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The Failure of “John Carter” and Analyzing Andrew Stanton

Andrew Stanton

If you still haven’t had your fill of “Why John Carter Failed” articles, then don’t miss New York Magazine‘s lengthy read “The Inside Story of How John Carter Was Doomed by Its First Trailer.” The piece goes to excruciating lengths to absolve Disney marketing of any wrongdoing over the film’s US box office performance, and lays the blame squarely at the feet of Andrew Stanton:

While this kind of implosion usually ends in a director simmering in rage at the studio marketing department that doomed his or her movie, Vulture has learned that it was in fact John Carter director Andrew Stanton – powerful enough from his Pixar hits that he could demand creative control over trailers – who commandeered the early campaign, overriding the Disney marketing execs who begged him to go in a different direction.

The article, juicy as it is, should be taken with a grain of salt. Much of the information in the article appears to be sourced from public statements by Stanton, and only one anonymous “Disney marketing insider” is identified as having been interviewed. There are factual errors too that made me question the piece’s accuracy–the writer claims that Disney marketing approached the New Yorker in September 2011 to profile Stanton, when in fact, if you read the New Yorker piece, the writer of that piece said he’d been working on it since April 2011. At best, NY Mag‘s takedown offers one version of how the film’s marketing plan derailed. The real story is likely far more complex, and won’t be understood until some point in the future.

A more insightful piece is the aforementioned New Yorker profile of Andrew Stanton, which has finally been posted online. Unlike an earlier New Yorker piece about Pixar that left me unimpressed, this profile sheds much light on Stanton’s personality and his collaboration with the lauded Pixar “Braintrust.” In spite of the profile’s positive tone, Stanton comes off as overly self assertive and oblivious to the effect of his comments, like:

“We came on this movie so intimidated: ‘Wow, we’re at the adult table!’ Three months in, I said to my producers, ‘Is it just me, or do we actually know how to do this better than live-action crews do?’ The crew were shocked that they couldn’t overwhelm me, but at Pixar I got used to having to think about everyone else’s problems months before all their pieces would come together, and I learned that I’m just better at communicating and distilling than other people.”

(Illustration by Luis Grañena)