I was reading this delightful story about John Carter, the disaster of a movie from Disney Pictures and it reminded of Color, the disastrous mobile app that was backed by Sequoia Capital. Andrew Stanton, an extraordinarily talented Pixar dude got unlimited budget (the movie cost $350 million) to experiment. Similarly, Bill Nguyen, a relentless serial entrepreneur got $41million to experiment with Color.
14 thoughts on “Is John Carter the Color of Hollywood Movies?”
Limitations lead to creativity.
Totally agree with you Shripriya.
Oh no….I loved the John Carter books as a boy. Was looking forward to the movie, figured they couldn’t screw it up *that* badly. Oh well, Hollywood.
You can still see it Kamal 🙂
That’s a tough NYT piece on John Carter. Seems like there was a lot of schadenfreude coming from Hollywood prior to the release. While dollars is not the sole measure of “what is good” I read that the film made $100M globally in initial release weekend .. Maybe this kind of film is not just about what it makes in the US? I saw it and enjoyed it — But then I am a fan of old pulp fiction sci-fi and movies that remind us of the fun on my parent’s Saturday movie B-serials like Flash Gordon.
Clever analogy to Color, however.
Always enjoy your blog.
Must say- Awesome Theme!
Short answer: Nope.
Longer answer: Color is a financial and creative flop. John Carter is only a financial flop.
Nice answer Patrick!
Thinking about it — is it a creative success really? If no one is seeing it, Doesn’t it fail the creativity objective? Love to know your thoughts?
Or Will Wright’s epic video game Spore. Or SpiderMan on Broadway. But sometimes this kind of leeway leads to cool stuff, too. Like Game of Thrones series. Wonder where the cross over point happens between crazy and cool.
John Carter (as a character and events) were present in all of our sic-fi genre movies…. the whole Avatar would look like a clever rip-off of Mr. Burroughs books.
Moreover, Andrew Stanton’s approach was more of a fanboy rather than a filmmaker… so you end up getting a product which is a homage to those great books.
Color on the hand had a different story (the only similarity lies in the backing up by these big business conglomerates.)
If the movie had star actors as well as the “star” director (and that’s a stretch, the guy had no live-action background; Nguyen had proven startups already), this analogy would hold. As it is, this was merely an out-of-control budget on a mediocre-by-most-accounts-non-terrible film.
Color should probably have shut down and returned what’s left already. I mean, what’s really the point of burning through the remaining capital? Start a new business with a new plan…. without $40 million, which enforces none of the discipline great startups have. John Carter is a $100-150 million writeoff on a $350 million investment. So be it. It hurts, but everyone has already moved on.
We tend to conflate box office success with creative success, but they are really two different things. Plenty of great movies bomb at the box office. That doesn’t mean they are creative failures too.
John Carter is definitely worth watching. While not perfect, it’s hugely entertaining. The story is epic. The visuals are beautiful. The cast does a great job.
IMHO, this is a marketing failure more than anything else. Disney struggled to find the right tone for the trailer, TV spots, print ads, etc. And, to their credit, it wasn’t easy. I’m a big sci-fi fan, yet I knew almost nothing about the John Carter books, despite their place in science fiction history. There just isn’t enough awareness and interest in the John Carter story.
If you think about it, Disney went through the same thing with Tron Legacy. Excellent sequel to a cult fan favorite… but they just couldn’t connect with the general audience, and the film was considered a disappointment.
But kudos to Disney, in both cases, for taking some risks and learning the right lessons from failure. Robert Iger is on record for refusing to blame Andrew Stanton for Carter’s poor box office. When is the last time a studio head stood up for a visionary director who’s film underperformed?
So, back to app metaphors, John Carter is the Gowalla of Hollywood movies. They built a nice app, but it just didn’t connect with folks. Color, on the other hand, is like making a $200 million movie out of some guy’s three page treatment. 😉
What a lovely comment and response that took time and thought. Thank you for sharing
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