Back in August, 2010, we told you all about the story behind OBLIVION, a graphic novel concept by director Joe Kosinski (TRON: LEGACY) that was optioned to Disney Studios for a cool $500,000. It seemed like a lot of money for yet another “celebrity comic” so what was so hot about it? At the time we wrote:
As regular BEAT readers know, studios optioning comics are a weekly occurrence, and yet this one not only gets a coveted Nikki Finke TOLJA! (signifying an important story) but $500K just for some typical comics-to-movie pitch after FOUR STUDIOS were in the running to get it? What gives?
The answer lies in the identity of the celebrity brainstormer. Although TRON: LEGACY is still months away from release, Disney has set its eyes on TRON as its franchise of the future, and they are very, very — as in VERY — high on Kosinski, even though he’s a virtual unknown: TRON: LEGACY is his first film and prior to that he was best known for that GEARS OF WAR TV spot with the song from Donnie Darko in it.
But now, in a story leaked simultaneously to all the trades, comes word that Disney has dropped OBLIVION:
Disney has opted to not move forward with an adaptation of Joseph Kosinski’s illustrated novel “Oblivion,” and is letting the “Tron: Legacy” helmer and Radical Publishing shop the project to other studios and producers. Pic had been developed under the title “Horizons.”
Mouse House picked up the project from Kosinski last August after the book bowed at Comic-Con.
Deadline digs a bit deeper:
Studios are looking at a rewrite by Karl Gajdusek, and I’m told this is a $100 million plus project (not including star salary), so it’s an opportunity for someone to pencil in a tent pole. Calls to Disney haven’t been returned on the subject, but I’ve heard that the reason Disney stopped work after developing the script and going through a soft prep process is that the studio decided that a gritty PG-13 science fiction action project didn’t fit into the Disney mandate. Considering that Paramount, Fox-based Chernin Entertainment and Universal all chased the property before Disney stepped up to keep its Tron: Legacy helmer in the studio fold, I’m told this will get bought by somebody. It will have an easy exit, as the deal came with progress to production language. It’s unclear if Kosinski will direct this next; he’s got Black Hole at Disney, and the studio’s developing a Tron: Legacy sequel.
It’s pretty obvious where all this info is coming from: Radical. As we observed back in August,
There is hardly a company that does not have some kind of celebrity “vanity project” comic out there made mostly to show to producers as a bible for a film. And all of this is despite the fact that not a single movie has yet been made from a comic book that was published just to be turned into a movie.
OVLIVION was optioned by Disney to keep Kosinski in the fold; TRON: LEGACY didn’t turn out to be quite the major tentpole the studio had hoped for, so bye-bye, vanity project.
It seems several production shingles are still after the project now that it’s in turnaround. It’s quite possible we’ll be seeing another round of PR on this. But will OBLIVION ever get made? It really depends on how hot Kosinski can get. Can he steer BLACK HOLE, another Disney reboot, into box office joy? If he gets a solid body of movie hits behind them, he might get the chance to make his AVATAR…but he’s got to earn that spot.
Radical Publishing is a free-spending but little read comics publisher based on the comics-to-movies business plan pioneered by Tekno, although they have been putting out more recognizable books by people like Rick Remender and David Hine of late. They’ve also recently launched something of a marketing offensive — they were a silver sponsor at the recent Diamond Retailer Summit in Chicago, with a presentation aimed at showing retailers they were serious about promoting their books. Perhaps Radical has noticed, as many publishers have before them, that publishing comics that people actually want to read is a much better way to get a movie made than just attaching some stone cold celebrity.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.