Disney/Pixar on mission for 'Mars' rights

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Disney/Pixar is in final negotiations to acquire the film rights to Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels known collectively as the "John Carter of Mars" series.

The 11-volume series began with the story titled "A Princess of Mars," published serially in All-Story magazine in 1912 and in novel form in 1916. Burroughs wrote it in longhand, and the original manuscript lies in a vault at a Bank of America in Tarzana, Calif., the town that takes its name from Burroughs' more famous creation, Tarzan.

The series told of a Civil War officer named John Carter who is transported to Mars and finds himself a captive of the savage green men from Thark. Carter eventually rises to become a great warrior, marries a princess, raises a family and embarks on numerous adventures.

Disney had the rights to the series through most of the 1990s, when Jeffrey Katzenberg wanted to adapt it as an animated feature. At one point, the project morphed into live action, and John McTiernan was involved as a director.

Paramount Pictures nabbed the rights to the series in 2002 with Jim Jacks and Sean Daniel as producers. The project was a revolving door for directors: Robert Rodriguez was going to do it before he resigned from the DGA over "Sin City," Kerry Conrad made a notable presentation when he was eyeing it as his follow-up to "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," and Jon Favreau was attached before going off to do "Iron Man."

Sources said Paramount let go of "Mars" about a year ago, and it was without a home until about a month ago, when Pixar, under John Lasseter's direction, came calling out of the blue.

A representative of the Burroughs estate said the studio was acquiring the live-action rights for a possible tentpole franchise. However, sources at Disney believed "Mars" to be headed for animated adaptation.

Disney declined comment.
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