Epic sci-fi tales never come cheap, with Walt Disney Pictures reportedly spending $250 million on John Carter, the new Martian odyssey set on the mysterious and exotic planet of Barsoom (Mars) and based on a classic novel by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Hiring animation wiz Stanton to helm the huge live-action production was a calculated risk on Disney's part. But for the director, the transition from animation to live action wasn't as extreme as he expected. "I knew that the stamina demand would be incredible and that there would be incredibly long days," admits Stanton, "but the translation from animation to live action has mainly been taking everything that I'm used to doing in about 21⁄2 to 3 years and concentrating it into 6 months. But it's not as hard as you think, as the conversations I have with my live-action crew are extremely similar to the ones I have with my team at Pixar. I have a DP at Pixar. I have a costume designer. I have props. I have sets built. The roles are basically the same in each medium; it's how they execute their jobs that's different. I don't work with computers at Pixar. I work with 200 craftsmen who are the best at their job. And it's really the same with live action. The luxury in live action is that I can have the conversation with all of the crew in the same room, and we can actually see the result on the same day instead of six weeks later."
"We had to figure out who was going to do all the computer-animated characters for the film, so we met with Peter and his team," recalls Stanton, "and their group really reminded me of how Pixar felt in its early days, so it was a good match." As for his choice of DP, "Daniel is quite eclectic," states Stanton. "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."
For Mindel, there were several major challenges, "including dealing with the biggest sets I've ever worked with and figuring out the best way to marry all the complex animation and visual effects with the live action we were shooting," he says. But the biggest challenge was the production's last-minute move to Britain.