On Monday, we shared our thoughts on the 20-minute preview on the 20-minute preview we caught of John Carter, Disney’s forthcoming sci-fi fantasy based on the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. What we saw left us clamouring to see the finished movie, but we were similarly impressed at just how passionate and forthright its director Andrew Stanton was in the fifteen-minute question and answer session that followed.
Hosted by film critic James King, it was among the most entertaining Q&As we’ve ever had the fortune to sit through, with Stanton talking openly about the process of shooting John Carter, its 3D, what it’s like to make a movie in Hollywood, and most intriguingly, why Pixar’s method of making films should be more widely adopted…
The film’s out in March, and I understand you’re well into post-production now, so what have you got left to do?
I’ve got three or four weeks of visual effects left, and then half the movie’s scored, so I score the other half next week, and then it’s just mix, mix, mix all through December.
And then there’s the 3D element as well…
The 3D element will be in the can a couple of weeks after that, more or less.
Why did you shoot John Carter on film, and also, what can you tell us about the possibility of parts two and three? Will they be shot back to back?
I shot on film just because I thought it wasn’t going to be around for long, and I wanted to know what it was like. (Laughs)
As a film fan, I’d have hated to have finally gotten the chance to do something with a physical camera, and have no knowledge of what it was like for my heroes to use film. And there’s a look to it, still, that they’re slowly getting closer and closer to matching with digital – some of my favourite directors of photography are slowly being converted, and I’m sure I’ll be right there with them if I’m ever given another chance, but I just wanted to know what that felt like. It was the nostalgist in me that wanted to do that, and I have no regrets. It was fun.
We bought the rights to the first three books when we first started. I said to them, “Look, I’m usually the guy at Pixar who’s most reluctant to do the sequel”. The irony’s not lost on me that, here I am saying we should plan for more, because all eleven books were written by the 60s. They were all written before I was born. I was introduced to them as a series, and so I wanted to launch them properly. My fan wish is that we’ll go to all those stories and make more.
Whether I do them or not, I thought, let’s set it off right, from the off. Because you never get time back. The worse case scenario is that you’ll plan for more but only make one. But what I’d hate is that you’d plan for one with no preparation for the others, because it’ll show. It’ll really bite you in the back end. So I never expected anyone to say we’d definitely do more than one, because it’s a huge risk for them. I didn’t expect them to be.
It’s a huge chunk of change to make something this big. So it made complete sense to me, from their side of the fence, to wait until the movie’s out. But that two to three years of planning, I’ll never get back. So the worst case is that it was a writing exercise for me, to just plan the others and never do them. I’ll never have any regrets, even planning three all along.
Is it post-production 3D or shot in 3D?
It’s post-production 3D.
The reason is, I had the same question on Wall-E about whether I’d like to film in 3D, or consider a 3D version, and I said, “It’s so hard for me to make a film, that’s like saying, ‘can we throw one more chainsaw in the air while you juggle?’ I’m worried it’ll hurt the content itself.” And they do such a good job, when it’s produced right and supervised right, the post-3D that I’ve seen, that I wasn’t too worried as long as we had the right people. That always tend to be it – people always like to point the finger at technology, but it’s who you have, and we have some great people who we could use to supervise the post 3D.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of 3D. I don’t go to see 3D stuff myself, but I’m not against it – I just thought, somebody else that cares to be in charge of this. So we’ve a great guy who cares at Pixar, and he’s overseen all our other films.
Pixar is well known as being quite different, creatively, from the rest of the industry.
Yes. A free range chicken, I like to call it. (Laughs)
Was it difficult for you to adjust to making a film within the Hollywood industry?
Hell yeah. Yeah. It’s very dysfunctional out there. I knew it would be, I knew it wouldn’t be as nice as Pixar, but it was much worse than I was expecting. (Laughs) But good people are good people, and the one thing I’ve learned is that, if you’re passionate and they love your idea, and they see you fighting as hard or harder than they are, everyone rises to the occasion. And I think that’s more of a human experience that I’ve learned.
I couldn’t correct the whole screwed up process of live-action movie making, but that’s certainly on my agenda someday. But by hook or by crook, I managed to get on screen what I wanted to see. So I looked and I learned a tonne on the way.
I use the analogy, it’s basically deciding you’re going to get on a sailing boat and go across the ocean. There’s nothing easy about that, and you know there’s going to be some gorgeous days of rainbows and dolphins, and you know there’s going to be some shitty days – monsoons and waves. That’s what you’re signing up for. You’re signing up for an experience and an adventure you just won’t get any other way.
So I went in with that mentality, and it got me through the hard days, and it made me thrilled on the good days.
- c/o Den of Geek