Back to IndieWire

‘Mouse Guard’ Director Pulls a ‘Deadpool’ and Releases Demo Footage From His Canceled Fox Movie

Wes Ball has posted a nearly 10-minute demo reel showing his vision for the now-canceled animated feature.

“Mouse Guard”

Wes Ball / YouTube

One recent casualty of the Disney and Fox merger: director Wes Ball’s ambitious animated feature “Mouse Guard,” based on David Petersen’s Eisner-winning comic series. While Ball has been vocal about his desire to keep the film, described as “‘Game of Thrones’ with mice,” alive after Disney canceled the film’s production back in April, he took to Twitter last night to share that the film is officially dead.

Ball wrote of the cancellation, “Seems it’s too big a risk. It’s a damn shame really. We had something special. To my hella talented cast/crew: I’m sorry I couldn’t push this one through. The past year with you all has been a blast. May the Guard prevail!” Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster had all been attached to the film at the time of its April cancellation.

And yet Ball declined to only offer bad news, instead using the sad turn of events as a chance to share a variety of pre-production assets with “Mouse Guard” fans, including concept art from artist Derek Zabrocki (via Entertainment Weekly) and even an awe-inspiring demo reel showing off his vision for the film.

The “Maze Runner” filmmaker tweeted, “If you really want a sense of what movie might have been… Watch this early test we made with Unreal. Basically it’s previz inside a game engine — before WETA got their hands on it. It was fun inventing new ways to make these kinds of movies.” Ball shared a nearly ten-minute demo reel of his original vision for the film.

In an introduction to the reel, Ball explained that it represents “very good looking previz, with environments capable of streaming live to stage during motion capture with our actors.” The reel shows off a number of key “Mouse Guard” locations and environments, characters, and even some combat sequences.

“While the visual quality is impressive, it’s important to note this is only meant to illustrate how the movie will ‘feel’ not how it will ‘look,’” Ball added. “Everything will ultimately be sent to WETA Digital to be recreated with cutting-age photorealistic CG.”

It’s not the first time footage of a cancelled project has reinvigorated a fanbase. It’s not even the first time footage of a cancelled project has reinvigorated a fanbase for a Fox project. Ball might be convinced his project is dead, but there is a a precedent for such a bold move to work out in a film’s favor. (As EW reported previously, the rights to the project have reverted back to producers, and Ball’s pronouncement of it being “dead” likely means that no other takers have emerged over the past few weeks.)

In August 2014, test footage from Tim Miller’s “Deadpool” feature film “leaked” online, further exciting fans of the superhero who had long wanted a feature film version of his decidedly R-rated escapades. While Miller and star Ryan Reynolds had long championed the film and promised to deliver, poor ratings for Reynolds’ other superhero outing, “Green Lantern,” had reportedly made Fox brass nervous about “Deadpool.”

The test footage gag worked like a charm, enthusing moviegoers and convincing Fox that “Deadpool” could be a hit for them. Months later, the film was shooting, and it did become a hit for the studio, eventually spawning its own successful sequel.

While Miller and Reynolds have played coy about the source of the leak for years, Reynolds did joke during an appearance on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” that the creative team had bandied about the idea. “There’s four of us: me, [writers] Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and Tim Miller, the director,” Reynolds said. “We all said at the beginning that someone should leak it, so the idea was planted, but I’m 70 percent sure it wasn’t me.”

Check out the full demo reel for “Mouse Guard” below, plus more concept art and illustrations, care of Zabrocki’s Instagram account.

View this post on Instagram

Weekly Tip #8: FUNCTIONALITY AND BELIEVABILITY I went through a lot of important factors you have to take into consideration while creating successful concept artworks. Now it's time to take a look a little bit deeper, into something that elevates your concept to the next level and makes your artwork something more than just art. In the production pipeline, while working on new environment designs and new worlds it's not only about artistic brush strokes or beautiful colors/light. People tend to rely on it way too much (I used to do the same hehe) While I worked on the piece similar to the attached one I always plan ahead all the elements the location possibly could consist of. It was actually set extension to real life place so how do I make it fitting and functional to this specific project was all the design work behind that. What sort of props, functional elements(peer, lifting machines, bay for the boats, tree houses, watch towers, ladders etc) I could place and how to logically put them for the best believably depicted location. To support artistic and beautiful execution with something that actually matters to make the world iconic? What helps me the most is usually closing my eyes and imagining that place. If I were there. I immerse myself by doing that and it immediately brings more and more ideas to.make the design more interesting. The more I think, the more research I do, the more I am able to create a fully functional and believable environment design. I made loads (hundreds) of concepts for Mouse Guard film (sadly cancelled) directed by amazing dude Wes Ball. Based on epic comic book (@mouseguard) and it's one of the examples showing what I'm talking about here. Also that in depth and more knowledge I will share during my online course later this year (more info soon). This I also teach at our @focalpointschool Find these tips helpful? Please share it with your art friends! #art #artoftheday #artistoninstagram #2d #conceptart #conceptartist #cathedral #design #tutorial #artist #darekzabrocki #illustration #fantasyart #focalpointschool #painting #photoshop #scifiart #scifi #sciencefictionart #starwars #scifimovie #fox #mouseguard #wacom

A post shared by DAREK ZABROCKI (@darekzabrocki) on

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox