The Walt Disney/Robert Zemeckis connection has been terminated. The Hollywood Reporter says that late yesterday the Mouse House decided to permanently dock the Oscar-winning director’s planned remake of The Beatles’ beloved 1968 film Yellow Submarine, which was announced in August 2009 before his take on A Christmas Carol failed to make miraculous amounts of cash. On the heels of a $6.9 million opening weekend for his latest production, the sci-fi family film Mars Needs Moms, the studio has apparently had enough of his shenanigans.
It’s no surprise, really. In May 2010, after the grim reality that A Christmas Carol was an official flop became clear, Disney shut down Zemeckis’ ImageMovers shingle and was letting the fate of Yellow Submarine rest on the commercial performance of Mars Needs Moms, which cost $150 million just to produce. Two back-to-back big-budget bombs for any filmmaker is enough to cause panic, and the fact that he couldn’t get the Beatles’ heirs in a room for a key presentation of test footage after a canceled date in December (which was never rescheduled) just compounded the negativity. Disney is simply acting according to procedure with today’s move.
Zemeckis’ Yellow Submarine was to employ the same performance capture technology he’d used on The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol and was set to star Cary Elwes, Dean Lennox Kelly, Peter Serafinowicz and Adam Campbell. Though getting kicked off of the Disney lot is a major setback, THR notes that the filmmaker is now free to shop the project around to other studio’s, though I can’t imagine any company biting after the rocky returns on his recent films. Zemeckis is said to have fled Tinsel Town for Montana, where he’ll regroup and decide what his next move is.
My two cents for Mr. Z? Enough with the mo-cap movies. Get back to live-action filmmaking. This is the guy who made Back To The Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump and Contact. The Polar Express was good and all and I love Beowulf, but the process is just too expensive to justify putting all that energy into. The longer he stays in animated territory, the more clout he loses. There’s a wealth of good scripts out there just dying to get produced; a man with as much pedigree as Zemeckis should look to reinvent himself once again as this performance-capture chapter of his career comes to a close.