My 10-year-old just loaded up the first 3 John Carter of Mars novels onto his kindle. Being a Star Wars fan, I figured he'd be hooked all summer long. Surprisingly, his summer reading drifted back to George Orwell so I'm hoping to get him excited with updates on the movie. Disney's "John Carter" will finally be released in March of 2012, one hundred years after being written by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

This movie has been long in the making! Disney pre-production began in 1930 and almost beat Snow White to be the first animated feature film, but was never made. Disney tried again in the 1980's with Tom Cruise in the lead but the filmmakers shelved it when they realized special effects of the day were going to come up short.

The rights shifted back to the Burroughs estate to be later picked up by Paramount, who enlisted Robert Rodriguez to direct. He was going to re-use sets from Sin City but was replaced (guild snafu) by Kerry Conran (Sky Captain) who left and then by Jon Favreau, who also left to work on Iron Man. Disney reacquired the rights and brought in Andrew Stanton, the Pixar genius who wrote and directed WALL-E and Finding Nemo.

So Stanton has stuck with it and will deliver next spring. He grew up a fan and brings some interesting perspective, such as respecting the Victorian era sci-fi roots and trying to make it feel **historical**.

There are so many times and places in history in our world that I just don’t know anything about, and when I learn about them they’re always fascinating. I don’t need a predisposed interest in them if they are presented well. So we said, "We’ll treat it this way, we won’t treat it like some fantasy being fulfilled by a fan." We tried to make it feel like we’re going with the story of what really happened. This is how it was, this is how those cultures really existed. That was one of the many levels, for instance, that I enjoyed The Lord of the Rings on. One of the similarities between Tolkien and Burroughs is that they came across to the reader as if they had done so much travel research; they seemed like they had gone to these places and documented the flora and the fauna and the architecture and the culture and the rules. They did it in ways that someone who visited those places would have done it. That made it much easier to treat the film as history in a weird way because I had this encyclopedia of all the aspects of Mars.

The film's title was shortened to just "John Carter" and is planned to be a trilogy based on the first 3 books (of 11.) I guess it takes him a while to earn his "of Mars" moniker. The star is Taylor Kitsch (X-Men Origns) and includes Willem Dafoe as one of the tall green martians (kewl.) It will be PG-13 (thanks to a scantily clad Deja Thoris played by Lynn Collins?) and was filmed in London and Utah, including locations at Lake Powell. I think it's also being prepped for 3-D but not sure.

You might even see the trailer at this summer's release of the last Harry Potter movie. It's really amazing that it's taken 100 years to finally film the story that totally influenced Star Wars and even Superman. Wasn't John Carter the first pulpy gravity-defying hero?

Anyway, here is the summary from Disney:

The film tells the story of war-weary, former military captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), who is inexplicably transported to Mars where he becomes reluctantly embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet, including Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and the captivating Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). In a world on the brink of collapse, Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes that the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands.

My friend Dan visits from Golden, Colorado every now and then. Inevitably, our 100% pure agave friend Don Julio joins us for a projected widescreen western. We had Sam Peckinpah's "Major Dundee" queued up this time, and now Don and Dundee are forever linked.

The 1965 film stars Charlton Heston and was purported to be the best cast ever assembled for a western and is famous for it's huge cost and box office failure. There was a contentious battle between the director and the funders during production. The '65 release was cut without the director's blessing but the 2005 extended DVD version (w/ a brand new score) restores it to agave-infused glory.