More fallout today from the Disney/Fox merger. Director Wes Ball (The Maze Runner) was all set up to make Mouse Guard his next big-screen project with Andy Serkis (Planet of the Apes franchise) and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Game of Thrones) on board to lead the cast. The motion-capture / performance-capture animated adaptation of writer-illustrator David Petersen‘s comics was set to start production early this May with Fox set up to distribute. Everything was in place. But then the Disney/Fox merger went through and Mouse Guard got the ax.
THR reports that Disney has shut down its newly acquired / former Fox property, but will allow producers, including Matt Reeves, Ross Ritchie, and Stephen Christy, to shop the project elsewhere. (How kind of them.) It remains to be see if the cast, which also included Idris Elba and Samson Kayo, with Jack Whitehall circling a role, and VFX shop WETA will still be involved in the production, if and when it gets off the ground. Since the project is good to go as is, other studios are apparently interested, including Netflix, where Reeves has a production deal and where Serkis had his Mowgli movie set up, and Paramount, where Wyck Godfrey (The Maze Runner movies) is the current president of motion pictures. For my money, Mouse Guard would be an awesome property for LAIKA Studios, the stop-motion animation studio which recently launched the original feature, Missing Link. This “Game of Thrones with mice” property could be a standout acquisition for LAIKA and a perfect fit for their animation style, while offering something they’ve not yet been able to enjoy: A franchise.
But why the cancellation in the first place? Reports vary. Some say that the Mouse Guard‘s motion-captured performance production was too close to Disney’s own productions like The Lion King and The Jungle Book, but what’s less clear is why exactly that would be a problem. It’s likely more about dollars and cents. Apparently Mouse Guard was budgeted at around $170 million, a pricey pic for an unproven commodity and something Disney doesn’t want its new acquisition messing around with. (That number sounds rather inflated to us, but that’s the figure reported by THR at the moment.) Instead, the focus is on lower-cost family movies and both PG-13 and R-rated fare. The report goes on to suggest that the only big-budget properties the Fox division will be tackling are in the Avatar brand for now, surefire billion-dollar earners. It really just came down to a business decision. Here’s hoping Mouse Guard finds a home and does bang-up business somewhere else for someone else who’s willing to take that chance.
For more on Mouse Guard, be sure to get caught up with the links below, and stay tuned for more as it develops:
- ‘Mouse Guard’: Andy Serkis & Thomas Brodie-Sangster to Lead the Mocapped Cast
- Wes Ball Discusses His ‘Mouse Guard’ Adaptation, Says It Will Probably Be His Next Movie
- ‘Mouse Guard’ Film Adaptation in the Works from Matt Reeves and Gary Whitta