At the Movies: John Carter an Unintended Disaster Flick For Disney


When it coms to the three major films opening this weekend and their potential for product placement, it’s all about location, location, location.

Two of the films feature young professionals making their ways through the big city. The other begins in the mid-1800s and then moves to Mars. Which one do you think offers more onscreen opportunities?[more]

John Carter promises to give The Lorax a run for its money for the top box office spot. Where it will not challenge The Lorax is in the cross-promotional tie-in department. Where The Lorax had dozens of major brand partners for co-branded marketing, John Carter has only one. And that’s with the Hawaiian Aulani Resport and Spa, owned by the film’s studio, Disney. Of course, The Lorax ran into a spot of trouble with consumers about one of its tie-ins.

But John Carter‘s real roadblock to success is not a short curmudgeon who speaks for the trees, it is John Carter. The sci fi flick has been kicking around Hollywood for years, with famed special effects genius Ray Harryhausen particularly keen to put Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series onto the silver screen. Director Andrew Stanton of Finding Nemo and WALL-E fame got the gig, and has been gamely tweeting his support for Disney’s marketing efforts. But the fact that a director even feels the need to make such comments kind of says it all. Even the film’s star has subtly suggested the movie’s marketing was crap.

Realizing that it has a disaster on its hands — the film reportedly cost $250 million to make — at the last minute Disney released the first ten minutes of the film online. A real change of heart after the studio embargoed critics from publishing reviews until after March 7th, just two days before the film debuted. 

Results of Thursday midnight and early Friday showings suggest John Carter could be one of the, if not the, biggest film bombs of 2012. reports that Disney insiders are “saying ‘it’s going to be a miracle’ if John Carter‘s domestic opening box office this weekend has a ’3′ in front of it.” The upside? The movie “has made $13M so far overseas with the biggest news from 3D sci-fi-loving Russia where the movie had the highest opening day in history with $6.5M.”

In a post titled “Now That’s How You Market John Carter,” geek blog Topless Robot lays out Disney’s missteps:

“John Carter might be able to kick Martian ass, but he’s had a tough time with Disney’s marketing department. First the movie was called A Princess of Mars, until Disney decided boys will never see any movie with the word “princess” in it (which is why, of course, no male ever ever watched The Princess Bride since its release in 1987). Then it became John Carter of Mars… until the totally unrelated CG film Mars Needs Moms tanked last year, and Disney’s marketers decided the problem was that people hate the word ‘Mars.’ Since then it’s been titled the incredibly undescriptive John Carter, and all the trailers have gone from introducing the character and his journey and the alien cultures of Mars have to showing nothing but action scenes that make the movie look like some kind of combination Avatar and Attack of the Clones, which is not a compliment.”

Ouch. Topless Robot posts a fan-made trailer that it believes does John Carter more justice than Disney has offered.

Meanwhile, the latest Eddie Murphy comedy, A Thousand Words, appears to have marketing down pat, at least for other brands. Watch as Murphy gets off his iPhone to grab a Starbucks.

Then there is the non-comedic-romp Friends with Kids, featuring all the Baby Bjorns and Maclaren strollers one would expect from a baby-centric yuppie film.

Speaking of Maclaren strollers, following the hush-hush bankruptcy declaration by Maclaren USA, a potential way to avoid injury-related liability claims, how is the stroller giant faring? Well, the fact that The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have picked up the story probably blows the brand’s plan to keep a lid on it all.