Probably holds the record for having the longest period of "development hell" for any movie, at 79 years. Preproduction for a film version first started in 1931, when Robert Clampett (director of 'Looney Tunes') approached author Edgar Rice Burroughs to make an animated feature out of the first book in the series, "A Princess of Mars" (the same story that this film is an adaptation of). Had plans gone through, 'John Carter' could have become America's first animated feature, beating Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) (1937). The film finally left development hell in January 2010 when filming officially started in London.
Robert Zemeckis turned down the chance to direct, quipping "George already pillaged all of that" with the "Star Wars" films. In other words, most of the best elements of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars fantasies had already been "borrowed" for George Lucas' space operas.
In the arena, Carter fights a pair of white apes. Tarzan - the most famous creation of the same author Edgar Rice Burroughs - is sometimes nicknamed "white ape" in the book (although the name "Tarzan" itself means "white-skin", not "white ape," in a fictitious language).
"A Princess of Mars" was originally published as "Under the Moons of Mars" by Norman Bean (Edgar Rice Burroughs' pseudonym) in The All-Story (six pulp magazine issues February - July, 1912). Burroughs was originally afraid that he might be ridiculed for writing such a tale, so he decided to use a pen name. The pseudonym was supposed to be a pun "Normal Bean" (as in "I'm a normal being") to reassure people, but the man who typeset the text thought it was a mistake, so he changed it to "Norman". However, Burroughs' fears turned out to be unfounded: the story and its sequels, collectively known as the "Barsoom series", were almost as popular (and arguably more influential) as those of his most famous creation, Tarzan.
The first "John Carter" story by Edgar Rice Burroughs made its debut in 1912 in a magazine serial. Thus, the 2012 feature film marks the centenary (100th anniversary) of the character's first appearance.
The film was originally titled and marketed as "John Carter of Mars", but director Andrew Stanton removed "of Mars" from the opening credits and promotional material to make it more appealing to a broader audience, stating that the film is an "origin story... It's about a guy becoming John Carter of Mars." The entire title "John Carter of Mars" is displayed during the end credits.
The change in title from "A Princess of Mars" to "John Carter of Mars," and later simply to "John Carter" is the subject of some controversy. Conflicting reasons given include that the Disney marketing department or director Andrew Stanton wanted to appeal to a broader audience, or that the studio had hoped to create a film series with the "John Carter" banner title. Industry lore also suggests that films with "Mars" in the title tend to under perform financially, most notably Mars Needs Moms (2011) which was also distributed by Disney and proved a colossal flop for the studio. Ironically, "John Carter" would prove to be the biggest financial disappointment for Disney since "Mars Needs Moms."
The music in the first theatrical trailer uses two instrumental arrangements of "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin. The first (starting at 0:53) was performed by Australian/British string quartet Bond, the second (starting at 1:25) was performed by Corner Stone Cues (this arrangement is called "Ten Years Kashmir Mvt II (Orch, Choir & Perc Mix))".
Financially, the film was considered one of the largest box office losses in Disney history. Even though the film performed stronger than expected outside the US, it contributed to Disney's Studio Entertainment division reporting an $84 million dollar loss in the first quarter of 2012. Such a large loss was attributed to issues with the uneven marketing, management changes at the studio, and a lack of merchandising and film tie-in's normally associated with such a large budget film. As a result, any plans for the two sequels that were already in the first of development prior to the film's release were scrapped.
Mario Kassar had the project at Disney in the 1980s, but it was also listed under his development projects during his deal at Paramount in the mid-'90s. In 2004--when the project was still known as "A Princess of Mars" after the book on which it's based--Robert Rodriguez had originally been signed and announced as director and had begun pre-production early that year (it would have been his largest project to date, with starting budget reported at $100 million). Rodriguez' most notable contribution was to hire fantasy painter Frank Frazetta (whose most acclaimed works have included striking illustrations of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, most notably the "John Carter on Mars" books) as production designer. However, when Rodriguez resigned from the Directors' Guild of America (DGA) the same year (due to a dispute over his film Sin City (2005)), Paramount was forced to replace him. The studio has a long-standing arrangement with the DGA in which only the organization's members may direct Paramount films. He was replaced with Kerry Conran, who had just finished Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004). In 2005 Conran left the project and was replaced by Jon Favreau just before the release of Favreau's movie Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005); Favreau was on-board to direct until around August 2006. At that time Paramount chose not to renew the film rights, preferring to focus on Star Trek (2009), and Favreau left to work on Iron Man (2008). In January 2007 Disney regained the rights (it had rights to film the story previously: in the 1980s with director John McTiernan), and enlisted Andrew Stanton from Pixar to direct.
The Teaser features the song "My Body is a Cage", originally written by Arcade Fire. The version used in the teaser is by Peter Gabriel, released on his 2011 album of cover versions, "Scratch My Back".