Andrew Stanton Talks John Carter
Then there’s Mark Andrews. This whole project started from a conversation between Mark and me while working at Pixar. We discovered that we both had been childhood fans of this project. We even still had our childhood drawings of John Carter to prove that we had loved these worlds since we were kids. Very soon after, we brought on Michael Chabon to help complement our writing (who also had childhood drawings). And that was the base of our little team.
Next was Nathan Crowley, the production designer, whom we brought on early in the process. It was really interesting because he and I sort of came together right at the height of all the awards season that was going on for WALL-E and Dark Knight and it was exciting to be working with each other, based on the hype of everything that was going on with our latest films.
That choice turned out to be a real godsend because Nathan Crowley doesn’t come from the world of fantasy. He’d never done a fantasy project, but he’d always wanted to. So he brings a real fresh eye and original perspective to rethinking architecture and just designing the functionality of a world that is so different from ours.
Soon after that we got our cinematographer, Daniel Mindell, who is quite eclectic. It’s a little hard to pin down exactly what look and style he has. He’s done a range of films, from Enemy of the State all the way up through Star Trek. He came highly recommended from people in the effects world who had worked with him because he really understood that the principal photography part of production isn’t always the be all-end all of a large scale special effects film like John Carter.
Then there’s Peter Chiang, who runs Double Negative, which is a big effects house in London. We had to figure out who was going to do all the computer-animated characters for the film so we met with him and his team. Their group really reminded me of how Pixar felt in its early days, so it was good match.
AWN: How did you and co-writer Mark Andrews get together?
AS: Before the film was even green-lit, I found out that Mark Andrews was a fellow lover of the books at Pixar. Mark was the head of story on Ratatouille and The Incredibles. We were considering him as another potential director at the studio, and he asked me, just as a favor, to be his test case for hearing some of his ideas he might like to direct. In the middle of hearing them over lunch, I said, “That one’s sort of like John Carter.” He stopped everything and said, “You know John Carter?” And I said, “Yeah, I grew up with the books, loved the books, loved the Marvel comic books in the ’70s.” Neither of us had ever met anybody else at Pixar who knew those books, so we were geeking out. And then it turns out we both knew, from a fanboy standpoint, what was going on and what historically had gone on with the books being developed as a movie.
We made this weird little pinkie swear, thinking nothing would ever come of it, and said, “If ‘John Carter’ ever falls in your lap or my lap, we’ve got to work on this together.” That was back in 2005 and then, lo and behold, ’06 comes around and another studio’s then current movie deal with the Burroughs estate falls through and suddenly the rights to the stories fall in my lap. I turned to Mark right away and said, “You and I are writing this together.”
Dan Sarto is publisher of AnimationWorld Network.