Although not credited on the finished film, co-writer/producer Will Smith was responsible for much of the movie's direction. While M. Night Shyamalan was primarily in charge of the blocking (composition of shots, placement of the camera) and the visual aspects of the film (color and design), it was Will Smith who personally coached Jaden Smith in his performance and dictated the development of the story and the on-screen action. After both the story and acting were heavily criticized, Shyamalan decided to take the blame.
The original idea for the film was a father and son on a camping trip. After the car they're traveling in careens off the road, the son makes his way through the forest to find help for the father. Realizing that the idea had greater potential, producer Will Smith and screenwriter Gary Whitta decided to adapt the basic survival concept into a much larger science-fiction project.
The original cut was 130 minutes long, and included more backstory on the decline of earth and the formation of Nova Prime. However, the film was vastly re-edited after performing poorly at test screenings, and any actors playing Nova Primates were either reduced to extras or cut out entirely. The deleted footage will likely never be seen, as M. Night Shyamalan is satisfied with the theatrical cut.
Producer/co-writer Will Smith envisioned After Earth (2013) as a multi-platform franchise, including books, graphic novels, and interactive video games, which would all inform and add to the ideas and concepts already developed in the finished film.
Eisner Award-winning comic writer Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman and Robert Greenberger produced a 300-page "bible" covering the history of mankind, from their decision to leave Earth to the events depicted in the finished film. It was intended to serve as a resource for all kinds of ancillary materials in the After Earth (2013) franchise.
There are two animals that can be linked as a proxy of animals that really co-existed with humans and were quite dangerous. The predatory big cats are often referred to as "sabre-toothed" cats, which could be true if one was using Machairodus or Homotherium as a reference. The giant condor could be based on Argentavis, a giant condor of the South American Miocene Epoch that is considered the largest flying bird to ever have existed. The Haast Eagle seems to also be a source of inspiration, which was the largest bird of prey ever to take flight and existed in New Zealand from the end of the Pleistocene to the middle of the Holocene in approximately 1400 A.D., when their main food source, the giant Moa went extinct through human activity. What this has to do with the condor of this film, is that the Maori Settlers told stories of the bird carrying away children, men, and women, and was known to these people as the Pouakai.
A series of spin-off novels, sub-titled "Ghost Stories", have been planned to promote the movie, but are also intended to flesh out the concepts in the film itself. The titles of these books include 'Innocence', Peace, 'Hunted' and 'A Perfect Beast.' All books are written by writers Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, and Robert Greenberger, with illustrations by Benito Lobel.
Hesper was a bulk-freighter steamship that was used to tow schooner-barges on the Great Lakes. The Hesper sank off the coast of Lake Superior at Silver Bay, Minnesota, in a late spring snowstorm in 1905. The Hesper is the ship in which Jaden and Will boarded and crashed.
When Kristofer Hivju showed up on set, he got into a discussion with the make-up department, who wanted to cut his characteristic long hair and beard. Hivju was against it, and was even supported by Jaden Smith, but eventually lost out. To make matters worse, most of his role was eventually deleted from the final cut.
Kristofer Hivju, Lincoln Lewis, and Isabelle Fuhrman had major supporting roles in the original cut though the majority of their scenes were deleted during post-production (In the theatrical cut Hivju has one scene, Lewis has one line, and only the back of Fuhrman's head is visible in one shot - though her face can be seen in the trailer).
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
When Kitai is walking to see his father, after they've been rescued, he passes a man sitting in front of a screen. On the screen is Kitai's killing of the Ursa. You can see the moment with Kitai standing up and pulling out the blades on the screen.