March 15, 2011 / 2:02 AM / 9 years ago

Disney torpedoes Zemeckis' "Yellow Submarine"

Movie producer Robert Zemeckis attends a news conference at DLP Cinema's '3D: New Dimensions in Digital Cinema' presentation and discussion during ShoWest at the Paris Las Vegas hotel March 17, 2005, in Las Vegas, Nevada. REUTERS/Ethan Miller

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The Walt Disney Co. has scuttled a planned remake of the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” being developed by the producer of its costly bomb “Mars Needs Moms,” sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

“Submarine” was already facing a few rocky reefs before this past weekend, when Robert Zemeckis’ $150 million-budgeted “Mars Needs Moms” opened to just $6.9 million.

There were budget issues, and a key presentation Zemeckis was to have made to the surviving members and heirs of the Beatles kept being pushed back. A December date for the confab was scrapped and never rescheduled. But sources say the disastrous opening for “Mars” guaranteed that “Submarine” would never set sail at Disney. The producer-director is now free to shop the project to another studio.

Zemeckis, the Oscar-winning director of “Forrest Gump,” generated big headlines in August 2009 when he first set up the remake of the 1968 animated feature based on music by the Beatles. It was revealed a year ago 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 motion-capture technology similar to that used in Zemeckis’ “Beowulf,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Mars Needs Moms.” Zemeckis secured the cooperation of Apple Corps, which controls the rights to the group’s library. (Its movie arm, Apple Films, was one of the companies behind the original picture.)

But in the wake of the box-office disappointment of 2009’s “Christmas 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.

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 port for “Submarine.”

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