John Carter of Mars, or what could have been for animation

Someone passed along the above video and with a bit of research was able to track down some interesting details.

Now it’s interesting for several reasons, but first any fan of sci-fi related projects or animation projects would like to know that in 1930 animator Bob Clampett approached Edgar Rice Burroughs (author of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars) about working with Warner Brothers Studios on a feature adaptation of the John Carter series.

Could you imagine the possibilities for both the sci-fi genre and animation as well if this had been completed? It’s a similar hypothetical when it was discovered that director Orson Welles was working on a potential Batman project that eventually got shelved.

Here, the animation is similar in vein to the Fleischer-era Superman cartoons. “Sadly, problems with the studio prevented the animated film from ever seeing the light of a Terran day,” writes John DeNardo on AMC’s SciFi Scanner. “Burroughs and Clampett wanted to make a serious since fiction adventure while the studios (in typical studio fashion that foreshadowed decades of missteps) wanted to make a sci-fi slapstick comedy.”

The good news is that Pixar Studios has in development some sort of John Carter of Mars project, which has fallen through the Hollywood studios. It has long been in development hell, with directors such as Robert Rodriquez, John Favreau (who dropped it to do Iron Man), and Kerry Conran (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow) previously attached.

Update: I should have done my homework instead of relying on my sketchy memory.? Yup, the Orson Welles Batman project was indeed a hoax.? Many thanks to all of you for pointing this out, keeping me on my toes and fact checking for me.? Much obliged!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Pete A Griffith May 7, 2008, 11:48 am

    Well James I would rather not see a pale imitation of JCWoM than a Disney-fied version of it ala the Little Mermaid and all the other stories they changed the look and feel of over the years. You can’t comprismise on a story and then expect to see the book you have love for years to be a film you recognize. Once they start cutting parts or chaning the look of the characters then the entire theme is compromised. Look at all the bad movies they made from Comics that failed and then look at the new IronMan where Marvel stood their ground and said no we are doing it the right way.

  • Bob Statzer April 18, 2008, 6:20 am

    Just a couple of quick corrections: According to the late Bob Clampett, himself, he approached Burroughs in 1934 or ’35 about this, not 1930. And Warner Bros. were not involved, even though Clampett was working for the studio at the time. Clampett wanted to become an animation director and didn’t feel WB was ever going to give him the chance. His hope was that the John Carter cartoon would be his ticket to a better career, and it was MGM that took an option on the Clampett/Burroughs project. (That video is taken from the Image DVD release of Bob Clampett’s BEANY & CECIL, which is packed with rare extras, including more artwork and notes on the John Carter cartoon. Try to track down a copy, if you can.)

  • James April 17, 2008, 2:28 pm

    Peter I do worry that a Pixar and by extension Disney wouldn’t give the movie it’s true justice, not like some of the other directors mentioned.

    I just worry Pixar won’t go for it, but then if they made this friendly for kids and adults (re: The Incredible) I’d be okay with that since there isn’t enough awesome sci fi for kids these days. Stuff to get them excited about the genre and movies and adventures, etc.

  • Pete A Griffith April 17, 2008, 7:30 am

    But will Pixar keep it authintic to the books. Remember that the books had the characters in harnesses for the men and the women were topless most of the time. How is Pixar going to do that with compromising the look and feel of all of Frazetta’s artwork that has inspired so many to pickup the books all those years.

  • Captain CPA April 16, 2008, 8:28 am

    FYI, the Orson Welles/Batman project was an April Fools Day joke from the Ain’t It Cool website a few years ago.

  • James April 15, 2008, 4:19 pm

    Thanks man. I had no idea. I just remembered reading about it and thought of it when I came across this video. Makes me wonder now if this video is a hoax of some sorts…

  • SCassidy April 15, 2008, 11:25 am

    The Orson Welles-Batman film is a hoax that was thought up by the comic book writer Mark Millar. Just FYI.

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