John Carter of Mars (2006) - Barsoom Landscape

Shortly after Zathura, Jon Favreau called me in to work on his follow-up project which would be an adaptation of John Carter of Mars. While Paramount would ultimately decline to pursue the project and let the option lapse, this version I think would have been a fantastic film. More modest in scope than the productions that both preceded it and ultimately got made, it was a very focused, intimate story. I got to work with an amazing team, including Ryan Church (who worked on all three productions,) David Krentz, Ian McCaig, and Ryan Meinerding, the beginnings of a long friendship and collaboration.

My first task on the film was to come up with a language and concept for the Barsoomian landscape. Knowing that we were developing a world with little metal and no trees, I explored jagged structures of obsidian or fused volcanic glass, which might have inspired a construction method of making sand castle-like structures and then fusing them into glass with a ninth ray-powered heating tool.

Phil saunders mars landscape web

This frame was inspired by a photograph my wife took of the inside of a fire-hollowed Sequoia. I thought the geological structures could have a beautiful translucence to them.

Phil saunders mars thumbs web

A typical page of Prisma pencil thumbs I might do to work out my ideas. It's important to think beyond the piece at hand to the design implications on other aspects of the production.