Friday, March 01, 2013


By Michael D. Sellers
Universal Media
348 pages

Every now and then I’ll read a book and then find myself debating whether to review it here and share my thoughts with all of you.  I do my best to keep these reviews dedicated to pulp “fiction” but regular followers know I have dealt with non-fiction titles in the past; especially those I felt had a strong connection to pulp literature.  That this book is all about the movie version of “A Princess of Mars,” by the greatest pulp writer of them all, Edgar Rice Burroughs, qualifies it above and beyond my parameters for this review column.

No, the reason I was having doubts about reviewing this book are my own personal feelings of animosity towards many of the people who were a part of one of the most disastrous Hollywood marketing fiascos of all time.  It is book that details catastrophic incompetence among so many high ranking Disney executives one is left marveling how such a great movie as “John Carter,” ever got made in the first place.  It also turns the spotlight on the heroes of this epic calamity; the few with the courage of their convictions and the daring audacity to see it finished.  All this despite the selfish individuals determined to see them fail to the point of spreading lies to their cronies; unscrupulous movie critics eager for any scrap of negativity to enhance their own lackluster careers.

Let me give you an analogy that sets the stage for the drama in Seller’s cautionary tale.  Imagine having bought tickets to a baseball game that you’ve been eager to see for a long, long time.  Then prior to the game, the officials announce that your beloved team has lost…but they are still going to go ahead with the contest anyway.  Impossible, you say?  That could never happen; the game hasn’t even been played yet.  That’s impossible, you cry.  Then comes the day of the game and sure enough, no matter how brilliantly your team performed on the field, the umpires would consistently rule in favor of the other side as the outcome was pre-determined and they were only playing their part.

Now replace our favorite team with a movie based on one of the most cherished fantasy adventures of all time.  The players on your team are director Andrew Staton and his cast and crew; all set to deliver an amazing, inspired film version that will soar way beyond your wildest imagination.  The officials are the Disney studio heads who, rather than going out of their way to DO THEIR JOBS and promote the movie, do the exact opposite and through a series of unbelievable guffaws, fail in every single aspect and allow the word to get out to the media that the movie is a flop….before it is even released.

The umpires who played along are the cowardly critics who, rather than judge the actual film on its merits, preferred to follow along like the sheep they are and add their own unsubstantiated vitriol.  By the end, “John Carter,” was convicted of a crime it never committed and sentences to wear a badge of shame totally unmerited.  Or so these malicious executives hoped.  

One of my favorite chapters in the book comes towards the end, “What Would Walt Disney Think?”  Sellers wonders just how far the Disney Corporation has strayed from the goals and dreams of its founders, Walt and Roy Disney.  In looking at how the company is now run by slick business types who have no clue how to dream, it is a sad indictment on not only Disney but all of Hollywood.

And then there is the finale wherein the author, having clearly demonstrated that the men and women behind this sabotage of a wonderful movie, excused themselves of any wrong doing by claiming they were motivated solely in creating profit for their company.  That being the case, he then in wonderful movie accounting practice, shows how producing sequels would clearly add coins to the coffers in an almost risk-free scenario.  In other words, NOT doing more John Carter movies is illogical and should be pursued adamantly if these executives truly want to make money.

I saw “John Carter,” twice in the theater, bought the Blu-ray the day it was released and have watched it a dozen times since.  Each time I watch it I see new things in it that make me laugh and cry. It is a great movie, filled with wonder, adventure and romance!  Because of that, “John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood,” is the most frightening horror book I’ve ever read. That there exist people in this world who make a living destroying the dreams of others, whether intentional or not, is both scary and despicable.  But don’t take my word for it, read the book and then add your voice to the thousands across the globe demanding sequels.  In the end, we will not be denied!


Unknown said...

I can't read this book. It will just make me angry- because "John Carter" is such a fantastic movie.

Ron Fortier said...

I know exactly what you mean, C.E. but I hope you'll add your voice to all of ours by joining the "Back to Barsoom" FB page...and thanks.

Jay said...

The argument you seem to be making is that Disney green lit the project and then actively tried to destroy. Never mind the fact that the Mouse gave a director with no live-action experience an exorbitant budget, made no attempt to oversee Stanton's project or rein him in, and marketed it cryptically per his instruction. Prerelease projections were not rosy, and Disney under a law Sellers ignores--Sarbanes-Oxley--had to declare its losses so shareholders could make an educated decision on what to do with their stocks based on Disney's financial report at the end of 2012 Q1--something the movie's more rabid fans refuse to acknowledge. I'm sorry, but Sellers and his fans may have constructed a fantasy universe wherein a massive corporation like Disney thinks it's good business to destroy a $350 million investment. That doesn't match reality though. John Carter of Mars failed for a myriad of reasons. A shadowy cabal led by Disney brass wasn't one except in a universe filled with gray alien abductions and black helicopters.

Unknown said...

Barsoom fb page?! Link please!

Ron Fortier said...

Jay, Sellers list dates and numbers from the start, people being hired, who had no clue what their product was, then being fired willy-nilly. Your defense of these people is baseless, refusing to see that all of them, from Ron Ross on down had a very real reason of self-interest to see the film flop. Period.
I may not be a Hollywood mogul, but I know the first rule of Marketing...KNOW YOUR PRODUCT. And no one, one one individual at Disney Marketing bothered to even look up the book this film was based on, let alone read it. DUH. My Marketing Professor, would have given them all an F. Instead they put it on Stanton, who was only person in this tale doing what he was hired to do in the first place. To bad nobody else did.

Ron Fortier said...

Here you go, C.E. Make sure to sign on and get all your friends to do so too.

Anonymous said... Come join us . I have been a member of the group since March 2012

Jay said...

That's nowhere close to true, nor a reasonable facsimile of reality. Disney hired a marketing team for John Carter of Mars, but Stanton shot down ideas via--this is a direct quote--a "death by a thousand cuts." He had the idea that the movie should be marketed to "preserve the mystery," resulting in a muddled marketing campaign that failed to gin up widespread audience interest. He famously quipped about he and his crew were directing the movie better than live-action crews. It doesn't look to me as if Stanton understood his own product. Word of mouth--which had been enough to render previous critically excoriated films Titanic and Casino Royale massively profitable--failed to materialize for Stanton's at best middling effort. This Area 51-level conspiracy theory where Bob Iger, Rich Ross, and Co. sat down and decided to do their best to destroy a $350 million investment for reasons discernible only by those who know what David Rockefeller, the New World Order, and the Bildeburg Group have planned for world do,inaction exists nowhere but in the minds of Stanton and like minded fanboys justifiably chagrined their favorite movie failed. It's no more real than ERB's Barsoom. Disney is a corporation which under the federal law known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act must periodically inform shareholders of potential profit losses. As such, it has no incentive to see any of its films--particularly a high-profile project such as John Carter of Mars--fail. What happened was that Stanton didn't make movie with mass appeal and overreached, doing exactly as he liked free of Disney's oversight. The result was a disaster. Stanton didn't understand his product, and the results were to be expected. Stanton's sole purpose in writing that book was to place the onus for the movie's failure on the shoulders of everyone involved lacking the initials AS. His tome is a fan boy's adulatory wet dream of Stanton's apparent infallibility and the eeeeeeeeeeeeeevil corporate heads at Disney who for some reason wanted to potentially hurt their corporation's profitability and possibly famous mammoth fines and lengthy prison sentences under federal law to destroy a massive investment. There is no reality to this view. It's simply a conspiracy theory dreamed up by someone who can't take the fact that the whole world didn't cotton to this movie as he did.

Ron Fortier said...

Jay, you can spin your wheels as long as you like but what you keep ignoring, most likely on purpose, is the end result being, JOHN CARTER is a damn good movie. Its quite obvious to me you disagree with that and can thereby defend these negative critiques which are totally bogus.
Sellers NEVER ONCE charges any conspiracy, that's your phrase here, again, defending people who did have clear cut, logical reasons for allowing this movie to fail...without an serious reason to believe they would ever be jailed for their actions. God, I can't believe you said that. Anyways, this is where your rant ends. Sorry you didn't like the movie, but millions of others did and you are wrong. Any further postings from you will be deleted. I'd strongly suggest you go write your own review, I'm sure the big-wigs at Disney would get appreciate your loyalty.

Lee Houston, Junior said...

Whether part of the failed marketing strategy or something else, what got me more than anything else was failing to mention Edgar Rice Burroughs or the rich (pulp) history behind John Carter.
I heard people in the theater after the movie complain that Carter was ripping off Star Wars and other famous flicks when it was actually the other way around!
John Carter was first, and in some cases MUCH better than some of the science-fiction foisted upon us in these modern times.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ron Fortier said...

I have to laugh at people who make snarky remarks on other people's blogs and then sign their comments, Anonymous.
So much for the courage of one's conviction. A more appropriate tag would be Gutless Coward. Feel free to wear that one as your Badge of Honor. ;-)

Nightshadesiris said...

Excellent excellent review Ron! My thoughts exactly!!

Anonymous said...

A Reply to Jay

Hay Jay - I saw your post and have to wonder who you are - everyone I've spoken to loves the movie once they've seen it no thanks to the way it was marketed - in fact people spent over 300 million dollars of their hard earned money and counting to see this movie - the book brings out the clear fact that if less was spent on the shooting of the movie there would have been a nice profit even with the poor marketing - in fact contrary to your reasoning other 'success' movies had far less ticket sales and far fewer people went to see them - people as you say voted with their dollars to see this great movie with far more enthusiasm than other lower budget ‘success’ movies - if as you say there is no conspiracy then the egotistical snobs at Disney will shoot a sequel at far less cost and use some of the resources already in play from the original and make some money!

it doesn't matter said...

"Any further postings from you will be deleted."

"I have to laugh at people who make snarky remarks on other people's blogs and then sign their comments, Anonymous."

That's not good. I found the article and all its comments interesting.

Ed McKeogh said...

Ron, you've piqued my interest in reading this book. I too love that darned movie! I've watched it often and am entertained by it each and every time. The utter lack of tie-in materials and toys is proof-positive that Disney had no intention of supporting and/or cross-marketing the property, as all of that needed to be in the pipeline before production wrapped on the project. Worse, I keep imagining an animated spin-off series that will never happen (at least, at Disney)! The fact that Disney execs left a LOT of money on the table speaks to their negligence, willful or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Ummm... Jay nobody is talking about an area 51 level conspiracy... or really any conspiracy at all.

We are talking about corporate politics, rivalries, and otehr stuff like that.

Looking at more recent disney projects such as the upcoming star wars stuff, and the lone ranger (a movie with half hte special effects as john carter, yet the exact same budget) its clear that disney is having problems

1. they dont know how to manage budgets.

2. they sunk John Carter because they got star wars and didnt feel the need to have something like it.

Its just corporate politics man. For example you are right... they did rely on Stanton for some of the marketing ideas.

However... taht was an idiot move, Stantons job is to direct and write, not to market.

Overburdening the director is a bad move, making him do something that he doesnt know how to do... that is an even worse one.

By the way, if you read the book (which sources all its information) you would know that Stanton... was NOT free of corporate oversight.

From your Comments Jay... I am forced to assume you didnt read this book, and just made up in your mind what you think is in it...

Anonymous said...

also... the book doesnt say Stanton is infallible... Stanton definitly was responsible for some of the things that went wrong (according to the book) but the bulk of the problems were the fault of the Disney Corporate Machine.