Andrew Stanton Talks John Carter
There are a lot of multi-limb creatures on Mars. There’s a ten-legged pet, called a Calot, that’s sort of like a bulldog lizard. There’s the eight-legged Thoats and the four-armed White Apes, which are a big set piece of the movie, so getting the physiology right on the Tharks helped us find the smart physiology for all the other multi-limbed characters. Hopefully, as you’re watching the film you’ll never even think about it. You’ll just accept it like you would any new species that you might find somewhere else in the world.
AWN: How did you design the airships to reflect the period you were creating?
AS: The airships relate to our world in the tall ships era. Therefore, in thinking of the materials that they would have been made of to be equivalent to that period of history, we used old porcelain and wood materials, nothing manufactured. There’s no electricity on Mars, but there is an element called Radium, which is this very rare resource that they can use to sort of ignite energy, like a car battery would. As a result, everything in these ships is run by manual power.
The fun of it was to come up with the routines of how these ships are actually manned and flown and navigated. We created a whole language for it and a plan of how everybody works together as a crew just to give it that much more authenticity.
AWN: There are two warring cities on Mars and John Carter gets drawn into their conflict. Can you describe the two cities, Helium and Zodanga?
The red men, Heliumites and Zodangans, are a warring species who have a culture of tattoos that are red-based, depicting their station and rank. The two warring cities have been fighting for centuries. Heliumites, who display a blue flag, take a long-term view that they’ve got to do something to bring their planet back or it will die. The Zodangans, under a red flag, have taken the attitude that it’s every man for himself. Their city is always moving; it’s sort of like a moving refinery that just goes to different locations and drills for Radium, which is a resource that is getting depleted. The city picks a spot, hunkers down, takes what it wants and then moves on.
In a sense, Zodanga is a city of haves and have-nots. You’ve got the majority of poor citizens who live wherever they can within the superstructure, just trying to make do, and then you’ve got the few elite, who reside up in the Palace; whereas the city of Helium is the opposite of Zodanga: it’s much more invested in the well-being of its citizens. Helium is described very well in the books because it plays a recurring role throughout the series. It’s the city where Dejah Thoris comes from, as well as her father Tardos Mors and another major character named Kantos Kan. Helium is a very grounded place, constructed of stone, very solid with high towers. There are two sections actually, Greater Helium and Lesser Helium, linked by a bridge. The Palace of Light is its centerpiece at the base of the city’s highest tower.
AWN: Who were the main people that helped you make this film?
AS: I’ll start with my comfort zone - the producers that I started this journey with. First it was Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins, who were both producers on WALL-E and then we brought on board Colin Wilson, who has extensive experience in producing live-action movies as well as big effects movies. He was the perfect complement to the other strengths that Jim and Lindsey brought to the table. Lindsey comes from the world of computer animation, so we felt, and she felt, that it was better if she ran all the animated stuff that was in nearly 50% of the movie and consumed all of our focus for the last year and a half of production.