Saturday, March 31, 2012

Martian packaging

So, the DVD cover art for John Carter of Mars seems to be official.

It's not bad. It's got a little too much of the usual modern look where the design guy took one basic pass at it in PhotoShop and no one ever bothered to fine tune it. On the other hand, compared to the theatrical artwork, it at least seems to understand what the actual appeal of seeing the movie is, so may do a better job attracting viewers.

The trouble is that for a guy like me, and others of us out there - I documented a fair number in my post Get your ass to Mars! - we don't need to be sold on why to see it. We know it's a kickass movie!

We've seen it. We've praised it. We've even championed it.

Yeah, that's been a challenge when even its own studio, Disney, seems determined to bury it. As it goes about its opening weeks, making as much worldwide as The Hunger Games, it's spun as a disaster that will be written off for a fortune, while The Hunger Games is rightly celebrated as a hit.

The only difference is that John Carter of Mars performed slowly in the U.S., while making the majority of its money in foreign tickets, and The Hunger Gamers was a faster sell in the U.S. and slower abroad.

Of course, a family friendly sci-fi action movie released with no merchandise - no toys, no t-shirts, no fast food tie-in - was intended to fail. The U.S. masses may appear to be rejecting a big summer Hollywood popcorn movie, but are, as usual, doing exactly what the big corporation has led them to do.

The problem is that it is good and, as the foreign sales show, could have been sold.

But let's forget that. It was mostly internal Disney politics, and I doubt we could have even hoped to change that outcome.

What I want is a cool Blu-ray.

When Thor was released on DVD and Blu-ray, after my Goodbye, Marvel decision, they put out a limited edition that sold at Best Buy that used the Jack Kirby cover of Journey Into Mystery #83.

Now, because my reason for not participating in the Thor movie was because of my feelings regarding Marvel Comics and their unfair treatment of Kirby, his estate and his creations, this product was especially awkward for me to even consider, and, of course, I did not purchase one. I have still, as stated, not seen that movie.

(Nothing about The Avengers is testing my will. It's much, much less appealing to me than Thor or Captain America: The First Avenger were, and I resisted those. If I were a praying man, I'd be asking that the Kirby estate win it's appeal or Marvel finds a way to settle before they release a Nick Fury movie, especially some awesome Steranko-influenced S.H.I.E.L.D. movie...)

Here, Disney has a seemingly comfortable - or at least non-exploitive - relationship with the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. I'm not only willing, but enthusiastic to buy a copy of John Carter of Mars. Something I can enjoy again, explore the details of the production, and the way I'll share the experience with my son when he gets old enough.

So, I ask you, please, Disney marketers. Here's where you have your claws in me right now. I'll pay more than I ought to.

Here are my suggestions.

The magnificent Michael Whelan painting at the top of this post. For many of us who are the right age to sell such a collector cover to, this is the A Princess of Mars cover we remember, and, for me, is the cover I own now.

This Frank Frazetta painting. It's also stunning, and may be my favorite. I don't believe any editions with this cover were widely distributed, so it's mostly known specifically by Frazetta fans, but it really is something!

It's unlikely that many potential buyers first discovered the tales of John Carter from a copy with this Frank Schoonover cover, but I can't be the only one who wishes I did. It immediately evokes the kind of swashbuckling classic excitement that director Andrew Stanton and crew brought to the cinematic version. This would be a blast to have on the shelf.

There are some more unusual choices at my A Princess of Mars post, but, cool as some are - and how awesome would it be to find a DVD with this cover at your local retailer? - but I agree they don't necessarily call out for a crowd, even a dorky collector crowd.

And, can I just ask one more thing. Let's be honest, those of us who loved this movie, and will buy a copy, and would have paid our good money to see a series of sequels, will buy whatever you put out. We know you've committed to "John Carter" as the title of this. No one really understands why. But really, Disney marketers, you've provided us so little opportunity to give you extra money for Barsoom-themed merchandise. If you deign to provide us this one opportunity to pay a surplus for something dedicated specifically to our excitement for this movie, can you please go ahead and put the title "John Carter of Mars" on that?

Ok? Or how about the generic "JCM" logo that was kept on the front of the case with the painting, and "John Carter of Mars" on the side of the case that will face out?

Yeah, I'll be taking what I can get, huh?

Yes, sir. I'll be glad to take it. Thank you.


Roderick Heath said...

Honestly, the endemic sort of unbearably lazy poster and cover art John Carter's been stuck with makes one pine for the glory days of Drew Struzan, Bob Peak, and Richard Amsel. Where's the pride in this slop? They spend so much on advertising and this is the best they come up with?

Neil Sarver said...

I've given up even dreaming of things like painted posters. I can't imagine how they went away so completely, so fast, but they really do convey so much about the emotion and excitement that photos rarely do, and strung together PhotoShop jobs that seem to have never been cleaned up and done right absolutely never do.

I really would like to see just one cool piece of artwork for this before they leave it to the dustbins of history. I really, really would.

Rick Lucey said...

The article and the comments above are so right on!!! I grew up reading the JC paperbacks in the early 80's and dug those covers. Why could they have not had a cover illustration for the DVD's?

Neil Sarver said...


Of course I agree. And I can even see why they wanted to go more modern and more specific to their movie for the general edition release.

I don't understand why they didn't release a special edition with one of the many classic paperback covers, just as a collector thing. But then I think at this point they're looking to put it out and wash their hands of it sadly.

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