Andrew Stanton Explains Why JOHN CARTER Dropped “of Mars” from Title; also Talks about Trying to Change Live-Action Filmmaking

     December 5, 2011

Did you know that marketing decisions can be condescending and sexist?  It’s true! (and those two qualities usually go hand-in-hand so you shouldn’t be surprised)  I’ve been puzzled as to why Disney changed the title of John Carter to John Carter of Mars.  To me, “of Mars” is the hook.  John Carter is “Some Guy” particular because of his generic name.  If his name was “Captain Billyboots Spaceship” then I can see dropping the “of Mars”.  So why did half the title disappear?

Director Andrew Stanton recently told BleedingCool that the title had already been changed from A Princess of Mars because it was a “truth” that boys wouldn’t go see it if they kept author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original title. But then, when they changed it to John Carter of Mars, Stanton believed it was also a “truth” that girls wouldn’t see it because apparently girls hate planets.  So the compromise was to make it John Carter and now no one will see it.  Hit the jump for more from Stanton and my thoughts on this idiotic decision.

john-carter-posterIt’s the word “truth” from Stanton that bothers me on this decision.  He says the title John Carter works because “It’s about a guy becoming John Carter. So I’m not misrepresenting what this movie is, it’s John Carter.”  Whoopity-doo.  It tells no one anything about the movie.  Also, his name is already “John Carter” when the story begins.  Guess where goes?  Again, “of Mars” is the hook, and it’s condescending to both boys and girls to change the title because some market research says you’ll alienate one gender.  Also, half of an audience is better than no audience at all.

Stanton also believes he can change the way movies are made, and apparently that way is making it like a Pixar movie.  But live-action doesn’t work that way, it’s a completely different system, and Stanton’s experiment has cost Disney a budget rumored to be $400 – $500 million.  Stanton tells BleedingCool he finds no embarrassment in asking for more reshoots.  He explains why he believes that’s the right way to go about it:

It’s like me saying to you, you can all go and write a piece about what we talked about today, but you only get to write it once. You don’t get to change a word once it’s set down. And that’s how movies are made, and it’s fucked up. It should be that you should somehow be able to balance economics and let the artist be an artist, and not be afraid of failure or trial and error.

Even if Stanton has managed to make a great movie out of this process, Disney may have no idea on how to sell it, which is why you have a bland title instead of one that tells people why they should see the movie.  Watch the new trailer and see if you’re more excited to see the flick:


  • Tarek

    “and now no one will see it.”

    lol. You killed me with this Matt. ^^
    I like your style! go go go! ^^

  • Blob

    There’s a long history of changing original titles to suit movie audiences, and whether you like his ‘truths’ or not, there’s a lot of evidence to support them. I wish the internet nerd movie people would be less myopic about what they think other people “would” like, especially when they’re so wrong most of the time.

    Look at the all the name-changes Philip Dick stories have undergone over the years; do you really prefer “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” over Blade Runner? Could you make an argument that people ‘should’ like the longer title?

  • Blob

    p.s. Matt not totally disagreeing with you. Since you like videogames so much, I’m surprised you didn’t bring up the most obvious example.

    Remember when Nintendo released the game The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princes? Despite being one of their most important franchises and for their popular Wii console, it became the least-selling Zelda game in its history. Whereas the harder, Skyward Sword, is on track to become its best-selling. Maybe he has a point?

  • Mike

    Normally I would be 100% on board with a film featuring Taylor Kitsch running around shirtless, but the trailer does nothing for me.

  • ipolos

    The movie will fail because:

    -The tile is the name of the main character who no one today is familiar with, and the actor is too generic to make a difference.
    -It looks like an avatar rip off with green aliens
    -Too much of a riddick feel with the whole desert thing going

    It’s just reallyyyy Meh, especially considering it cost that much $

    • maxheadroom1

      ‘It looks like an avatar rip off with green aliens’

      IT’S an Avatar rip off from A to Z. James Cameron should sue Disney… if it were not that he copied A princess of mars to make his movie.


      • Dean Kish

        It is not an AVATAR rip-off! How could it be? The book was written in 1917 and there is no virtual hookup. The guy is actually transported to the planet.

        If anything AVATAR was a Pocahontas rip-off mixed with Lawnmower Man mixed with John Carter.

        Give the movie a chance people!

      • SP1234

        Avatar was actually inspired by the original John Carter novels, so it’s not a rip-off. It was paying homage to this and Tarzan.

        And can somebody else besides Matt report new today cause I’m getting a headache from his sarcastic writing.

  • Nomis1700

    Why o why did Matt wrote this?!?!

    • News Hit

      Because Stanton talked to BleedingCool, and not Collider.

  • Jhan

    I don’t want to see it because Taylor Kitsch running around in He-Man’s costume does nothing for me. All I see are nipples.

  • ahmed

    Blah blah blah… They dropped the ‘Mars’ of ‘John Carter’ because Disney suits didn’t want this movie has any resemblance with the infamous flop ‘Mars need moms’.

    Anyway, this will be a piece of sh*t. You’ll see.

  • Jetpackman89

    Is it bad that the poster reminds me of “Endless Summer”?

  • Tarek

    It maybe flops, or maybe a big hit. We will see.

    Why didn’t they adapt instead “The Dragon Masters” by Jack Vance ?
    The story is by far more interesting.

  • Mike

    From what I have seen in the trailer, the movie just reeks of CGI excesses, the kind that swallowed the later Star Wars movies, Green Lantern, Prince of Persia, Alice in Wonderland, Tron… I see this thing bombing and bombing badly.

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  • Venusian

    Matt, I hope a White Ape eats you. Slowly. Maybe it would be cool if it dropped you part way through the process and stepped on you before picking you up to finish. I’ve been waiting for this movie since the first Star Wars came out. I said, ” great, now give us John Carter !” Have you questioned your need to piss on other people’s fun ? You should.

  • Alex-mansy

    They did market research studies and those are often very scientific.

    So your attention should be directed toward the real culprit, girls who don’t like planets. No doubt they’ve set back space exploration for humanity by decades too.

    • John


    • Hunter D.

      While marketing research is done in a scientific manner, it is limited by the framing of the questions asked and the presumptions embedded within these questions. Furthermore, you have to account for the fact that placing a camera or observational tool in these settings changes behavior. Group dynamics dictate that the average person will be inclined to agree with a previously successful method because it is accepted and thus minimizes the likelihood of alienation from the group.

      Basically, people in focus groups will say what they think the questioner *wants* them to say and can only answer questions that are asked.

  • Alex-mansy

    Just figured out Andrew Stanton is responsible for the very manly action packed films of Toy Story 2 and Wall-E.
    Here’s a title, “John Carter is gay”.

    • Dotar Sojat

      John Carter is your dad?

  • Dotar Sojat

    except that this was written in 1912.

  • Book-Brain

    I think Disney is actually doing a VERY bad job thus far of marketing it. So far there have been two trailers, but neither of them tell you ANYTHING about the actual story AT ALL. To anyone who doesn’t know what John Carter of Mars is (about 95% of the audience), they won’t know what the hell they’re seeing. I find that quite alarming.

    Also, another thing, why aren’t Disney utilising the prestige and history behind the character? We’re talking about an adaptation of a novel that is literally 100 years old. Every sci-fi and fantasy book and film in the last 100 years have all taken some sort of inspiration from John Carter of Mars. Why haven’t we seen anything in the trailers or poster about this being from the creator of Tarzan? Why isn’t Disney using ANY of that to their advantage?

    I think the film actually looks quite decent, but it appears that Disney has already lost faith in it. They know they’ve overspent wildly in the making of it, so they’re clearly trying to cut down on marketing costs and cut their losses.

    Also, I think Stanton is being very stubborn and blind.

    • Rob

      I’m tired of people going on about how this is from source material which is a hundred years old etc etc. Let’s be honest here. This is not an Edgar Rice Burroughs film, It’s an Andrew Stanton film, OK? and he has made MANY creative decisions which separate it from the book and make it into something very different. The Books may predate “Avatar” and “Star Wars” but this film does NOT, which is why people will continue to accuse it of being a rip-off.

      I personally think that the film will be able to stand on its own without being compared unfavorably to other films of this genre. We just need to wait till the film comes out. I think it will surprise a lot of people. Test audiences who have seen this film responded very positively.

  • Dotar Sojat

    except this was written in 1912…

  • IllusionOfLife

    I like your writing, Matt, but I don’t always agree with you and here’s one of those times. Yes, John Carter is a more bland and generic title than either of the others, just as Tangled was a dumb title compared to Rapunzel. However, that didn’t stop Tangled from being a good movie and it won’t stop John Carter from being a good movie.

    The world is sexist, and while those of us who care about movies as an art form might cringe at these comments from the marketing department, they have real historical examples to back them up. In the end, what does it really matter what the title is? If the movie is excellent (as I am confident it will be given who is at the helm) than it will be superfluous.

    As for Stanton’s process, can you argue with the results? Pixar has created some of the best films of the last 20 years, and they’ve done that by not being afraid to make last minute changes, always looking to improve things up to the very end, and the results have been stunning. In Stanton can bring even half of that magic to live action than more power to him.

    • fravit

      I don’t think he’s arguing that the movie will be bad necessarily. I think his argument is that the title change was a stupid idea, and that if you do actually have good film you can figure out better ways to market it than trying to pander to specific demographics.

      I feel like a lot of people who’ve left comments didn’t even read the article.

    • Hunter D.

      How is Tangled a dumbed down title?

      1: It is a play on words, Rapunzel is just a famous name.

      2: It implies a reinvention of the famous fairy tale, Rapunzel implies that it is more of the same. If you said they were making an animated children’s film called “Tangled” I would likely guess that it was about Rapunzel, but a deconstructionist take.

      3: It highlights the plot device of the hair in an specific and expanded manner.

      4: Tangled foregrounds the importance of the plot, Rapunzel says, “You know this story already.”

      Tangled is clearly the superior title as it plays on several levels, implies the famous narrative source indirectly and cues the audience to expect a new, more complex version of a story that otherwise would be unworthy of a feature length runtime.

  • Jesse

    I dont know if the movie will bomb, or not. We’ll see. I’m continually surprised by the movie going audiences. Before it was released, I wrongfully predicted that Cowboys & Aliens would dominate the box office. So, meh. Whatever.

    My problem with John Carter is (having never read the books)…sure, the title is kind of bland, but “of Mars” dredges up too many recent memories of “Mars Needs Moms” which was awful. Also, the preview reminds me of the Attack of the Clones, the aliens resemble the ones on the Geonosis planet. Most CGI is NOT realistic enough to carry an entire film. Half of it looks like a cartoon, like Green Lantern. Finally, Taylor Kitsch looks tiny in his He-Man outfit. Almost like they were making a Gladiator movie and the actor didnt bulk up enough.

  • PrettyGhoul

    I LOVE the trailer and can hardly wait for this film! I’m a huge fan of the original stories. I also love that Stanton is such a big fan of the books, the first of which was written 100 years ago, (as already stated above) and he has diligently kept the story as true to the originals as possible, while rounding out bits to make it work for film. I do wish the marketing mentioned ERB and that his work inspired all the stuff that the cluieless people keep saying John Carter is ripping off. A little research before posting uneducated comments seems to be a rare quality these days.

    All of the rip-offs have been made, now it’s time for the original to have its day!

  • Kenny B

    This is going to be a fun ass movie.

    An epic in the spring. Get excited, butt holes!

  • Wonkabar

    “But live-action doesn’t work that way, it’s a completely different system,” Matt Goldberg

    Really? That’s interesting. Forgive me but that kinda sounds like a statement of fact made by someone with years and years of filmmaking and animation experience who’s already seen Stanton’s finished work.

  • Scott

    this movie will hit the fan harder than Kong dropping one from the Empire State Building.

  • Scott

    This movie will hit the fan harder than what Kong would crap from the Empire State Building.

  • hey809

    doesnt matter if this was inspired by something created in 1917. what matters is how good is the movie and what it has to offer, and the trailer doesnt promise that much of anything new. truth is the trailer only offers fun visuals. visually doesnt offer something fresh and avatar already had a similar story. it doesnt matter if this is a movie inspired by a very old 1917 creation.

  • twocents

    Well, Disney has been cutting hours for their employees even more than usual lately and literally breaking union contracts by overworking their employees over less hours; maybe it’s because they need to makeup a $500 million loss?

  • Matthew

    He clearly states that this is to be an origin story, thus reserving the ‘of Mars’ suffix for a sequel. This doesn’t sound like an integrity problem at all to me.

  • Christian

    First of all I find it hilarious that people are upset by Matt’s writing. If you don’t like it GTFO the site. You aren’t forced to read his articles.

    I actually agree with what he says, but the biggest problem is that no one knows about this film. The name is important but what is most important is that people know that the movie exists. So Disney please place trailers before major titles in theatres soon or else you will make absolutely no money off of this.

    Also, Blob brought up a good point with Blade Runner… but not really at the same time. Blade Runner sounds fucken amazing, and it actually describes the film as an action movie. John Carter can be a damn movie about the greatest pastry chef in Yemen for all I know.

    • John

      The thing is it’s an article, not a review. If people come on this site and see the headline and want to know what the article is about, they’ll read it. They want to know the information that is in the article. Matt’s cynical comments make the article opinionated when they shouldn’t be as good journalism is not suppose to be. If it was a review, then yeah Matt can go on and on about it. As an article he should report the article. See everyone else that writes on this site. They are very less opinionated. I think the reason why I don’t like Matt’s writing is that he always comes off as very cynical.

  • Chode

    Can i correct you by reminding you that Edgar Rice Burroughs original title WAS NOT A Princess of Mars, look up the real title.

  • Derek

    In the end all that mattered was putting out a great trailer that put down all misconception. which, to me, they didn’t accomplish. A great trailer doesn’t make a great movie, but it will sure put me in a seat with conviction and anticipation (with at least decent reviews).

    I wanted to be excited about this, but disney has really dropped the ball in the marketing department as of late! This releases only a couple of weeks before The Hunger Games(another scifi book adaptation), and where the buzz for that is pretty huge after a great trailer, JCM if anything has lost positive buzz. I am tired of seeing big budget disasters, so lets hope trailer 2 shows us the promise we all really want for this.

  • snickle

    I don’t understand why people are so desperate to hate on this movie. True, the marketing has been disappointing, but if we can’t trust Andrew Stanton to deliver something worthwhile and awesome with a budget of over 400 million, who can we trust? From all the “generic action cgi crap” accusations thrown around you would think this was directed by Michael Bay.

  • Chode

    I’m sorry but reviews and a good trailer are not neccessary for a good movie, and only so important as of recently. I don’t need to judgement of others to create a perception of the film; moreover, I don’t need an exciting trailer to make me want to watch a film. Stop with all this banter and be excited for a movie from a decent director about an amazing tale from olden times. If we go to the megaplex trying to be a backpack reviewer no one could ENJOY A FILM!

    • Derek

      I said “A great trailer doesn’t make a great movie”!! The thing is for most of us money is tight, and I for one can’t afford to see every movie that comes out! My point was that they haven’t convinced me to see this rather than save my money for other films that already have me excited through better marketing at this point. I rely on reviews, because good movies aren’t always marketed very well. I don’t take them as gospel or anything, but all of these things put together give me a much better sense of where my money is best spent!

      Also… Good directers make bad adaptations all the time. That will never be enough to sell me on a film.

    • Jordan N.

      People that complain about reviews and chastise others to see a movie and decide for themselves a) don’t know how to read and absorb a review and b) don’t understand the point to criticism in the first place.

  • Jordan N.

    Have to agree, dropping the “of Mars” eliminates a lot of the mystique and mystery around the movie. Not sure why A Princess of Mars wouldn’t attract both boys and girls, though, since girls like princesses and boys like sci fi (since we’re talking in total generalizations here). Seems like a win-win title to me. After all, wasn’t it a bunch of young boys that bought the original story, even with the princess in the title?

  • William

    Boys won’t go see a movie titled “A Princess,” that may be true. But “A Princess of Mars?” Holy shit! That Mars part is the hook! Meanwhile, I’ve been telling all my friends about the John Carter movie. Really hope it does well at the box office. Even if it sucks, it’ll be the first ever John Carter movie to grace the silver screen.

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