James J. Sullos Jr. is the President of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and Cathy Wilbanks is the Archivist of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. They took out some time to chat with Media Mikes to discuss Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic novel “A Princess of Mars” – the first novel in Burroughs’ Barsoom series and Disney’s film “John Carter”. Both James & Cathy also helped create the bonus feature on the “John Carter” Blu-ray called “100 Years In The Making.”
Mike Gencarelli: What`s the best part of working on Mr. Burroughs’s Legacy?
Jim Sullos: Mr. Burroughs wrote over 70 novels and 40 short stories. There is no end to the literary content that he created. I continually read material that has not been published for quite a few years and yet the storyline are still exciting. That why his legacy is never ending.
Cathy Wilbanks: I really enjoy working with the archives because every day is an opportunity to find treasures. The archives are filled with amazing artifacts from the past and I have the pleasure of discovering each and every one.
MG: What do you think Burroughs would have thought of this adaptation of “John Carter”?
JS: Burroughs would have been pleased that the movie accurately portrayed much of what was in his first novel “A Princess of Mars”. And he would have been amazed that current technology could finally do justice to his vivid imagination which was not possible until CGI was developed.
MG: What scene did you most enjoy in “John Carter”?
JS: It is very difficult to select just one scene that I most enjoyed because the whole movie was an incredible joy to see. Andrew Stanton was a genius in bringing visualization to the entire storyline that had never been seen before. As I watched the movie I could feel the passion he devoted to each segment of the film. Picking one scene would not be fair to so many successful portrayals of this timeless story.
CW: My favorite scene in the movie would have to be when John Carter saves Dejah during the marriage ceremony. My favorite character would have to be John Carter, but Woola is a close second!
MG: This big adaption of “John Carter” was 100 Years In The Making, what was the biggest challenge to get it right?
CW: The biggest challenge was finding an actor to portray Edgar Rice Burroughs. We were able to talk John Burroughs, ERB’s grandson, into taking on the part. When I saw the film for the first time, I was amazed to watch John interact in the background because he resembles ERB so much. It was like ERB was back with us again.
MG: How do you feel that the film “John Carter” interpreted the novel “A Princess of Mars?
JS: I think Andrew Stanton, the fabulous Director, who read all of the 11 Mars books as a youngster gave Dejah Thoris an added dimension as both a scientist and an accomplished fighter, greatly expanding her role with positive effects.
MG: What do you think makes the book “A Princess of Mars” so unique?
JS: At the time this book was written in 1911-1912, the scientific knowledge of planet Mars was limited and scientists had to guess as to the makeup of the surface of the planet. Mr. Burroughs novel gave a vivid description in detail of Mars that persisted for decades as the imaginary life that might exist on any planet in the universe.
MG: What were Burroughs’ sentiments toward filming his works in general?
CW: Edgar Rice Burroughs moved from Chicago to the San Fernando Valley in 1919 so he could be closer to the Hollywood scene. He was very excited and realized that he wanted to move in that direction. However, once filming started, he realized that he had to give up some of the control of how his characters were portrayed. Burroughs was mostly frustrated with the portrayal of Tarzan. He wanted his TARZAN to be portrayed as an intelligent, insightful heroand did not like the line “Me Tarzan, You Jane.”
MG: Can you give us some examples of the artifacts you worked with in the treasure trove of ERB material?
CW: The archives at Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. are filled with historical treasures. I have had the pleasure of holding in my hands many first edition books, a huge variety of comic books, toys, merchandise from around the world, movie props like a pterodactyl, and of course, original art. But some of the most meaningful artifacts include the handwritten TARZAN Of THE APES manuscript as well as the A PRINCESS OF MARS manuscript and personal letters signed by Edgar Rice Burroughs himself.
MG: Despite being a hundred years old, the characters of ‘John Carter’ and the Barsoom series are still relevant and don’t feel the least bit dated. Why do you think that is?
CW: Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the story focusing on human conditions such as love and conflict. He understood that to have a successful story, he must include factors that would have a wide appeal. The ‘John Carter’ character was developed with characteristics like humor, intelligence, emotion and strength. John Carter (Taylor Kitch) is very ‘relate-able’ which makes the story current in today’s world.
MG: We wouldn’t have Star Wars if it wasn’t for Princess of Mars, do you think pop culture gives Burroughs the credit he deserves for being such an influence?
CW: No, I don’t believe pop culture gives Edgar Rice Burroughs enough credit. He was a gifted, prolific writer and unfortunately has not been recognized for his contributions.
MG: Do you think there should be a sequel to John Carter movie? If you had to choose another adaption of Burroughs to be made into a feature, which would it be?
JS: I definitely think a sequel should follow. First, I would hope that the planned sequels will be produced because they will show the path that John Carter took to become the “Warlord of Mars”. There are 11 ‘Mars’ books that can be drawn on to create several more exciting movies. But in addition Mr. Burroughs wrote many other science fiction novels and particularly intriguing is the Venus series which portrays the hero Carson Napier who planned to fly his spaceship to Mars but miscalibrated and ended up on Venus to discover an unknown world.
MG: Will there other movies on the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs?
JS: At the present time Warner Bros. has in development a Tarzan live-action. And Constantin films will release its first Tarzan 3D animated film in 2013. We are currently in discussion with several producers who are looking at other Burroughs novels for potential new films.