In the end, “Game of Thrones with mice” wasn’t a strong enough pitch for Disney’s top brass. Mouse Guard, an animated fantasy epic set in a world of anthropomorphic rodents, had been in development at Fox for around a year when the company merged with Disney, which promptly axed the project. But there’s a silver lining: the creative team has reacted to the news by publishing a trove of behind-the-scenes material online.

In a string of tweets, director Wes Ball uploaded a video tour of the empty studio, as well as some test animation which reveals the sheer scale of the film’s cg world.

“Yes sadly, its [sic] true,” wrote Ball, who previously helmed the Maze Runner franchise. “Our #mouseguard movie is dead. Seems it’s too big a risk. It’s a damn shame really. We had something special. To my hella talented cast/crew: I’m sorry I couldn’t push this one through. The past year with you all has been a blast. May the Guard prevail!”

Meanwhile, concept artist Darek Zabrocki posted some of his work for Mouse Guard on his Instagram page, alongside substantial captions that set out his creative process and philosophy. “For me it was the biggest, most elaborate and in depth full of freedom project I ever took part in,” he wrote. “Sadly cancelled but hey whatever was done was golden and its [sic] gonna resonate through my works in upcoming weeks, months or even years.”

Mouse Guard was based on David Petersen’s best-selling comic book series of the same name, a medieval fantasy about a brotherhood of mice who swear to protect their brethren against hostile species. The movie was conceived as a hybrid work that would make extensive use of performance capture, with effects courtesy of Weta Digital. It was to star Idris Elba and Andy Serkis, who worked with Weta to create the character of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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Weekly Tip #8: FUNCTIONALITY AND BELIEVABILITY I went through a lot of important factors you have to take into consideration while creating successful concept artworks. Now it's time to take a look a little bit deeper, into something that elevates your concept to the next level and makes your artwork something more than just art. In the production pipeline, while working on new environment designs and new worlds it's not only about artistic brush strokes or beautiful colors/light. People tend to rely on it way too much (I used to do the same hehe) While I worked on the piece similar to the attached one I always plan ahead all the elements the location possibly could consist of. It was actually set extension to real life place so how do I make it fitting and functional to this specific project was all the design work behind that. What sort of props, functional elements(peer, lifting machines, bay for the boats, tree houses, watch towers, ladders etc) I could place and how to logically put them for the best believably depicted location. To support artistic and beautiful execution with something that actually matters to make the world iconic? What helps me the most is usually closing my eyes and imagining that place. If I were there. I immerse myself by doing that and it immediately brings more and more ideas to.make the design more interesting. The more I think, the more research I do, the more I am able to create a fully functional and believable environment design. I made loads (hundreds) of concepts for Mouse Guard film (sadly cancelled) directed by amazing dude Wes Ball. Based on epic comic book (@mouseguard) and it's one of the examples showing what I'm talking about here. Also that in depth and more knowledge I will share during my online course later this year (more info soon). This I also teach at our @focalpointschool Find these tips helpful? Please share it with your art friends! #art #artoftheday #artistoninstagram #2d #conceptart #conceptartist #cathedral #design #tutorial #artist #darekzabrocki #illustration #fantasyart #focalpointschool #painting #photoshop #scifiart #scifi #sciencefictionart #starwars #scifimovie #fox #mouseguard #wacom

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In April, two weeks before production was to begin, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Mouse Guard had been scrapped. Some industry sources told the publication that Disney had baulked at the reported $170m budget. Others suggested that execs feared the film would be too similar to its existing tent-pole cg properties, like The Lion King.

In any case, Disney’s acquisition of Fox spelled the end of many projects in development, including a number of prestigious mid-budget live-action titles at the now-shuttered Fox 2000 label. As one insider told The Hollywood Reporter, no Fox project is safe: “[Disney is] looking at everything.”

But Mouse Guard may have life in it yet. It has been put into turnaround, which means that other companies have the option to pick it up. Whether anyone will go in for a $170m film — and whether that price tag is even accurate — are matters of speculation. The comic’s fans will certainly hope that someone revives the project in its current state, as a new adaptation is unlikely. Petersen is famously protective of his work: “I’m not willing to make a quick deal just to get a film made,” he told Nerdist back in 2013. “I want it done properly.”