Disney Kills Robert Zemeckis’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ (Exclusive)

Yellow Submarine Art 2011
The "Mars Needs Moms" producer is now free to shop the project to another studio.

The Walt Disney Co. has deep-sixed Mars Needs Moms producer Robert Zemeckis’ planned next project for the studio, the high-profile remake of the classic Beatles film Yellow Submarine, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

Submarine was already facing a few rocky reefs before this weekend. There were budget issues, and a key presentation Zemeckis was to have made before the Beatles heirs kept being pushed back. A December date for the confab was scrapped and never rescheduled. But sources say the disastrous $6.9 million opening for the $150 million-budgeted Mars, produced by Zemeckis, guaranteed that Submarine would never set sail at Disney. (The studio says the project was torpedoed well before Mars opened.) The producer-director is now free to shop the project to another studio.

Zemeckis, the Oscar-winning director of Back to the Future, Forrest Gump and Cast Away, generated big headlines in August 2009 when he first set up the remake of the 1968 animated feature based on music by the Beatles. THR then revealed in January 2010 that the Fab Four would be played by Cary Elwes, Dean Lennox Kelly, Peter Serafinowicz and Adam Campbell.

The plan was to use 16 Beatles songs in the film, which was to employ cutting-edge motion-capture technology similar to Zemeckis’ Beowulf, A Christmas Carol and Mars Needs Moms. Zemeckis secured the cooperation of Apple Corps, which controls the rights to the rock group’s library. (Its movie arm, Apple Films, was one of the companies behind the original pic.)

But in the wake of the box-office disapointment of 2009’s Carol, and with other animated movies pushing the envelope in terms of aesthetics, there were also concerns within Disney about the look of motion capture, especially the way human characters are depicted. (“Creepy” is the word often used.) Those same concerns, insiders say, led to Disney shutting down Zemeckis’ ImageMovers studio in May 2010.

Now this weekend’s opening of Mars sealed Submarine’s fate, and the movie is not going forward at Disney.

According to sources, Zemeckis left town over the weekend, flying to Montana to regroup. He is said to be eyeing a live-action project to direct. But part of the regrouping process could include finding a new home for Submarine.