Disney doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to science fiction movies, especially not in recent years. In 2000, Mission to Mars suffered middling critical reviews and made a scanty $110 million worldwide on a $100 million budget. By 2002, the Disney Renaissance had come to an end, and the animated Treasure Planet was a total flop, grossing only $110 million on a $140 million budget. And this year’s Mars Needs Moms was an even bigger disaster, grossing only $38 million on a $150 million budget.
With so many sci-fi failures in so few years, it’s surprising that the upcoming John Carter (2012) got made at all, but perhaps Disney thinks that the fourth time will be a charm. Unlike Treasure Planet and Mars Needs Moms, John Carter is a live action adventure film based on A Princess of Mars (1912), the first novel in the 11-book Barsoom series by author Edgar Rice Burroughs. Burroughs is best known for creating the character Tarzan, but it is his century-old Barsoom series that inspired countless science fiction writers to write in the genre and encouraged scientists to focus on space exploration and the search for extraterrestrial life.