and was to include a variety of international actors to help Disney boost the worldwide appeal of the project. Apparently, that wasn't enough, as THR reports that all development has been stopped on the project.
It would be easy to point to an already crowded marketplace filled with "Snow White" movies as the cause, but with pre-production already begun, it seems the issue was (as usual) money. Disney has been reportedly keeping an eye on its big-budget tentpoles, as evidenced by their sudden work stoppage on director Gore Verbinski's "The Lone Ranger" starring Johnny Depp late last year. With a first-time director handling a ballooning, undisclosed budget (Deadline reports it be around $150 million or higher), Disney didn't feel comfortable spending too much on "The Order of the Seven," which had been developed under former studio head Rich Ross, who resigned earlier this year following the box office failure of, you guessed it, "John Carter."
Ross also developed "The Lone Ranger" and it remains to be seen whether "The Order of the Seven" will share the same fate and eventually get back into production. Considering their decade-long investment, it seem plausible that Disney might eventually try to get some return, though the success of "The Avengers" may make it easier for Disney to feel like they can retire from the live-action "Snow White" business. At this point, it's easier for them to write off $10 million-plus of development than risk losing another couple of hundred mil on another "John Carter"-style disaster.